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. 

Liv February 13, 2012 at 03:28 PM
Is there something that can be done for cats? Our neighbor lets his cat out, and the cat only does his business in our small yard. It has made our yard completely unusable for our children.
Marsha Finkelstein February 13, 2012 at 03:57 PM
Bill, This was pure doggy gold! As a dog walker and pet sitter, I deal with the leave behinds all the time and am still amazed when I see someone fail to clean up after their dogs. It's bad for the community and it looks bad on the owner. Thanks for sharing your 2 cents. Love it!!!
Josh Turiel February 13, 2012 at 04:36 PM
This should be civics 101. Clean up after your pet, don't litter, and don't chop the heads off freaking ice sculptures. Respect the people you share a city with. Attitudes have changed about being civil in the last few decades, and not for the better.
Erin Cyr February 13, 2012 at 05:10 PM
I think there is a nontoxic spray you can buy that will keep cats away.
Erin Cyr February 13, 2012 at 05:18 PM
I once followed someone home after having a discussion about not picking up after her dog. She told me she was going to call the police and I said something to similar to what Bil said. I was very nice about it and my son and I enjoyed the walk. I got her address and as I pulled out my phone to call the dog office she emerged from her house with her bag and scurried back to pick up the poop. The point is, that I think that people who don't pick up after their animals should be publicly embarrassed. People often just tsk, tsk and whisper amongst themselves. What good does that do? Walk right up to them and offer them a bag if you have one. Tell them you are going to call the dog officer. People need to know that it's not okay.
Joan February 13, 2012 at 05:49 PM
I like to walk up at Mack Park with my dogs. The other day I brought a store plastic bag and while we walk around the park I picked up everyone else dog poop. When we left the park the plastic bag was half full. Shame on you. This is a beautiful place to walk and enjoy nature you people who do note pick up ruin it for the other people that do pick up after their dogs.
Shava Nerad February 13, 2012 at 05:54 PM
We use a retractible flexi leash for our corgi/dachsi mix (yes, very long and low!) and have a wonderful "saddlebag" pack with four zip pockets for baggies (the old fashioned fold-over sandwich bags are cheap and work fine for small dogs - 150 pack in a compartment), treats, spare keys, and a packet of wetwipes. It sounds huge, but it really isn't. I just checked on Google - these were something like $20 when George was spry, but now that he's gray in the muzzle (16 this year!), they're about $6. For those of us who take our duty seriously, might as well have good tools for a dirty job.
Shava Nerad February 13, 2012 at 05:56 PM
Sorry, if it wasn't clear - the pack fits over the reel of the leash.
Erin Cyr February 13, 2012 at 05:58 PM
The sad thing is that none of the people who are the problem are going to read this article because they just don't care. I also think that another problem is the people who do pick up after their dog but then just leave the bag on the sidewalk or in the gutter. If it's too demeaning to walk around with a bag of poop then you shouldn't own a dog.
Tom Uellner February 13, 2012 at 06:15 PM
KlassySalem - The cat doesn't understand borders but I'd be fairly certain the owner does. Don't advocate killing an animal because the owner's an idiot! That kind of misses the whole point of Bill's article. You know, be responsible for your pet. Very (un)Klassy...
Justin Mattera February 13, 2012 at 06:16 PM
Tylenol for cats......mean, but I got a good laugh. Dogs are more my style
gene February 13, 2012 at 08:19 PM
I've seen dog owners lift their dogs over the fence around the softball field. Let their dogs run around and do thier business and left them bakc over. Then the girls go play softball on this same poop laden field. This is sick!!!
William Legault February 13, 2012 at 09:46 PM
Email me, palfray10@gmail.com
Cindy Johnson February 14, 2012 at 01:47 AM
The Federal Street neighborhood is currently having this problem. Lots of kids walking to Salts on Fed are treading in dog droppings. Not the best way to start off the school day. I wish I could trace it back to a dog owner.
Matt Buchanan February 14, 2012 at 02:00 AM
I hate when people leave their doggy-poop bags in empty trash barrels that haven't been picked up yet.......and then it rains.
William Legault February 14, 2012 at 03:43 AM
You can, but you have to decide to make the effort. I did make the effort and I caught the culprit in the act. Suffice to say I found the pit bull more pleasant than the person walking it.
Drew Meger February 14, 2012 at 12:40 PM
I actually built a little shed to house my trash cans in order to prevent dog walkers from hurling poop bags in their vague vicinity. Even when they managed to get it in the bin, it was still a problem as trash pickup wouldn't remove little blue bags of poop with the other garbage bags.
Wendy February 14, 2012 at 04:09 PM
I agree, they should be publicly embarrassed, that is the only way they will learn. Part of my responsibility as a dog owner is to pick up after them. I hate seeing dog bombs that aren't picked up-it embarrasses me as a dog owner.
Leslie February 20, 2012 at 09:52 PM
Yes -- mean -- and NOT funny. Bad form, Klassy.
Ellen Rittgers February 21, 2012 at 01:26 PM
When rude and/or destructive people are given a pass on their antisocial behavior, it gets worse. Too many people get pets and have no intention of doing what it takes to comply with local laws. For these people, compliance is considered optional. Keep the police and animal officers phone numbers with you and call them when it happens. Use your phone camera to document it happening. This behavior can be stopped, but people have to get involved.
daizee February 27, 2012 at 01:41 PM
Erin Cyr February 27, 2012 at 02:16 PM
Klassy is SO clearly a man....
KlassySalem February 27, 2012 at 02:30 PM
Pick up after your dogs. Problem solved.
daizee February 27, 2012 at 02:48 PM
oh no we are not suppose to know His identity but he can give peoples locations out so that if anyone who knows what kind of dog you have can easily find you so a person who has been abused in the past who doesnt want to be found can be found and end up in the hospital just for HIS stupid comments!!!! so listen before you start giving out precise landmarks and dogs think, that just by giving information like that can cause serious serious injury to that person over poop!!!!!!!!! and also make sure you have the right person cause this person always picks up there dog poop so this happened for NO REASON!!!!!!!!!
KlassySalem February 27, 2012 at 02:48 PM
"and also make sure you have the right person cause this person always picks up there dog poop so this happened for NO REASON!!!!!!!!!" I call poopnanigans! I've seen you. We've all seen you. You don't even carry a bag to pretend. Everyone who takes their dogs down there knows it.
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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