Workers pick up dog poop during a spring cleanup of a yard in Auburn. They work for Scoop 4Paws, a Lewiston-based business that cleans up animal waste. Credit: Lori Valigra / BDN

LEWISTON, Maine — This year’s spring thaw brought eager customers to Carey Zembas’ Scoop 4Paws business when the melting snow exposed heaps of unwanted dog lawn ornaments.

By mid-March, Zembas had a backlog of 150 people wanting her company to clear their yard from months of dog poop buildup over the winter. Almost all are residences where dog owners are too busy or infirm to handle cleanup. She will also clean barns and other animal messes.

“This isn’t about lazy people,” said Zembas, who started the Lewiston-based business three years ago. “It’s a service of convenience, like a housekeeper.”

Demand for servicing the business end of canines is mounting. A handful of companies have sprung up throughout New England with playful names including Poopah Scoopah, Turd Herders and Dog-Gone-It.

As word got out about her business, including her membership in the local chamber of commerce, Zembas saw Scoop 4Paws grow quickly. It had $2,500 in sales in its first year, 2019. That doubled the next year and quintupled in 2021. She expects sales of $40,000 this year. So far this spring, she’s been making $1,000 per month more than last spring.

She attributes some of the growth to the puppy adoption boom earlier in the pandemic, when more people worked from home and wanted a companion animal. She charges a minimum of $60 for a spring cleanup, which includes raking up leaves and other debris, but that could be up to $250 for a large dog or a home with multiple dogs. She typically puts the refuse in bags for regular trash pickup, as the dog poop cannot be recycled.

Zembas also offers weekly yard cleaning starting at $20 per visit for smaller yards. She has 40 regular customers who want weekly or biweekly service that she handles herself. The business is seasonal, running from March through November and servicing people within a 20-mile radius of Lewiston. She got the idea about eight years ago when she saw an ad from a man in Florida with a year-round business.

Carey Zembas, owner of Scoop 4Paws. a Lewiston-based business that cleans up dog poop for homeowners. Credit: Lori Valigra / BDN

She has six employees, mostly family members and friends, who work full-time in the spring and earn $18 to $2o per hour..

“The spring cleanups are hard,” she said. “Dog poop is heavy and we can have 10 to 20 bags of waste and leaves in a yard.”

Dog waste can pile up quickly. Most dogs poop 14 times per week and they don’t like going where there is a lot of poop piled up, Zembas said. Having a clean yard also means they won’t track a mess back into the house. She said most of the time the poop is dried and doesn’t smell too strong.

“But sometimes there are some ripe ones and ‘woof,’” she said.

The crew cleans with buckets and rakes that they disinfect between jobs. They wear booties to keep their shoes clean from job to job.

Zembas, who also has her own building cleaning company, hopes to expand the scooping business by getting municipal clients that need areas of the city cleaned up.

One of the best parts of the job is when the dogs are in the yard she is cleaning.

“I bring homemade dog treats that my mother makes to them,” she said.