The Wash
Milkshake goes on a walk with his owners equipped to clean up a mess. (Leona Dunn/The Wash)

The city expands pet waste ‘doggy bag’ stations.

The focus shifts from enforcement to encouragement.

If you’re taking your dog on a walk through Grant Circle it’s fairly common to end up stepping in another dog’s mess.

Debbie Yorgey and her son Michael were walking their dog, Milkshake, around the block when The Wash asked them about the last time they stepped in dog waste.

It was literally only seconds.

“I stepped in some poop, I mean he picks his poop up all the time. He has the bag and everything and I just don’t know why some people don’t pick up their dog poop,” Mrs. Yorgey told The Wash. “I stepped in someone else’s it got all over my shoe and it irritates me to no end.”

Pet waste and litter fall under sanitation, but both are hard to enforce.

The city has acknowledged that pet waste is not a priority, but they are working on solutions to address complaints. 3-1-1 data showed more than 31 complaints in the last 30 days, an average estimate seen throughout the year.

Last summer, Clean City started the social campaign “Pride in Picking Up.” They increased awareness for that message by using the money previously invested in old ‘warning signs.’

Now new doggy bag stations are going up around the city. Nine stations are already installed with plans of deploying nine more this month.

All participating organizations in this city collaboration are displayed on the doggie bag dispensers.

The new campaign also involves multiple pet agencies, and asks them to supply doggy bags to surrounding neighbors outside of their businesses.

Clean City Director, Julie Lawson, told the Wash the pet waste issue is tricky because it’s so hard to enforce. Pet waste falls under the litter act in the district and has become a legal violation.

The city stopped hanging pet waste enforcement signs saying “It’s the law” over a year ago once they realized that people didn’t start picking up animal waste because of these new street decorations. Instead they just started changing walking routes.

“We don’t need to catch someone in the act to know there is a pet waste issue. We collect the evidence by looking at places with the most waste in their city trash cans and by the 311 complaints filed in certain areas,” Lawson said, “DPW can issue a citation, if someone captures a video, correctly identifies the neighbor and the dog, files an affidavit and attends a hearing, but no one wants to go through all of that.”

The city hopes the stations encourage people to pick up their animal’s waste, by being bright and riddled with encouraging messages.

They post statements regularly reminding the public of the dangers of left over fecal matter, like this one:

“Leaving dog waste behind is not just unsightly and irresponsible. It’s a health hazard. Rain can wash fecal matter into storm water drains, and contaminate our drinking water and marine life with such bacteria as E. coli, Salmonella, and Tapeworm. Excrement left behind on the ground also can pass diseases, intestinal parasites, and infections on to dogs, adults, and children. And, you or your dog can step into the waste then track it into your home or car.”

Petworth resident, Ron Stuart, is no stranger to seeing other dog’s waste during his walks.

“If I see other poop around usually I’ll just pick it up when I’m down there, I mean I’m already there and have my hand full of poop anyway,” Stuart said.

Stuart believes it’s the right thing to do in order to be a socially responsible neighbor.

When the city was recently asked for a solution they replied “they were still working on finding it.” Now they are hoping the bag stations are going to become a huge part of the solution.

“I definitely like that idea better than threatening people with fining them because that just feels bad. Any use of the legal system to financially penalize someone is just problematic and also if they aren’t enforcing it they are just sending a message that we have unenforceable laws which is also kinda not a good message,” Stewart said.

An empty, older pet wast bag station in Petworth. (Leona Dunn\The Wash)

Before this idea was raised, there were already doggy station bags in city dog parks, but not as many. That didn’t mean they were useful, however.

Dog sitter, Stephanie Oldano, said she notices that the dog park doggy bag stations are usually empty.

“Well, I think this dog park in Petworth is frequented a lot and maybe that’s why they are often not refilling them consistently enough,” Oldano said. “So unfortunately I think that causes people not to pick up after their dogs as much as they would want to so I usually just bring my own bags.”

Her own bags are biodegradable the type she hopes the city will invest in.

“It can be expensive but it’s better than just having waste on the ground,” Oldano said.

The Wash checked and the City, in fact, said it is purchasing biodegradable bags.

The Clean City staff does not personally install the boxes. They have government facilities staff performing that role. But they did tell us the new stations will be going up before November ends.

Until the extra bags are deployed and the city can study the results to see if the stations are encouraging cleaner behavior just remember to watch where you step.

Hear some of the neighbors comments here!



Leona Dunn

AU Broadcast Graduate Student.

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