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On Dog Ownership And Civic Responsibilty

A few thoughts about those who fail their dogs and their neighbors by refusing to clean up.

Urban living is a group effort. We all know and accept that there are certain responsibilities that come with living in a community.

Most of us try on a daily basis to do right by our neighbors. We keep the noise to a minimum, maintain our properties and generally just try to be polite and friendly with each other.

When you decide to bring a dog into the community you assume a little more responsibility. You are now the caretaker of a living, breathing creature. This animal will love you unconditionally, and it deserves to get that love in return.

A part of that love is taking your dog out for some air and exercise. During that exercise period a certain basic need, other than the exercise itself, will be met. Your dog will squat and leave a little something behind. In a city, you are expected, even required to clean up what your dog left behind.

Long ago, on Ward Street, there was a guy who walked his german shepherd each day. One day, the dog decided to do his business on the sidewalk in front of my house. This became an almost daily event. My mother asked this gentleman once or twice to find another place for his dog to do what nature required. He chose to ignore her.

Some weeks later, my father came home and stepped in a fresh deposit of german shepherd leavings. Being who he was, my father handled this very directly. A coal shovel was secured from the cellar, which he used to scoop up what was left on the sidewalk. He then walked down the street with me following him, directly to the tenement where the gentleman lived. He knocked on the third floor door and waited for someone to answer. When the door opened, the shovel's contents were dropped to the floor. As my father walked down the stairs, curses rained down from above. This particular dog never stopped on our sidewalk again.

More recently, I was forced to deal with a young lady in North Salem and her pit bull mix. She had found the sidewalk in front of my Aunt's house to be the preferred spot for her dog to take care of business. She also decided that it was not her job to clean this mess up. 

One day last week, I saw her and her dog leave a little something behind right in front of the gate to the yard. I was able to get out quickly enough to attempt a polite resolution to the situation. The woman had no interest in civil conversation or a resolution. She did however, have quite the potty mouth. What a surprise.

Being my father's son I followed her to her residence, but without a shovel. I just wanted her address. Once there, I was confronted by a man who accused me of harassment. When he threatened to call the police, I agreed that he should do just that, even offering to wait for the police to come so we could resolve the situation then and there. He chose not to do so. Another surprise.

Returning home, I called the police and asked that they contact the dog officer. Later in the day, I sent an email directly to animal control. Donald Famico of the worked with me to resolve this matter. As of now, my Aunt's sidewalk remains free of dog droppings. If the situation occurs again, I will submit a photograph and ask that a court summons be issued.

I spoke with other dog owners this week on this matter. Most agree that there are very few that fail to meet their responsibilities. Many carry extra plastic bags with them when they walk their dogs so they can clean up after those that do not.

If you have someone in your neighborhood who is a part of the 5 percent (or less) of dog owners who choose to be irresponsible slobs, don't stand by and tolerate their rude, crude and selfish behavior. The animal control officer can be reached at 978-744-0171 or email him here

Here is a link to the applicable Salem City Ordinance. Scroll down to Sec. 8-36. 

Erin Cyr February 27, 2012 at 02:49 PM
This comment is so ridiculous! Pick up the poop! Don't break the law and expect people to feel bad. If someone was harassing you then you should call the police. If someone really ended up in the hospital over this then it should definitely be reported to all of the appropriate authorities.
Nancy Gilberg February 27, 2012 at 07:57 PM
For a positive example of how Portsmouth, NH deals with dog waste, check out S.C.O.O.P. (Seacoast Canine Owners Outreach Program). "SCOOP is a public-outreach program in association with the Blue Ocean Society for Marine Conservation. We are dedicated to educating the public on the issue of pet waste pollution on the beaches of the Seacoast." Salem needs this!
Nancy Gilberg February 27, 2012 at 08:03 PM
To quote Teena Berry on Milford Patch: "Many people do not realize that anything left on a roadway will eventually make its way into our drinking water through the storm drains or nearby waterways. When you pour oil or wash water into a storm drain this makes its way directly into our supply of water so does dog poop. The next time you see dog poop on the street picture it in a glass on your dinner table." The link to her full article, http://milford-ma.patch.com/articles/letter-a4bc0741.
Kailey February 29, 2012 at 03:40 PM
This issue is getting ridiculous at the top of Harbor Street as well. I was walking to Lafayette Street one morning recently & it had been raining lightly for hours. Between Salem Street & Lafayette Street I counted at least 4 large canine fecal droppings that had become 'fecal mousse' after swelling in the rain. And those are just the ones on the left sidewalk; this says nothing about any that may have been on the right side of the street, nor the ones I know to be in the grass on the property of the church/school on the corner! I see people walking their dogs in the morning. I know it's annoying to have to take your dog out so s/he can "do the business" and it's sort of gross to pick up after your dog. However, if you are not willing to take on ALL the responsibilities of owning a dog...DON'T GET A DOG! I'm unwilling to take my pet outside at least twice a day for a walk & bathroom duties, so I got a cat instead of a dog. You knew this was a requirement when you got your dog; the law states you pick up after your dog. Don't like it, don't own one.
Ellen Rittgers July 15, 2012 at 08:04 PM
Shoud have gotten the whole video - and her lisence plate.

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