Editor's note: This column has been updated to reflect that PooPrints is a Knoxville, Tenn.-based company.

A reader asked me to address a spate of bad behavior in her neighborhood: Dog owners bagging their pet’s poop and then leaving the (full) bags behind.

“I often bring an Albertson’s bag on my walks and pick them up. But I’m not these peoples’ mother!” she exclaimed, the frustration evident in her voice.

She said it’s something that really bothers her, “especially when cars run over the bags,” so she was prompted to call me. She said she didn’t expect I’d actually write about it. But as it turns out, I picked it up (pun intended). I think the problem of abandoned poop is, well, piling up. And it’s not a bad column topic.

I’m a frequent Pikes Peak region trail and sidewalk walker, along with my pooch, and I’ve witnessed these “bad manners” myself. Full plastic poop bags dotting the trails, presumably awaiting their owners to return and scoop them up. But they never do.

Why would you take the time to bag the stuff and then leave it? I’d wager that nonbiodegradable plastic bags are worse for the environment than the excrement.

The good news is, I guess, that there are many companies out there who manufacture “planet-friendly” poop bags. Chewy.com boasts many choices dog-poo bags that are better for the earth and the landfill, if they ever make it there.

NPR recently aired a study of people who bag poop and leave it in public places. The gist of the study was that people do this because they’re upset they can’t poop in public. They leave the bagged poop in conspicuous places as a form of protest.

Wait, whaaat?

An earlier NPR report profiled a Chicago apartment building that uses DNA testing to which resident is leaving behind their dog’s leavings.

“The Greystar management company had told residents they must swab their pets’ cheeks to get a saliva sample that will be used to set up a DNA database of all the building’s dogs. If management discovers a spot of canine feculence, they will test it for DNA to identify the dog and its negligent owner. The resident would be fined $250 for the offending excreta,” the report stated.

PooPrints, a Knoxville, Tenn.-based company established in 2009, aims to “promote responsible ownership, protect the environment and expand pet access” by operating a genetic database of dogs with DNA collected from cheek swabs to” identify who hasn’t picked up after their pet,” states pooprints.com. The company operates in the U.S., Canada and the U.K., predominantly, and caters to building management companies. Building owners can send out a small bit of the offending poo to a lab to be tested and, per lease agreements, charge the test and a fine to the disobedient resident.

It’s big business in pet-friendly housing complexes in big cities. But that doesn’t do much to help my poop-frustrated caller (who wished to remain anonymous) here in one of the most dog-friendly states in the country.

Consider that abandoned poop/poop bags also pose a health threat. Feces left on the street or trailside can get washed into storm drains and eventually end up in our waterways. It can contain disease-causing organisms such as E. Coli, Giardia and Salmonella that make humans and dogs sick.

The preferred dog poop disposal method is to bag it and put it in the trash. If your dog poops in your yard, routinely pick it up so you’re not contributing to poor downstream water quality.

If you’re a pet owner, scooping the poop is part of the job (though not as fun as the dog-cuddling part). In Colorado it’s unlawful to leave your pet’s waste in public places. PSA: Please pick up your dog’s poop! PS: There’s no such thing as a poop fairy.

Michelle Karas has called the Pikes Peak region home for more than four years. She became editor of Pikes Peak Newspapers in June. Contact Michelle with column or story ideas, feedback and letters to the editor at michelle.karas@pikespeaknewspapers.com.

Editor, Pikes Peak Newspapers

In June 2019, Michelle became editor of the four Pikes Peak Newspapers: Pikes Peak Courier; The Tribune; and the Cheyenne and Woodmen editions. A Penn State journalism graduate, she joined the Gazette staff in 2015.

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