Tuesday, August 6, 2013

How to get dog owners to pick up after their pets

In the worldwide battle to get dog owners to clean up after their pets, enter Brunete, a middle-class suburb of Madrid fed up with dirty parks and sidewalks.

Some cities hand out steep fines. But in these tough economic times, the mayor here, Borja GutiƩrrez, did not much like that idea. Instead, this town engaged a small army of volunteers to bag it, box it and send it back to its owners.

“It’s your dog, it’s your dog poop,” Mr. GutiĆ©rrez said. “We are just returning it to you.” ...

The dog owners got their packages — white boxes bearing the seal of this town and labeled “lost and found” — within hours. ...

Delivering 147 boxes of the real stuff seems to have produced a far more lasting effect in this town of about 10,000 residents. The mayor guesses a 70 percent improvement even now, several months after the two-week campaign.

A casual inspection of the town park near City Hall seemed to support his claim. Dog owners without exception were carrying plastic bags, a sight that is still extremely rare across Spain. Most of the owners seemed to find the lost and found campaign funny. ...

The sting operation worked like this: Volunteers were instructed to watch for negligent dog owners and then to approach their dogs to pet them. After a few flattering remarks about the beauty of said dog, they asked what breed it was. Then they asked the dog’s name.

Back at City Hall, where more than 500 residents have their pets registered, that was enough information to get to an address.

No one has yet publicly admitted to receiving a package. But these days asking a dog’s name in Brunete is likely to earn you a hard look.
--Suzanne Daily, NYT, on internalizing the externality