Dog poop: Old issue returns to public eye
Nitrogen-based canine landmines — OK, dog poops — seem to be lying in wait on Ridgefield sidewalks, set to ambush inattentive pedestrians, with increasing regularity. And Ridgefield has had a “pooper scooper”-type ordinance, requiring dog owners to clean up, on its books since 1999.
“I’ve had people complaining the cleanup law is not being enforced as nicely as it used to be, especially on Main Street,” Selectwoman Maureen Kozlark said as a selectmen’s budget review session was winding down Feb. 7.
The Press, too, has heard the complaint.
“It’s awful, awful,” Pilar Estrada told a reporter, decrying dog leavings on village sidewalks. “Catoonah Street and High Ridge, Gilbert was horrible.”
As with so many problems, dog deposits tend to be laid at the feet of a few malefactors who are too lazy or inconsiderate to do their cleanup duties (or doodie duties).
“Most people take care of their dogs and clean up after them,” First Selectman Rudy Marconi said after Kozlark brought the dark matter up.
He acknowledged there are some who don’t.
“They’ve also decided they can clean it up, bag it, and leave it there,” Kozlark said.
Speculation at the meeting was that sometimes people walking dogs may leave bagged scoopings at the edge of a sidewalk, and mean to pick it up on their way back — but somehow don’t. They may simply forget. Maybe they didn’t have a fierce commitment to returning by the same route, stopping and picking up that little bag and putting it in their pocket, or handbag.
Who, really, wants their dog’s public statement to reside in plastic-enclosed splendor, tableside, while they enjoy a cup of coffee at the local café?
Bagged but abandoned poop is a phenomenon Marconi had touched on, a week early, when The Press had asked him about enforcement of the poop scoop law, following the phoned-in complaint from Estrada.
“I live on Main Street. Someone has, and I don’t know why, they pick it up, tie up the bag, and they leave it right at the base of a tree in front of my house,” Marconi said. “Maybe it’s their way of repaying me — for something I said, taxes, I don’t know.”
Marconi told The Press that he’d also been the subject of a lobbying campaign by a citizen outraged over dog leavings.
“I have 30 pictures of dog poop,” the first selectman said. “And I’m sitting at my desk and going through these pictures, and said: ‘My God, is that what my life has come to?’”
As far as poop-scooping enforcement, it’s not exactly aggressive.
“We don’t have any one individual that is assigned that priority, to monitor it. It has not been added to my job description yet,” Marconi said.
“But it’s something that should be taken seriously, and we will follow up. But we need the help of all citizens, We need, not just a complaint — but collect information, pass it along.
“If you do see someone who allows their dog to poop, and doesn’t pick it up — especially right on the sidewalk — please take a picture with some information, so that we may follow up.”
Poop-scooping enforcement applies to the area on or beside sidewalks, or in places like public parks. Kids ball-playing fields, believe it or not, have been discussed as an occasional problem area.
Another concern is semi-public areas such as the grass borders of the parking lot behind the new VNA building — a slope that, before the VNA project, some village workers who use the parking lot below referred to as “dog poop hill.”
But the scoop rule isn’t generally applied on private property or in neighborhood-type disputes — it’s about public areas.
Fines for not scooping sidewalk dog leavings are currently $25, Marconi said, and in his talk with The Press he theorized that increasing the fine might be a way to stem what seems a growing tide of dog poop on town sidewalks and semi-public grass areas.
“Maybe it’s time to adjust the fine,” Marconi mused, “to let people know we’re kicking up the level of seriousness of this issue. If people are beginning to see a greater and greater abuse of conformance, or compliance, then we should unfortunately make the fine a little bit more severe.”
He added that the maximum fines allowed are dictated by state statutes, and would need to be researched.
“The great majority of people comply with it, they pick up after their dogs,” Marconi said. “But there are those who do not.”