Dog waste: A nuisance, and a health issue

Story by Chris Graham

On one recent walk to the Waynesboro Public Library from her home on Walnut Avenue, Heather Chandler counted 20 different piles of dog waste on sidewalks.

“It has become difficult for those in wheelchairs and with strollers to enjoy a stroll or run errands,” said Chandler, a licensed veterinary technician who has written about the dog-poo issue on her Facebook page to try to raise awareness of the nuisance that is also a public-health danger.

“One gram of canine feces can have thousands of parasite eggs in it, not to mention millions of fecal coliform bacteria. All of these things that can be transmitted onto our shoe bottoms then into our homes – then fairly easily into the mouths of children,” Chandler said.

Yeah, pretty disgusting. The good news is that there is a city code on the books that deals with the waste issue, and the animal-control officer in the Waynesboro Police Department, Dee Price, actively deals with complaints using the code section as leverage.

The bad news here is that, as you might guess, absent a CSI analysis of a particular pile of dog poo that can be traced back to a particular animal, it can be hard for Price to get much in the way of leverage unless she happens to witness a dog in the act and its owner then not cleaning up afterward.

Price has been in animal control since 2003, and she has yet to issue a single summons related to dog waste in her time on the police force, she said.

“I have to have probable cause,” said Price, whose role in working through dog-poo issues is not necessarily as hampered by the realities of the situation that she usually faces as you might think.

“What usually happens is if the person contacting me can tell me who they think the owner is, I’ll go talk to the person, tell them that there is a code on the books, and then the person takes care of the issue from there on,” Price said.

The problem can be in identifying the owner of the dog making the deposit on a street on in a neighbor’s yard.

“It’s difficult if I can’t identify anybody to talk with them and let them know what the code is and what their responsibilities are,” Price said.

The issue seems to come down, then, to being one of public education – of the public-health issues involved and the courtesy that dog owners display in cleaning up after their pets. City Councilwoman Nancy Dowdy has taken up the cause, speaking at a recent City Council meeting on the issue to remind dog owners in the city to “please be considerate of your neighbors.”

“I get complaints about people letting their dogs use the restroom on sidewalks and in people’s yards. Please, we have an ordinance on the books. Be courteous of your neighbors. Please take baggies or whatever and clean up behind your animals,” Dowdy said.

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