AKC Taking Command - a publication of the AKC Government Relations Department
July 2014
Tales from the Trenches:
Massachusetts Dog Clubs Partner with City and State Parks for Cleaner Trails

Guest columnist John Kenney works for the Massachusetts Department of Agricultural Resources Division of Animal Health, is president of the Yankee Siberian Husky Club, on the board of AKC’s Massachusetts federation, advisor to Boston Snow Dogs, and is a member of area sled dog clubs. He shares a new program that, in cooperation with state and local park authorities, encourages dog owners to keep parks and trails clear of dog waste. Ensuring that dog owners are respectful and responsible is one of the best ways to prevent¬† problems that lead to restrictive dog laws.

While traveling trails with my Siberian Huskies, I observed a problem — too many dog owners failed to pick up after their dogs. The small, generic “clean up” signs posted at the entrances to parks and trails were often disregarded. The signs were too small and boring, and many dog owners ignored them.

I had an idea: to design signs that were more conspicuous with a message that came from fellow dog owners rather than from the park authority, town or state. I approached area dog clubs to sponsor larger signs with compelling graphics that display these specific instructions: PICK UP YOUR DOG’S WASTE and TAKE IT WITH YOU.

With the support of the Yankee Siberian Husky Club and Boston Snow Dogs, we produced and provided new signs for Wompatuck State Park and Bare Cove Park. The parks reported a significant reduction in dog waste problems! More recently, signs were provided to the Massachusetts Department of Conservation and Recreation for installation in seven additional state and local parks.

This is a worthwhile community service project for AKC clubs and federations. The idea is for dog organizations to furnish the signs to parks at no cost to the park other than installation. The names of the sponsoring clubs appear on the signs, which personalizes the message and generates positive publicity for the club.

Here are some design suggestions:

  • Make the signs large enough so dog owners will take notice. The signs we provided were 2x2 feet in a diamond shape. I think an 18x18 inch sign might also work, but nothing smaller.
  • The message must be short and to the point, “Pick up your dog’s waste — take it with you.”
  • The names of the sponsoring clubs wrap around the top of the sign and “Responsible Dog Owners of Massachusetts” (or your state) is at the bottom.
  • The center graphic should be a photo of a real dog, chosen by the sponsoring club. People will notice a good photo of an actual dog faster than a generic silhouette. The dog in the photo should have its face turned toward the camera as if saying, “I mean you.” Single breed clubs can use a photo of their breed. All-breed clubs could choose a different breed for each sign made — the variety would boost readership.

The “take it with you” message is an important feature. Some dog owners leave their filled pick-up bags trailside rather than carrying them out for proper disposal. The bags remain as eyesores until they decay, and they can litter the trail indefinitely if non-biodegradable. Dog owners don’t realize that often there is no park employee who picks up the bags. And when there is, clean-up is a large expense for parks already strapped for money.

I worked with fellow kennel club members who own a sign company to design and produce our signs at a very reasonable price. The company owners have experience with dog events, make signs for major companies, and can quickly ship all over the country. We used Coraplast, an 1/8” stiff, weather-resistant plastic material. Signs can also be made using Dibond, a lightweight composite metal.¬† In some cases, the signs needed backing material when mounted on poles.

Be sure to consult with the appropriate governmental agency for each park before you produce your signs so that all specifications for design and construction are met. The specifications and mounting requirements can vary by jurisdiction.

I hope this idea will spread all over. It works!

For more information, please contact John Kenney at musherjohn@verizon.net.