OLYMPIA – Pollution in the Puget Sound is such a problem that a group trying to protect the ecosystem spent $27,000 in state money to make a catchy video, complete with dance steps, telling people how they can do something about it.
Pick up dog poop.
The 2 1/2 minute “Dog Doogity” video, which features rhythm and blues singer Martin Luther delivering the musical message of bag your doggie's dooties, is a parody of the late ‘90s hit “No Diggity” by Blackstreet. Released June 30, it is getting very positive responses, said Janet Geer of the City of Bothell and spokeswoman for a 60 community coalition in the “Puget Sound Starts Here” campaign.
The video is featured on the state-sponsored Puget Sound Partnership web site, and was made with $27,000 out of a $500,000 grant the state Department of Ecology gave the coalition. Designed for young, hip, urban adults, the video logged 30,000 hits on YouTube in just under two weeks with a 19-1 ratio of likes to dislikes.
“The response I've heard is, ‘This is great,’” Geer said.
Not everyone agrees. Jason Mercier of the Washington Policy Center, which keeps a close eye on budget issues, questioned whether state money should be going for a video to tell people to pick up dog poop.
“In this economic climate, it raises a question of priorities,” Mercier said. “It seems a questionable way of marketing the idea.”
The video is part of the coalition’s larger campaign to address a wide range of problems facing the Puget Sound. Those range from industrial pollution and inadequate sewage treatment to overdevelopment and loss of key wildlife habitat. So where, exactly, does dog poop, fit in the pantheon of Puget Sound problems?
“It’s a very important issue,” Geer said. According to some estimates, the area in and around the sound is home to some 1.2 million dogs, which produce just under 400,000 pounds of solid waste each day.
Canine waste always turns up in testing of e coli in the sound, David Ward of the Puget Sound Partnership said. Although some amounts of canine and other animal waste have always found their way from the surrounding land to the streams and rivers and into the sound, the problem is increasing because so much of the sound is now urban or suburban, which means more concrete and less soil to absorb the bacteria and nutrients from the growing piles of dog poop.
While it might not be the most important, insidious or dangerous pollution facing the sound, it is one that average citizens can tackle on their own, said Anne Dettlebach of the Department of Ecology, who oversaw the grant: “One of the easiest things you can do is to get people to clean up after their pets.”
Puget Sound Starts Here hired the Seedwell production company, which is run by three native Seattleites. Peter Furia, one of the partners, said they had several issues they could tackle – washing cars on the driveway and letting the waste water run into the drain was another – but dog poop pickup offered a better campaign. They wrote parody lyrics to “No Diggity” signed R and B singer Martin Luther, and hired about 80 percent of the cast and crew from the Seattle area.
The casting call specified actors with dogs, with a photo of the canine was required. They only worked with one professionally trained dog that could do certain things on command, Furia said. (The subject of the video was not one of those things.)
He thinks the video works on two levels. One for the person who is sick of people who don’t clean up after their dogs; the other for someone thinking of the bigger issue of cleaning up the sound.
The overall grant called for spending some money on a viral video, but the department had to approve the subject, Dettlebach said. They looked at several options, and while they never had a lengthy debate on whether to focus on something like PCBs rather than dog waste, they did decide this was a fun and creative way to address the issue and said “OK, let’s give it a go.”
The final cut was reviewed by Ecology Director Ted Sturdevant, who gave it a thumbs up, she added.
The $27,000 for the dog poop video is a very small part of the $3 million in grants the Legislature approved in 2009 from money generated by the Model Toxics Cleanup Act, Dettlebach said. That money was divided among 15 different applicants around the state. Asotin County, for example, got money for a high-efficiency street sweeper.
“It’s not just about dog poop,” she said.