Virginia homeowner criticized for using ‘spike mats’ to deter dogs

ARLINGTON, Va. — A Northern Virginia man is in his neighbors’ doghouse for placing spiked mats over expensive bushes in his yard to prevent dogs from using the shrubbery as a restroom.

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“Somebody called me a sociopath,” Eric Wang, of Arlington, told WTOP. “Somebody else called me a Disney villain.”

On the social media app Nextdoor, Wang’s neighbors said they were concerned the mats could pose a danger to pets and children, WRC-TV reported.

Last autumn, Wang said he tried some dog repellent sprays, but the canines continued to use his yard and the shrubs died.

“I had the landscaping done last summer and then in the fall I noticed that the shrubs around the corner of my property started declining,” Wang told WTTG. “I tried other measures. I tried a product called Critter Ridder, which is a non-toxic odorous animal repellent that did not work at all. I tried putting up signs asking owners not to let their dogs urinate on the shrubs. It wasn’t very effective.”

This year, Wang replaced the Japanese Yews he originally bought for $300 each, WTOP reported.

“I went online and did some research to see what products might be effective that also might be visually non-intrusive,” Wang told the radio station.

That is when Wang discovered a product called scat mats.

“They are these plastic mats that you put down on the ground, and they have these prickly pieces that are designed to make it uncomfortable for dogs and cats and other animals to walk on,” Wang told WTOP.

Wang said the mats cannot harm any animals.

“You could push down with a moderate amount of force,” Wang told WRC. “You see minor indentations on my palm, but it doesn’t cause any punctures.”

Not everyone agrees.

Karina Jimenez is a nanny who walks children through Wang’s neighborhood.

“The kids walk or scooter and play with bikes or when running, and I think that’s not safe for kids,” Jimenez told WRC.

Wang disagreed.

“Dozens and dozens of dog owners and their dogs were walking past every single day, walking within inches of the scat mats,” Wang told WTOP. “I didn’t notice any issues.”

At least two people posted on Nextdoor that they called the police and were told nothing could be done, Arlington Now reported. An Arlington County Police Department spokesperson said she could find no record of calls regarding the spikes.

Arlington County code enforcement officials made two visits and said the mat was acceptable, WRC reported.

“When I first saw the little item on Nextdoor, I was concerned because we walk by those bushes all the time,” Steve Sockwall, who walks dogs in the area, told the television station. “But when I actually did walk past it, I noticed it’s just a wire. It doesn’t look like it would harm the dog.”

The comments on Nextdoor were negative. According to WTTG, one commenter wrote, “He is not alienating, this is sociopathic behavior.” Another person posted, “Maybe he’s just angry because he bought an ugly house.”

Wang said the complaints on social media are overblown.

“People need to weigh the credibility of the claims that they see online before reacting to them,” Wang told WRC.