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Renting to Dog Owners: It Doesn't Need to Stink

Engaging residents in effective community poop clean-up

For housing managers, it can be problematic issue: how to persuade your residents to clean up after their dogs. Uncollected waste causes resident complaints, can be a health hazard and makes your property less attractive to current and prospective residents. Often, it’s a few residents who are the problem while the majority comply and are great pet families. Fortunately, there are a number of ideas that can work for your community.

Why don't people scoop their poop?

From the rental office perspective it can seem like residents are ignoring their dog’s waste as some sort of ‘statement’ or rebellion. In reality, the reasons people provide for not cleaning up are pretty simple:

  • Belief that dog waste is natural; a fertilizer that's good for the earth (this is unfortunately a myth)
  • Don’t have a bag/forgot a bag
  • Don’t like to carry a full bag of poop/be seen carrying poop (the "ick" factor)
  • Unaware it’s the law/policy in their community
  • Persuasion strategies that work

  • Place bag dispensers near the exit doors, so if someone forgets theirs, they can grab one before they need one. Dispensers are often placed further out, but placing them near doors as well may help residents whose dogs have been “holding it” all day.
  • Place your trash receptacles along the most common walking routes, or on the path residents use to return to their buildings. Residents want to be rid of full bags as soon as possible, so cans that are clean and close to the building will get used, especially in wintertime.
  • Put hand sanitizer stations near the doors or receptacles, so residents can clean up after doing the right thing.
  • Clearly explain the property rules at move-in. Explain that it’s a community norm for all residents to pick up, and ensure new residents know where the resources are.
  • Provide biodegradable bags and a bag dispenser that clips onto a leash at move-in. You can brand this low-cost collateral and get free advertising if your residents walk their dogs off-property. Plus, this reduces the ‘ick’ excuses (see above)!
  • Add signage in key locations that informs residents of the norms. “We pursue and fine the 3% of residents who do not pick up after their dogs” informs everyone that few people violate the rules, and that management will notice those who do.
  • Have a sense of humor: “There is no Poop Fairy; scoop your poop” has proved to be effective campaign signage in Greenville County, S.C. You can create your own, or repurpose theirs. Residents deserve a laugh while they're picking up poop, right?
  • Use a biodigester system that shows your property is committed to reducing waste and protecting the environment. You'll save money on trash removal costs.
  • Addressing problems

  • Your property needs a clear set of rules and consequences for violations. Make rules available at the resident portal and in the office so residents see them frequently. This frees your staff to offer great customer service and answer questions.
  • Be consistent in fining residents who are witnessed not cleaning up after their dog. Strict enforcement supports the community norm that dog waste is picked up by residents. However, false accusations or non-eyewitness accounts should be handled judiciously; consider sending a gentle note that lets people know management cares who scoops their poop.
  • Show residents you’re serious about pet pickup. Many housing companies use services (such as professional poop-scooping or, in the case of ongoing problems, collecting dog DNA so that they can match a sample to its source dog and owner). This is the gold standard for properties with high expectations of their residents, and it’s been shown to work: No one wants to get busted, so people remove the “forensic evidence.” Costs can be absorbed by pet fees you’re already collecting.
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