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There is a famous quote by British writer C.S. Lewis: “Integrity is doing the right thing, even when no one is watching.” COVID 19 has given me a front row seat to witness Lewis’ definition of integrity.

Because of the virus, I’ve been working remotely from home. My home office window faces my front yard, and is somewhat hidden by trees and bushes. So while I can clearly see out, those who walk in front of my house cannot see me sitting in my office, which brings me to Lewis’ definition of integrity.

Several times a day, a neighbor walks his dog by my house. Each time his dog leaves a mess in my yard, he promptly removes a plastic bag from his pocket and cleans it up immediately. This neighbor doesn’t know I can see this whole thing unfold, yet he does the right thing. I really appreciate his considerate behavior, and feel he is a good example of the Lewis quote.

Unfortunately, a friend who lives several streets over is not so lucky. When her neighbor kept allowing his dogs to use her yard as a toilet, she politely asked if him if he would please stop this behavior. She explained to him that her small children, while playing in her yard, kept stepping in the offending, stinky deposits and carrying it into her home on their shoes. Unfortunately, instead of apologizing for the mess left by his animals, he responded with hostility, and proceeded to call her horrific names which cannot be printed in this paper.

Sadly, this scenario is quite common. Shortly after I learned of my friend’s unfortunate encounter, I read a post on the site Next-Door Neighbor, by a person expressing her frustration of watching a dog owner let their pooch let loose in her yard. The post (along with a picture of the owner and dog caught in the act) said, “If you live in Kanawha City, be aware if you see this combo out for a walk and find an unwelcomed gift in your yard. Yet another irresponsible dog owner that does not clean up after their pet.”

Health hazard

In a PrimeTime News article titled, “Help! How Do I Confront A Neighbor Who Lets His Dog Poop On My Lawn?”, Sophie Kaemmerle wrote that not only is dog waste smelly, gross and hard to clean off your shoes, it is also an environmental hazard — according to the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

Just one gram of waste may contain over 23 million bacteria, many of which can be dangerous to both animal and human health. Parvovirus, coronavirus, E. coli, whipworms, coccidia, hookworms, giardia, tapeworms, salmonella and campylobacteriosis are just a few of the many dangerous illnesses that can be spread through dog fecal matter. These dangerous diseases can spread all over your lawn and inside your house.

What to do about the ‘do’

If you are experiencing a similar situation, then try to speak with the dog owner and politely ask them to please stop letting their pet use your yard. Avoid blaming or threatening them.

Suggest solutions such as tying clean-up bags to their pet’s leash, so a bag is readily available. Hopefully, by bringing this to their attention in a courteous, non-confrontational way, it may help to negate the situation. While this did not work for my friend, it is still a good place to start. According to Kaemmerle, as much as you would like to, you should avoid:

  • Lighting the dog poop on fire in front of your neighbor.
  • Yelling at your neighbor or causing a scene.
  • Taking the dog poop and tossing it onto your neighbor’s property.
  • Delivering the dog poop to your neighbor’s mailbox or front door.

City ordinance

If the above suggestions don’t help, then you may want to remind the neighbor that in many municipalities, it is against the law to not clean up after one’s pet. For example, the City of Charleston has an ordinance (Chapter 10, Article 1, Section 10-7) entitled, “Owner Responsibility for Removal of Animal Excrement,” that provides fines for those who don’t comply.

Be a good neighbor

Neighbors who walk their dogs for the specific purpose of letting them use the property of others’ as a doggie dumping ground are being rude. Obviously, dogs cannot control the call of nature, but their owners can clean up the offending mess. Please don’t let Fido do their doodee in your neighbor’s yard. If it does happen, then make an effort to remove it from the premises — even if no one is watching.

Pam Harvit BSRDH MS is a certified international corporate protocol and etiquette advisor and speaks nationally on business and medical etiquette, as well as other related topics. You may request her services or e-mail your questions to pamharvit.com.