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Doody calls: Tampa Bay dog services scoop up a niche in a nasty business

Kristin Carson and Cheresee Rehart are professional pooper scoopers.
Kristin Carson, owner of ByByPoo.com, a local company that scoops dog poop and sanitizes yards in an environmentally-friendly manner, works in a client’s backyard, Monday, June 21, 2021 in St. Petersburg.
Kristin Carson, owner of ByByPoo.com, a local company that scoops dog poop and sanitizes yards in an environmentally-friendly manner, works in a client’s backyard, Monday, June 21, 2021 in St. Petersburg. [ MARTHA ASENCIO-RHINE | Times ]
Published Jun. 30

The fastest professional pooper scooper in the country lives in Tampa Bay.

The champion’s name is Cheresee Rehart, and she took first place in the Association of Professional Animal Waste Specialists’ two-minute “Turd Herding Contest” in 2019.

Rehart and her mentee, Kristin Carson, are two of the hundreds of professional pooper scoopers across the United States. Both are local business owners who started dog waste removal companies in Tampa Bay. Rehart founded Yard Guards on Doody in 2003 and Carson started ByBypoo in July 2019, and business has been crappy, but in a good way.

Carson has about 60 clients in Pinellas county, and Rehart has hundreds between Hillsborough, Pinellas and Pasco counties.

Pooper scooper companies have been around since the 1980s, but many people don’t realize their services are available. The companies offer a convenient at-home service and they help the environment, too.

A common misconception is that it is okay to leave dog poop. It will just decompose, right?

Dog poop is rich in phosphorus and nitrogen and dogs are warm-blooded animals, so their feces contains E.coli and enterococci, said Dr. Valerie Harwood, chair of University of South Florida’s Department of Integrative Biology. Harwood said when fecal matter gets into water runoff, it can contaminate local bodies of water. The nitrogen and phosphorus can result in eutrophication, a scientific phenomenon where a water source becomes too full of nutrients. The E.coli and enterococci can cause bacterial pollution.

Companies like Rehart’s and Carson’s help solve that problem.

“I always joke with Kristin (Carson) that she’s a lifesaver because it saves me from having to go in the yard and pick up the dog poo,” said Summer Wilson, a ByByPoo customer.

Rehart’s was one of the first pooper scooper companies in Tampa Bay. Now, there’s at least 10 companies in the region. Carson’s company is relatively new, and she learned the tools of the trade from Rehart.

Carson’s company took off in September 2020, when her client base nearly doubled. She expects to have around 200 clients by this time next year and is hoping to cap off her customer list at that number. Rehart’s business initially remained steady during the pandemic, and then began to increase, something Rehart attributed to the widespread increase in awareness of the importance of sanitizing in general.

Rehart’s company has weathered more than just the coronavirus-induced economic downturn.

“They’ll let everybody else go before they let their pooper scooper go,” Rehart said.

Carson always double bags her pooper scooper and prefers to use a rake while servicing yards.
Carson always double bags her pooper scooper and prefers to use a rake while servicing yards. [ MARTHA ASENCIO-RHINE | Times ]

So what’s it like being a professional pooper scooper?

It’s not done in a haphazard way. These companies have a calculated process.

Carson opened her trunk at a St. Petersburg residence and unveiled a neatly packed backseat filled with a pooper scooper, sanitation products and waste bins. She first double-bagged her industrial-sized pooper scooper, then sauntered over to the side gate.

Carson checked to see if the dogs were in the backyard. They were not, so she opened the gate and went in. In the event that there were four-legged friends roaming, she would have used what she and all her employees learned in the certification course from the National Organization of Professional Pooper Scoopers to determine if the dog was friendly, and then proceeded if she felt it was safe.

She started in the corner of the house’s turf backyard, scanning the field before beginning. Carson tiptoed in a gridlock pattern through the turf.

“You end up finding things you didn’t know were there,” Carson said of why she uses the grid technique. That makes it less likely that she will miss any dog deposits and be able to deliver on her company guarantee of a 100 percent removal rate.

Most scoops were effortless. Carson made one swift motion with her rake and carried on to the next, making note of any messy situations that came about so she could ask the owner for permission to sanitize the area later. She always asks first, in case a dog is sensitive to cleaning products.

She capped off the house visit by dumping her full pooper scooper into the trash barrel.

Then Carson sanitized all of her equipment, including her shoes, with Simple Green Pro5. That’s necessary to make sure she doesn’t track fecal matter and bacteria to her next client’s house, Carson said.

Various companies in the area offer different rates depending on how frequently a yard is serviced and the number of dogs.

Yards Guards on Doody charges $12 for weekly pickups of a one-dog household, with an additional $3 per dog. For twice a week, it would cost $17. Clients with more than four dogs must speak with Rehart for an individual arrangement. If clients want the sanitation process, Rehart assesses the yard on a case-by-case basis to determine pricing. It typically costs between $12-$18.

Carson has the same pricing for a once-a-week, single-dog pickup, and charges $24 to come twice a week. If a regular client wants the sanitation, it costs $18 per service.

The dog on Carson's hood is the face of her late chihuahua, Seamus, who gave her the idea to found ByByPoo.
The dog on Carson's hood is the face of her late chihuahua, Seamus, who gave her the idea to found ByByPoo. [ MARTHA ASENCIO-RHINE | Times ]

With so many different pooper scooper companies in the area, how do they all exist in the same market?

It’s a friendly competition, Carson and Rehart say.

Rehart has noticed that more competition brings more business for everyone. Oftentimes people don’t remember the exact name of the pooper scooper company, so Rehart says their Google searches yield a bunch of options and traffic gets sent in every company’s direction.

“There’s more than enough poop to pick up,” Rehart said.