Enforcing dog poo law would be ‘spotty’

Published 11:30 am Friday, April 9, 2021

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Sun Reporter

Winchester could end up with a pooper scooper law, but for now, city officials have sidestepped it.

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The Board of Commissioners briefly considered adding a section to its nuisance or dog ordinance to require owners to clean up after their canines, but they decided to have it on the agenda for another meeting.

Samantha Blake had raised the issue in a letter to Mayor Ed Burtner and members of the board. She said that for years, she and her neighbors have had to deal with people walking their dogs and letting the pets defecate in their yards and not cleaning up the mess afterward.

Lately, it seems to be happening more frequently, she said.

She said she hoped an ordinance could be enacted to “keep our community cleaner and for certain pet owners to have more respect for their neighbors” or be held accountable for their actions if they don’t.

City Attorney Bill Dykeman had drafted text for what could be an addition to another ordinance.

It would require that “the custodian of every animal shall remove any excreta deposited” by the animal within city limits, on public walks, streets, recreation areas or private property belonging to another, and any that isn’t removed would be declared a public nuisance.

Any person violating the new section would be cited to come before the Administrative Hearing Board for disposition of their case.

The draft makes no mention of penalties.

Dykeman wasn’t in the room for the meeting, but he attended virtually.

Burtner asked how the city could enforce the ordinance.

Dykeman answered that enforcement would be “spotty.”

He said the any sworn officer and the code enforcement officer could cite somebody for not picking up the waste and compel them to respond before the hearing board for “whatever discipline” is involved. He said the board could fine them or waive any penalty the first time and fine them if it happens a second time.

“I think it would be nearly impossible,” said Rebecca Power, who works in code enforcement. Unless an officer saw the violation, it would be one neighbor’s word against another’s. “You can’t just take somebody’s word.”

But just having the ordinance, Dykeman suggested, could be a deterrent.

Dykeman’s suggestion was that the matter be put on another agenda for further discussion.