A dog trainer in northeastern Japan has taken it upon herself to make her city more pet friendly by installing "poop posts" for owners to dispose of their dogs' waste.

Akari Tanaka, a 37-year-old resident of Hirosaki, Aomori Prefecture, is hoping her project will help create a society where people can live comfortably with their pets as she says locals have struggled to "take the initiative to clean up after their dogs."

Akari Tanaka stands in front of a "poop post" for disposal of dog waste in Hirosaki, Aomori Prefecture, on Dec. 10, 2021. (Kyodo)

Tanaka put up the first "poop post" outside her dog-grooming salon in July 2020. It stands about 90 centimeters tall, is 50 cm wide and comes with plastic bags that people can use to pick up excrement.

After setting up the post, Tanaka found that people naturally started to use it without being asked, and locals told her that they even gained the courage to pick up waste from other owners' dogs too.

Eventually the amount of dog waste that was left on the road outside the salon was visibly reduced.

Tanaka says she was shocked when she moved to Hirosaki two years ago from the prefectural capital Aomori to find that many local parks prohibited pets from entering.

She learned that it was because many dog owners would not respect the rules and failed to clean up after their pets, and she was determined to do something about it.

It was difficult, however, to reach out to locals who were not accustomed to taking their dog's waste home with them. That is when Tanaka remembered seeing similar posts when she visited the U.S. military base in Misawa in the same prefecture.

As the posts came with plastic bags attached, using them to pick up dog excrement took little effort, and Tanaka realized it might be easier for passers-by to notice the posts and use them to pick up nearby waste.

Tanaka used online crowdfunding to collect around 650,000 yen ($5,600) for the "poop post" project, and has since been able to establish posts in three locations in the prefecture.

She is now in negotiations with municipalities to expand the posts to roadside rest areas and public parks.

Inspired by Tanaka's initiative, Seiji Kataoka, a 46-year-old hair salon owner in Aomori, set up a post outside his shop. "The post has given me a chance to communicate and connect with my neighbors," Kataoka said.

However, there are also challenges. The dog waste must be disposed of by anyone who sets up a post. In the case of public facilities like parks, the installation of posts could be rejected based on the principle that dog waste has to be taken home by owners.

But Tanaka is not giving up. Touching on the growing trend for people to go sightseeing and travel with their dogs, she said installing the posts would lead to an increase in visitors and help regional revitalization.

Tanaka's goal is to create an environment where pets, who are often seen as members of the family, can be accepted in communities, and "poop posts" are only the first step.

"I would also like to improve systems for bringing pets in the event of an evacuation during a natural disaster," Tanaka said.

Related coverage:

Statue unveiled commemorating popular "ugly-yet-cute" Akita dog Wasao

Pandemic causing changes in pet dog behavior, survey shows

Akita dog English website launched by local newspaper company