COMMENTARY: Losing The Dog Poop Battle

Andrew Zwicker
By Andrew Zwicker
February 19th, 2009

As the snow has been melting over these past couple of warm weeks (Is spring coming already? Did winter even really get started?) the brown land mines planted around town by our dog population have started appearing everywhere.

Walking up Washington Street the other day, doing my best to keep my head up and continue a conversation with my girlfriend while at the same time dodging the dodgy doggy doo doo, I witnessed a sadly all too common event. As I looked on, an unnamed dog owner who seems to have switched sides in the war on poop stood and watched while her surprisingly small dog left behind a surprisingly large treat, staking claim to that section of the sidewalk as its own personal mutt’s men’s room.

Making direct eye contact with the poop perpetrator, I waited to see if she would pull out a baggy to dispose of the little brown gift or at the least sweep and bury it under the snow to be discovered on a warm spring day in the future. Shockingly, and I change the name of the dog here to protect the identity of the dog who I’m sure hasn’t personally read Rossland’s bylaws, she just looked at ‘Rex’ and said, “C’mon buddy, let’s go,” as they made their ambling escape from the scene of the crime.

As I get deeper into this story I feel like I should note that I am a dog owner and a dog lover in general. I should also mention that I wish everyone the pleasure that owning a dog can bring but only–and this is a big only—if they are responsible owners and take proper care of their pets.

Spending the majority of our daylight hours either working or out enjoying Mother Nature’s playground, we often find ourselves walking our dog late in the evening. This usually works out great with fewer cars around on the roads and fewer errant balls and hockey pucks for our furry chaser-of-all-things-that-move to get distracted by. Still, it shocks me every night just how many seemingly stray dogs we run into that usually tag along for a few blocks before a random scent on a snowy street corner diverts their attention. We see the same groups of stray dogs out wandering the streets night after night, often in packs, patrolling their pee-defined territory. While, yes, Rossland is a pretty sleepy place after 6pm, there are still cars around to hit dogs, garbage to eat and streets and sidewalks to be pooped on, and ankles to be bitten or “nipped” (as one dog owner in town casually played down a biting incident before casually walking away from the scene without so much as an apology to the bite-ee).

As a dog owner I would never think of just letting my hundred pound five year old wander the streets alone any more than I’d let a five year old child do the same. His life is dominated by his nose and taste buds and if there is anything that smells remotely delicious (keeping in mind garbage is fine dining in your average dog’s mind) he would be all over it and making himself sick if not worse. Not knowing the rules of the road, he wouldn’t think twice to chase a shadow, squirrel or ball out in front of an oncoming car. I just don’t understand how so many Rossland dog owners can have such little respect for their dog’s safety and well-being and just let them wander the streets day and night.

Apart from being just plain irresponsible, letting a dog run loose around town, allowing them to poop in public and not picking up after them are all illegal according to the apparently rarely-enforced bylaws of the city of Rossland.

Interested in just what dog related bylaws were on the books, I checked in with City Hall to learn about the puppy penal code and just how often, if ever, the rules get enforced. Failing to pick up your dogs feces comes with a $100 fine; having your dog roam at large also comes at a $100 cost. Having your dog in an excluded zone such as Columbia Avenue comes with a hefty charge of $250, while at the highest end of the scale, a dog attack will cost the owner $1,000.

While specific statistics on canine crimes were unavailable, I was slightly shocked to see the stiff fines associated with the various bylaw infractions and wondered if dog owners around town were just unfamiliar with them, just didn’t care, or blatantly disregarded them due to a lack of any effective policing of the bylaws.

Having not seen a bylaw officer wandering around town for a while, I checked and discovered that, yes indeed, there was a month-long gap in January between our previous bylaw officer leaving the post to our new one being hired and hitting the beat earlier this month. Working just twenty hours per week on a fluctuating schedule that isn’t made available to the public, our new bylaw officer, by the sheer scope of his work, cannot possibly cover every square foot of poop-infested city sidewalk or curtail every stray spaniel strolling around town. So we are left to a system that requires personal responsibility as its regulator.

Taking my dog into the vet this winter after discovering he had picked up a case of lice, I learned that there is currently a bit of an epidemic here in town. Typically a fairly uncommon occurrence among the region’s dog population, the suggestion was made that Rossland’s large stray dog population tends to pass around the lice more freely than is normal: yet another reason to keep your own dog on a leash and not let them associate with the other pooches that wander our blocks.

Clearly, Rossland is a dog-loving town, and judging by the speed of my own dog’s tail wagging, it’s a great place to be a four legged friend with loads of trails and forests to explore, squirrels to chase and the occasional bear to scare off. I care about my dog like the member of the family he is and therefore look out for his safety as any responsible parent would. It’s for that reason that I wish others in town would take responsibility for their own dogs and at the very least pick up the poop they leave behind on city streets and sidewalks. As winter’s grasp loosens, the brown battlefield mines appear more and more each day.

With one fallen soldier of a dress shoe already lost to the battle here’s hoping we can reduce footwear casualties and once again walk, free of fear, down glistening, poop-free sidewalks.

Categories: Op/Ed

Other News Stories