In Amherst, pet owners could end up in the doghouse if caught without a pooper-scooper.
But in some town parks, dog owners don't need to come with scooper in hand, thanks to the efforts of a local veterinarian.
"Veterinarians have a role to protect the public from parasites," said Dr. Kevin Kuhn of Afton Animal Hospital. "With kids playing in the parks and playgrounds, that may become a problem."
The problem is dog droppings.
Kuhn's remedy is the disposable scooper -- 25,000 of them -- strategically placed in four Amherst parks. And they're free for the scooping.
Kuhn's dogged effort began in June, when he unleashed the scooper idea to the Amherst Town Board. He said he thought of it when visiting his brother recently in Lake Tahoe, Nev., where scoopers have proven successful.
The $2,300 cost of the project, which got under way this month, was split between Kuhn and the town, which in 1993 enacted a law prohibiting people from letting their dogs defecate on public or private property without the permission of the owner. The maximum penalty -- a $150 fine, 15 days in jail or both.
Each biodegradable scoop costs 15 cents, Kuhn said. The cardboard contraption sports a rugged wire rim attached to a plastic bag that seals shut.
It could be a dog owner's best friend.
"I don't think people usually come prepared to take care of their dogs," said Kristine Maslin, who was visiting Bassett Park Wednesday afternoon with Haydn, her German short-haired pointer. "It's important that owners pick up." A poopless trek through Bassett Park seemed to show the cardboard shovels are doing their job.
Scooper dispensers also can be found along the Ellicott Creek bike path and at Dellwood and Kingsgate parks. But Kuhn hopes to expand his campaign beyond Amherst.
"Owners are not picking up after their pets," Kuhn said. "And parks and playgrounds are getting more crowded."