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Whose poop is that on the lawn? DNA testing cracks down on doggie-doo offenders

Linda Robertson, Miami Herald on

Published in News & Features

"What am I supposed to do?" he said. "March up and down my street accusing people? I don't understand how you can live in a nice place and not take care of it."

Shaming might work -- if you have the nerve. Proliferating poop along Edgewater Drive in Coral Gables has gotten so disgusting that neighbors are confronting neighbors, first kindly offering empty bags as a sort of face-saving intervention, then thrusting bulging bags as retribution for unaltered habits. The doorman at one building has had to chase irresponsible dog owners and their defecating pets off the grassy knoll.

"I called out politely to a guy who had a dog off leash on our grounds and he reacted very defensively. It's a delicate situation, especially in Miami where people are capable of violent reactions," said Leslie Sternlieb, who recounted a scary movie theater experience of a man climbing over the seats to stick his face in hers after she had asked him to cease his distracting behavior.

What has become of basic civility? Why in the name of Lassie or Fido do people treat their community like an open sewer? There are even tales of upbraided neighbors extracting revenge with stealth poop deposits on front stoops. One Miami resident placed a sign on his swale asking people to refrain from dumping; the sign was defaced with poop.

Sternlieb spends part of the year in New York City, where a stronger social contract binds neighbors.

"Your dog is an extension of you and your character," said Sternlieb, who walks her rescue dog Snickers three times a day. "New York is more densely populated but I see less evidence of poop. People understand they have to play by the rules. Pick up or you will get the hairy eyeball. I saw a mounted police officer write a ticket in Central Park."

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Cities are installing more collection stations, some with biodegradable bags to help prevent another environmental consequence of the poop problem: the buildup of plastic in landfills. One brand, bioDOGradable, manufactures its bags in India. Another brand embossed President Donald Trump's likeness on the bags.

Homeowners' associations are imposing control with their own rules and poop patrols. Bellagio at Vizcaya in Miramar sent a letter declaring that "dog waste is a health hazard and a nuisance" and advising residents to keep dogs on leashes and use waste bags.

"Undercover security will be patrolling the community in search of violators and will take pictures," the letter warned.

Dog ownership etiquette has evolved radically since the days when dogs were let out to roam freely and nobody thought twice about it. Same thing with kids.

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