Brunete, Spain: A Lesson for Dog Owners Who Don’t Clean up After Their Pets

This is a great story of how one town in Spain, just outside of Madrid, chose to deal with dog owners who don’t clean up after their dogs: send the poop to the guilty owner’s doorsteps in unmarked packages. The idea began with the mayor, who called it a “direct marketing” effort:

After nearly two years in office, he said, he had visited with some 220 citizens in their homes, and the subject of dog owners was the one constant complaint. As spring approached this year, when children started going to the parks again, he decided to try what many here are calling “direct marketing.”

The dog owners got their packages — white boxes bearing the seal of this town and labeled “lost and found” — within hours.

Signing for the curious parcels, they must have been intrigued, though surely unsuspecting.

So far, the boxes seem to be extremely effective compared with Brunete’s earlier campaign, which involved a remote control specimen (very lifelike) that was used around town to get people’s attention. It followed. It banged into shoes. And it generally drew laughs. There was some improvement in behavior. But it did not last long.

And as far as how effective the campaign has been?

Delivering 147 boxes of the real stuff seems to have produced a far more lasting effect in this town of about 10,000 residents. The mayor guesses a 70 percent improvement even now, several months after the two-week campaign.

The sting operation worked because dogs are registered in this city:

The sting operation worked like this: Volunteers were instructed to watch for negligent dog owners and then to approach their dogs to pet them. After a few flattering remarks about the beauty of said dog, they asked what breed it was. Then they asked the dog’s name.

Back at city hall, where more than 500 residents have their pets registered, that was enough information to get to an address.

So this is a case of private shaming, but it seems to have worked in this town. I wonder if it could work in a city like New York.