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Dear Thelma: Neighbor with free-roaming dog is causing distress

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Dear Thelma,

I am really at my wits’ end.

One of my neighbors decided to take in a puppy that had been abandoned in our vicinity. At that time, that puppy was only two or three months old. Initially, when it peed on the road, nobody cared since it was still a very young pup.

But when it started to poop on the road, that was when the problem began. At first, it would poop a few doors away, at the start of the road. When some of the neighbors (including us) saw it, we pitied those who had to experience that disaster.

A new neighbor moved in not long after this happened and has already washed that spot thrice prior to moving into the neighbourhood.

We politely asked their kids to leash their pet as a few neighbours, including the new neighbour, were already unhappy about it.Then, their pet started to poop outside our house – there was no way that our vehicles could get out of the house without running over the poop. We had to clean up the road before we could drive out or else our vehicle tires would roll over the poop and then it will be extremely difficult to get it off.

After this happened for the seventh time, we actually asked the owners to leash their pet when they bring it out for a walk. At that time, the neighbor’s attitude was horrible – they exclaimed, “So? We need to get a rope and tie it up?”

We used various methods to wash off the dog poop from the very beginning and even dripped a few drops of disinfectant liquid on the affected spots after cleaning.

We even went to the extent of returning their dog poop outside their house yet they could bear it, and cleaned up after one or two hours.

I have to admit that, later on, we expressed our anger in a rude manner while cleaning up their dog’s poop although we did not wish to be like that – but this neighbor was extremely inconsiderate. Although there were also other neighbors who asked them to leash their pet, they still acted the same way.

Their pet is actually not well taken care of. Some of us pitied their dog so we used to provide it with some food. But nowadays, none of us dare to feed it except for one neighbour. We thought that they might give up on their pet so that anyone who can better care for that dog can take it in, but they still keep it and let it roam freely.

We then reported the matter to the city council. Unfortunately, the neighbors weren’t home when the local authorities dropped by.

If the public knows that we reported them, some might think that we are harming the pet. But if we do not report them, will their pet someday suffer just like those abused pets that we read about in the papers?

Fortunately, the place I live in practices trap-neuter-return (TNR) and the animals will be cared for by an animal shelter.

We have already been very patient with this neighbour. What else can we do? If this keeps happening, I don’t know if I will stay sane.

What should I do, Thelma?

Distressed by Neighbor’s Attitude

Dear Distressed,

My first thought is for that poor dog. It was abandoned as a pup, then picked up by kind people but they lack the resources to care for it. The dog now roams the street, and it’s not even fed properly. I pity it from the bottom of my heart.

But I also understand that dog poop is a problem. It smells, it’s loaded with bacteria and parasites, especially if the dog hasn’t been vaccinated and dewormed. It sticks around, even if there’s rain.

You have tried to address the issue politely and you’ve lost your temper too. It’s quite understandable as your neighbor has been quite thoughtless. So, please don’t beat yourself up about this. Your reaction was human, and as you say, you regret it. So forgive yourself and move on.

Of course, that poor dog isn’t pooping in front of your house on purpose. It’s simply going where it remembers people being kind. It does its business there because it’s hanging around, hoping to see you. It is hungry too. It can’t understand why you are angry. So my heart goes out to it.

What can you do? No, I would not recommend a feud. Also, I can’t agree with your thought that a shelter is a solution. First, your neighbor will simply pick up another puppy and the problem will start all over again.

Second, shelters are a last resort. The staff do a superb job under very difficult circumstances. However, can you imagine crowding several hundred people into a cage and saying that as long as they’re fed and watered, they’re OK? Well, it’s the same for animals.

Many pets dumped in shelters become anxious and depressed. They suffer from being confined. The noise and presence of hundreds of other animals preys on them. Therefore, their mental and physical health suffers.

Ideally, we empty our shelters and have individual fosterers. Sadly, there are too many unwanted pets. Tens of thousands are killed every year in Malaysia alone because there are too many of them and too few homes.

So while a shelter is a last resort, try talking to the neighbor again first.

The best way to persuade is to use a neutral party to arbitrate and to motivate towards effective change by focusing on shared values. If that sounds obscure, here are concrete suggestions of how that may work.

Find an authority figure who will do more than wave a finger and threaten ends. You need someone with moral gravitas. Pick a person your neighbor respects. This may be a role model like a business leader, a police officer with sufficient age to appear parental, or a religious figure.

Go together to talk to the neighbour, not to point out their deficiencies or to get an apology, but to build a plan to address the issue.

The main point is that your community is kind and caring. You have all supported that abandoned pup in one way or another. That is very commendable. However, a more detailed plan is needed. This is what such a plan may look like.

First, your neighbors love the dog because they adopted it. Celebrate this, and then remind them that the dog needs whole life care. This includes neutering/spaying, deworming, and proper food. If the family is poor, maybe you can help with a donation.

Second, the dog needs exercise but letting it roam alone on the street is dangerous. What if it’s hit by a car? It would be agony for the dog and the driver would suffer immense guilt. This must be avoided.

Agree with your neighbor that a rope is not necessary and your neighbors are right to worry about your pet’s need for natural movement. A fence will keep the pet in the neighbour’s garden where it’s safe. Again, you may need to help fix broken gates or provide a bit of DIY.

Third, ideally the dog lives mainly in your neighbor’s property and they deal with the poop. But there are also walks.

Explain that dog poop isn’t just smelly, but it is also loaded with bacteria that can be harmful to humans. A child on a bike is bound to go over some, or fall into a heap of it, and become ill. Your neighbor would not want to be responsible for causing harm.

Therefore, when walking their pet, it is a civic duty to pick up your dog’s poop with a scoop. Be proactive and gift the neighbor with one. They’re easily available in pet shops and online.

This plan should work if all parties work nicely together. But if this is not possible, if you don’t have fenced gardens for example, then the dog will have to live indoors with your neighbours. Should there be more issues, then perhaps your street is not suitable for dogs.

In that case, find the pet a suitable home. It is not easy to home a dog, especially once it’s out of the cute pup stage, but with all of you working together, it can be done.

I am sorry this has happened. I do feel for you all, and I hope very much that everyone reading this chips in for Trap, Neuter, Release in their area, and advocates to stop breeding of pet animals.

With all the unwanted pets being killed and abandoned, and our shelters overwhelmed, it really is time we all join hands and settle this issue.

Thank you so much for writing in and highlighting your plight. I’m certain that many readers will find themselves in exactly the same situation. I’ll be thinking good thoughts for you all.


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