INside Story

Pet cleanup businesses thriving in pandemic

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — It may be surprising to some, but a secure line of work during the COVID-19 pandemic is professional pet waste removal services, according to industry workers.

In central Indiana, there are several businesses from which to choose. Some say they left other professions to take up the challenge. News 8’s Brenna Donnelly spoke with representatives from Little Stinkers, Poopy Puppies and Hometown Critter Care about their choice to make their business product an animal’s by-product.

“Well it’s poop. I don’t know anybody who’s happy about dealing with poop every day,” laughed Jason Ferkel, owner and manager at Little Stinkers, “but my philosophy is about serving my customers and my employees. Best as possible, best work experience as possible.”

Ferkel also does the deed of poop scooping. He dons boots, gloves and a bright green vest, grabs a trash bag and gets to work.

“It’s one of those businesses that you’ve never heard of it but once you hear of it, people tend to say: ‘That’s something I need! I didn’t know I needed that!,” he said after spending about 20 minutes on a client’s yard.

He and his six employees charge about $20 a week to come by and walk your backyard “lawn-mower style,” clearing any unwanted animal debris from the week.

“I had a customer who says she thinks she can do it herself and just got an email saying, ‘I’m throwing in the towel, I need you back,’” Ferkel said.

Phil Wade does the same thing for Poopy Puppies.

“Some people just really don’t like picking up after their dog. And that’s what we’re for,” said Wade. “I like being outdoors. I like dogs, so I gave it a shot and 15 years later I’m still doing it.”

Wade explained he’s even worked with non-canine clients, like cleaning up after pot-bellied pigs.

A set of siblings in Brownsburg represent the industry’s next generation, starting their own business: Hometown Critter Care.

“It was the beginning of the COVID quarantines and we were sick of being at home and so we need something to get out and do so we decided to start a business,” said Ellie Robison, age 14.

“I thought, ‘Ew, why would we do that, that’s so gross. I don’t want to touch poop,”‘ said 12-year-old Charlotte Robison, remembering the first conversation she had about it.

“It’s kinda gross but it’s a way to make money and have money to go do something with my friends,” reasoned Ellie Robison.

However, there’s something touching about these businesses all about somebody’s business, Ferkel, with Little Stinkers, explained helping help one person who is blind and can’t clean up after her seeing-eye dog. He says other clients are elderly and don’t want to surrender their pets but can’t bend down like they used to. Another client threw out her back and pet waste services helped her do her kitty litter, too.

“It’s a crappy job but we’re glad to do it,” Ferkel said and then smiled.