Search is on for a 'spokesdog' in Northern Liberties

The Phil­adelphia Wa­ter De­part­ment is look­ing for loc­al dogs with show-biz flair to help pro­mote its cam­paign to re­duce wa­ter pol­lu­tion across the city.

So, to find the per­fect pooch, the de­part­ment is host­ing the Philly Wa­ter’s Best Friend Spokes­dog Com­pet­i­tion. 

The im­petus for this com­pet­i­tion is that the wa­ter de­part­ment in­tends to re­duce run­off wa­ter pol­lu­tion caused by dog waste, one of the ma­jor wa­ter pol­lut­ants in our area.

Ac­cord­ing to Cheryl Jack­son, a pro­gram spe­cial­ist at the Part­ner­ship for the Delaware Es­tu­ary and one of the pro­gram’s co­ordin­at­ors, dog drop­pings are not en­vir­on­ment­ally friendly and cause large amounts of pol­lu­tion in loc­al wa­ter­ways, in­clud­ing the Delaware River. 

When rain­wa­ter and melt­ing snow wash dog waste in­to sew­ers, event or­gan­izers said, the waste can pro­mote the growth of harm­ful bac­teria, para­sites, al­gae and aquat­ic plant life that can re­move needed oxy­gen from the wa­ter­way.

The po­ten­tial ef­fects of pooch poo also can make it dif­fi­cult for prop­erty own­ers to plant trees and green their prop­er­ties, said the cam­paign or­gan­izers.

As a way to raise aware­ness of these con­cerns, the spokes­dog com­pet­i­tion will search for the “spokes­dogs” by nar­row­ing the can­ine can­did­ates to 30 tail-wag­gers — 15 from North­ern Liber­ties and 15 from Queens Vil­lage.

In the end, one dog­gie from each neigh­bor­hood will be an in­stant celebrity.

Res­id­ents of the two neigh­bor­hoods have un­til Feb. 15 to re­gister their can­ine pals for the com­pet­i­tion. The two se­lec­ted pooches will win $200 in gifts from loc­al pet shops in June.     

“After the on­line vot­ing pro­cess con­cludes, when the fif­teen fi­nal­ists from each com­munity are se­lec­ted, there is some­what of a doggy pa­geant,” said Jack­son. “The com­pet­i­tion will be judged by a pan­el made up of mem­bers of the Pennsylvania SPCA, loc­al politi­cians and oth­ers.”

But this will not be a simple walk in the park. The dogs in the com­pet­i­tion will en­dure vig­or­ous tem­pera­ment test­ing to en­sure they have the good mood re­quired of the per­fect spokes­dog. 

“Last year, Op­por­tun­ity Barks helped us with the tem­pera­ment test­ing,” Jack­son said. “We have to make sure the dogs are friendly.”

The two win­ning dogs will be fea­tured in the anti-pol­lu­tion cam­paign for a year. That means they’ll have to at­tend a min­im­um of three com­munity events at places such as bark-parks, where their own­ers will be tasked with pro­mot­ing prac­tic­al, eco-friendly dog-waste policies.

Own­ers of the win­ning pooches also will be provided with dog-doo bag dis­pensers and in­form­a­tion­al ma­ter­i­als to pass out, thus en­light­en­ing oth­er pet own­ers on the facts about the prop­er dis­pos­al of waste. 

The bro­chures, ad­vert­ise­ments and Web site for the cam­paign will fea­ture im­ages of the win­ning dogs and ad­vise read­ers of prop­er pet waste dis­pos­al — for ex­ample, in a toi­let when pos­sible, or in a trash can when not. 

Jack­son said dog waste should nev­er be dis­carded in a sew­er or left to wash down a storm drain. 

“Loc­al busi­nesses, such as the Chic Petique in North­ern Liber­ties and the Whole An­im­al Gym, will be provid­ing the prizes for the win­ners. Run­ners-up will also be awar­ded with fifty-dol­lar gift cards, and will be on-call in case the first-place pets aren’t able to per­form their du­ties,” said Jack­son.

Ac­cord­ing to Matt Ruben, pres­id­ent of the North­ern Liber­ties Neigh­bors As­so­ci­ation, loc­al pet own­ers are ready to primp their pooches to pro­mote prop­er poop pro­ced­ure. 

“The Phil­adelphia Wa­ter De­part­ment ap­proached us about this pro­ject and we have a good num­ber of people here who are proud of their dogs,” he said. 

It’s well-known that the neigh­bor­hood is the proud home to a large pop­u­la­tion of dogs and dog own­ers. They even hos­ted a dog Hal­loween Parade in the past at a loc­al dog park. 

“Hun­dreds of people at­tend our dog parks, and this is just an­oth­er way to keep our neigh­bor­hood as clean and as nice as pos­sible,” Ruben noted. “Dog own­er­ship is a sign of neigh­bor­hood growth, and it’s not sur­pris­ing to see North­ern Liber­ties get­ting in­volved, as it is such a fast-grow­ing com­munity.”

Aside from Chic Petique, Ruben ex­pects many oth­er loc­al or­gan­iz­a­tions to jump on­board.

“As time gets closer, a bunch of dog-re­lated busi­nesses will get in­volved,” said Ruben. 

NLNA is spread­ing word of the pro­ject to help get people in­volved, and the group is will­ing to do more.

ldquo;We are con­nect­ing people right now, but, if needed, we would def­in­itely be able to get Friends of Ori­anna Hill Park in­volved and host some of the com­pet­i­tion at the Ori­anna Hill Dog Park,” he said. “We would also be able to do something at Liberty Lands Park.” ••

For more in­form­a­tion on the spokes­dog com­pet­i­tion, vis­it the Web site at phil­ly­wa­ter­­dog

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