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 phillywatersheds.org/spokesdog.