COLUMN: A dirty issue worth discussing

Dog droppings in Nelson

“Dog crap!”

Nelson senior city bylaw officer Fred Thompson uttered those two words numerous times earlier this week. He didn’t have much choice. He was answering questions over the phone about dog feces and dog owners.

And while I suggested the messy issue has alarmed me — a relative newcomer to Nelson — Thompson said it’s not as bad as it used to be.

“The dog crap situation is much better than it was years ago. Definitely better,” said Thompson.

Mayor Deb Kozak, who has lived in Nelson for more than 30 years, says the dog dropping problem has gotten “slightly worse.”

“It’s bizarre that people don’t pick up after their dog. It’s so irresponsible,” said Kozak, who lives close to Lions Park, a popular play area for children.

“It’s a health and safety issue. There are kids in the playgrounds where the dogs are doing their business,” said Kozak.

It’s no secret that dog droppings are dangerous. Dog feces carries hookworms, ringworms, tapeworms and also transmits human diseases. It also poisons grass and lawns.

Kozak praised Star letter writer Ruth Beck for pointing out the dog dropping problem along the ski trail on Mountain Station Trail just outside city limits.

“Good for her to call people out like that,” said Kozak.

“You are not being a good neighbour when you don’t pick up. Be responsible for your pet.”

I couldn’t agree more.

As a dog owner who walks our terrier (and picks up) in the Uphill area, I pass by at least three or four dog droppings along the streets everytime I go on a four-to-six block walk.

My wife, who actually picks up other dog droppings during her walks, always laments, “Who does that?” when she returns from walking our dog.

Thompson said it’s rare to charge an offending dog owner for not picking up because it’s hard to prove the feces belongs to a particular dog.

“We have tried to catch and fine people after their dog has taken a crap but it’s very rare. It is so hard to prove. People will say ‘yes my dog took a crap there but then I went home, got a bag and went back and picked it up.’”

Thompson did point out that the problem always worsens as spring arrives and the snow melts.

“That’s when we get the most complaints,” he said

“In the end, most of the time we just try to educate people. Keep your dog on a lead and always carry several bags,” he said, adding “Most dog owners are pretty good. They always say they don’t have a bag if we catch them.”

Thompson said there are no plans to introduce a DNA database for dogs here, a growing trend at condos across North American that has been successful in lowering complaints about dog feces.

He has, however, heard of a novel solution that has been used on several occasions in Nelson.

“We’ve heard from people who tell us they scoop up the dog crap from the sidewalk in front of their home and then place the crap right on the front porch” of the home of the offending dog owner, he said.

He said the city would never support such a move, but added, “funny thing is we never get a call back on those. It seems to work.”

Kozak said in her pre-mayoral days she would often approach offending dog owners with a plastic bag.

“I would say ‘excuse me’ and look at the dog dropping. I’d get quite the surprised look, but people always picked it up.

“Maybe we should start doing that again.”

What’s your cleanup solution?

gary.poignant@nelsonstar.com

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