If you were a fan of the hit TV show "Seinfeld" in the 90s, you might remember one of Jerry's comedic observations about humans and dogs. It went something like this: "If aliens are looking down on us from space they must think dogs rule the planet. If you see two life forms, one of them is making a poop and the other one is carrying it for him, who would you assume is in charge?"
After hiking a few times last week, I can only assume many Park City residents are trying to confuse the aliens -- because way too many of us aren't picking up the dog poop. While not picking up after your dog is pretty, well, crappy, it goes beyond rude and gross. Dog poop is also a serious health issue.
For starters, dog feces plays a significant role in water pollution. Bacteria makes its way into our water supply and our wastewater treatment systems are not designed to filter dog waste. The EPA has even designated dog poop as toxic to the environment as chemical and oil spills. In fact, it's the third leading cause of water pollution.
Which begs the question, who are these people who don't pick up the poop? If they think it's too gross to pick up, why are they OK drinking it?
Sure, we've all forgotten a bag or occasionally had a dog with a hyperactive bowel and run out of bags during a walk. But there are several designated poop bag stations located around town with extra bags for those very reasons. On the rare occasion I'm out for a walk with one of my dogs and forget a bag and am nowhere near a bag station, I make sure I pick up an extra pile of poop I know my dogs didn't leave on my next outing.
Given the number of recent letters to the editor asking people to be courteous and clean up after their pets and even an article about one person so disgusted by the poop near City Park, he or she started spray painting the piles left behind, it's safe to say this is a real concern for many locals.
The obvious solution is that dog owners need to be more responsible. Just like parents have to change a child's diaper, dog parents also have an obligation to take care of their pet's waste. But perhaps too, the city could look at alternative forms of punishment and reward that have worked elsewhere. For example:
Mexico City rewards dog owners who scoop the poop with free Wi-Fi. In Brunete, Spain, volunteer poop patrollers mail a dog's feces back to its owner in a government box labeled "Lost Property." In Belgium, owners caught walking their dogs without at least three bags are automatically fined, even if there's no poop to be found. And the town of Bristol in England settled on shock-value advertising as a way to combat the problem -- featuring signs with toddlers doing all sorts of revolting things with dog poop.
I can think of all sorts of viable solutions for Park City's poop problem. A mandatory donation to Furburbia if you're caught not picking up after your dog, $10 per pile. Offenders could be sentenced to five hours of community service picking up poop on area trails. Maybe some area pet-related businesses would offer coupons that could be handed out to those seen disposing of their dog's waste as an incentive. Or the city could start a public shaming campaign with a Facebook page, where photos of the offenders could be shared.
All of this sounds a little more complicated and expensive than just doing your duty as a dog owner. But as long as picking up the poop remains an alien concept in Park City, we need to consider other solutions.
Amy Roberts is a longtime Park City resident, freelance writer and the proud owner of two ill-behaved rescue dogs, Boston and Stanley.