We all have those neighbors. You know the ones: the guy in the Publix slides who doesn't pick up after his Pomeranian. The lady in the Tweety Bird nightie who pretends not to see her dachshund dropping a deuce. The businessman yelling into his AirPods, too "busy" to be bothered with a poop bag.
The result? The rest of us spend our mornings dodging dog shit on the sidewalk, only for an afternoon rainstorm to wash it all out into Biscayne Bay.
In the tiny municipality of North Bay Village, commissioners are taking bold action against the scat scofflaws. Today kicks off what's been officially declared "Poop-Free NBV Week" in the island village that straddles the 79th Street Causeway between Miami and Miami Beach. (You may know it as "that place where Shuckers is.")
Through Sunday, May 2, North Bay Village will encourage its residents to pick up their dogs' poop with a weeklong social-media blitz. Residents who use the hashtag #PoopFreeNBV will be entered to win a free photo shoot with their dog, with 20 photo sessions to be awarded.
The idea for the campaign comes from Commissioner Rachel Streitfeld, an attorney who specializes in environmental and sustainability issues, and from the village's communications director, Helen Roldan.
"Our approach to this campaign is to be funny but also to provide public information about how actually like really unhealthy it is to our children, our residents, and Biscayne Bay, the amount of fecal matter from animals that's on the ground," Streitfeld explained at a village commission meeting earlier this month.
Pet waste contains nitrogen and phosphorus, which can cause nutrient pollution and lead to toxic algae blooms when it gets into waterways. That algae then absorbs oxygen in the water, which can be harmful to the ecosystem and fatal to marine life, as seen in last summer's mass fish kill in Biscayne Bay. Streitfeld says one of the village's legislative aides calculated that North Bay Village generates about 250 tons of pet waste per year, of which an estimated five tons are left in public streets, swales, and rights-of-way.
"When somebody doesn't have a bag and they don't pick up after their dog, they may think it's just this one time, but in the aggregate, with all the neighbors, we're saying that it adds up," Streitfeld points out.
Poop-Free NBV Week coincides with national Scoop the Poop Week, which was apparently founded in 2002 by the Association of Professional Animal Waste Specialists. (Weirdly, there's a conflicting holiday called International Pooper Scooper Week during the first week of April.)
Roldan came up with the idea to reward 20 participating residents with a pet photo shoot. Streitfeld says she will use a portion of her office's discretionary budget to hire a photographer who lives in North Bay Village.
"We wanted to do something unique that you wouldn't typically do for yourself or your pet," Roldan explains. "We're hoping that entices people and gets them engaged."
A resolution unanimously passed by North Bay Village commissioners says the #PoopFreeNBV campaign is just one way the village is trying to be a more environmentally friendly place to live.
"North Bay Village is working really hard to be a sincere leader by example in terms of Biscayne Bay health," Streitfeld says. "The dog-poop issue may seem negligible and silly to some, but we are cultivating a mindset of environmental stewardship here, and picking up after your dog is a small way to just be a better neighbor."