Dog poop has Washington Park residents steamed

Published 7:18 am Thursday, March 5, 2009

By Staff
Roaming pets causing messes for neighbors, some homeowners contend
Staff Writer
Who let the dogs out in Washington Park?
And who’s picking up their poop? That’s the question that has some residents steamed.
Seemingly well-cared-for dogs, many of them golden Labrador retrievers, roam free in the small township just over the Runyon Creek bridge at Washington’s Havens Garden.
And no law prohibits the activity, at least during the day. State law forbids pets from roaming after dark, said Sandy Woolard, chief animal-control officer and director of the Betsy Bailey Nelson Animal Control Facility.
It’s during daytime hours, though — when some pet owners are presumably at work — that problems are occurring. The controversy has arisen, in part, because Washington Park adopts Beaufort County’s animal-control ordinance, which does not include a leash law.
The ordinance is enforced by county animal-control officers, who can detain dogs for three reasons: They’re dangerous, they’re a nuisance or they don’t have a rabies tag.
Poop falls under the “nuisance” category.
When a dog poops on another’s property, it can be considered damaging to the lawn, and therefore a nuisance, Woolard said.
But residents will need proof if they file a complaint about nuisance pets: Pictures, video footage or other visual evidence must be submitted.
Given the controversy the pet waste has stirred up lately, evidence might not be that difficult to document.
If the pet is deemed a nuisance by Beaufort County Animal Control, the pet’s owner has 48 hours to abate the nuisance.
Animal control has been receiving complaints from Washington Park residents en masse, Woolard said.
For the past several weeks, the Daily News has been receiving anonymous comments for its Sound Off column about the messy situation. The comments — which are called in and taped by phone — have been varied:
Washington Park Mayor Tom Richter has been hearing both sides of the argument for years. He said the town’s board of commissioners has mulled adopting its own animal-control ordinance, but enforcement is not feasible, he contended.
Hiring an animal-control officer to enforce a leash law would increase Washington Park taxes by 50 percent, he said. Washington Park currently collects about $110,000 a year in taxes.
Woolard said the township has some repeat offenders.
Town Commissioner Horace Cowell takes an early-morning daily stroll through the township with his daughter’s dog. Cowell said he is often greeted by five neighborhood dogs that join him on his walks. During the day, he cares for his daughter’s dog.
Cowell, who has been on the board for more than 40 years, said many dogs in Washington Park should not be punished because of the few causing problems.
Woolard said it’s about time her facility held a public forum to clear the air.
She noted that Washington Park’s dog problem is about accountability.
Photo cutline: Washington Park resident Wynonia Cecci walks her dog “Misty” on College Avenue Wednesday afternoon. “Dogs are dogs. I’ve lived here for 10 years. It doesn’t bother me one bit,” Cecci said, regarding the neighborhood’s dog-poop controversy. (WDN Photo/Paul Dunn)