Friday, July 30–Canine Courtesy Questioned In Berlin

BERLIN – Dog owners need
to pick up after their dogs, Berlin elected officials said this week, citing
piles of canine poop in the town’s parks.

Berlin Councilman Dean
Burrell raised the issue at Monday night’s Berlin Mayor and Council meeting,
saying that dog owners are not following the law in town parks.

“When you walk your dog,
you’re supposed to have a bag with you,” said Burrell.

Berlin has an ordinance
requiring owners to clean up after their dogs, everywhere in town, not just the

People bring their
children to the park, Burrell said, and adults and children alike should not
have to worry about encountering dog feces while enjoying the public spaces.

“I really would not want
to see or have a child, or even me, because I walk in the park, to come into
contact with that waste,” Burrell said. “It’s a very disturbing thing.”

The town’s ordinance
requires dog walkers to bring bags with them to pick up and dispose of dog
waste when exercising their canine companions in Berlin, whether in the parks,
residential neighborhoods or elsewhere.

“I’m personally asking
you to abide by that ordinance,” said Burrell.

When dog owners violate
that ordinance, and a complaint is called in, the Berlin Police Department
handles it.

“We take all these types
of complaints seriously,” said Berlin Police Chief Arnold Downing.

According to the chief,
the department does not go looking for violators, but when a complaint is made
an officer will make contact with the offending dog owner.

Downing said that
because the fine is so high, officers would first warn pet owners caught
leaving dog feces behind.

“Generally speaking,
it’s a very easy process,” Downing said.

Most comply with the
ordinance after police contact, said Downing.

The police department
documents whenever a complaint comes in, and whenever its officers contact
someone about a complaint, so a second legitimate complaint will result in a
citation, Downing said.

Another problem, outside
the parks, is dog owners who allow their pet to deposit feces on private
property or who enter private property to walk their dogs. Downing said.

That is, in part,
trespassing, Downing said, and the police would handle it as such.

Dog feces left outside
can cause larger problems.

“It’s definitely a
source of nutrient pollution to our waterways,” said Assateague Coastkeeper
Kathy Phillips.

About a year ago, the
state of Maryland conducted a source tracking study for nutrients in Herring
and Turville Creeks to determine whether nutrients came from human, animal or
waterfowl waste. The state also went out to Herring Creek Park, a popular dog
walking site, and flagged every pile of dog feces on the grounds.

“It made it pretty
obvious how much was back there,” said Phillips.

The results of the state
study were alarming enough that the county put in stations at Herring Creek
offering free, biodegradable bags to dog owners for retrieving their pet’s
waste for disposal in the trash.

Phillips said perhaps
the town could work with local environmental partner Grow Berlin Green to fund
dog waste bag stations at the town parks.

“It’s more than just a
nuisance. It’s definitely a source of pollution and it really adds up. It’s one
of the easiest things you can do to reduce pollution in our waterways,”
Phillips said. “Scoop that poop.”