City ordinance smells success…


By Bill Derby

I was attending a board meeting last week and a very nice lady came up to me and commented on how much she enjoyed a column I had written.  She said it was very funny but couldn’t remember what it was about. I thanked her and confirmed I have the same problem remembering what I wrote and when. She suggested I go back and re-run some columns I had published in the past. The column below created some major changes for dog-walkers in Johnson City. So, here it is.

Commission Issue Smells…

A number of years ago, actually in 2011, our newspaper received a news release from the Johnson City Community Relations Department as a result of citizen complaints about pet owners not properly cleaning up after their animals. The complaints were reviewed at the tail end of that City Commission meeting.

This column is an up-date and I have to say I see people walking their dogs carrying plastic bags filled with poop a’ doop. Some more conversationalists have even been seen brown-bagging. That far-sighted commission should be commended on handling the delicate problem.

City Ordinance 3425 stipulates that pet owners are “responsible for the removal of any excreta (poop) deposited by his/her animal(s), or animals in his/her custody, on public walks, recreation areas, private property, and public parks.” Failure to comply with the code can result in warnings and a citation to Municipal Court.

The Johnson City News & Neighbor has taken the responsibility to spread this fresh news to the community and all pet owners.

If you’ve had the opportunity to “step in it” recently you can sympathize with our citizens who have experienced it also. I have a long history of “stepping in it.” As a young child, I had the habit of going barefoot during summer months. It happened quite often. Later in life, it has happened repeatedly as a newspaper publisher.

Would pet owners be charged with… “Failure to remove deposit?” What if a witness appeared in court and described the act to the judge or if officers would only need to take the word of someone seeing “Spot” drop to issue a ticket. If fines are handed out, should the penalty amount be determined more fairly by the level of accumulation? Consider, for instance, the Great Dane and his ability compared to the tiny little Shih Tzu.

Only recently I spied a neighbor letting his little “marble-dropper” use our immaculate yard. He was looking up at the morning sky whistling as if nothing was in progress, the owner, not the dog. Can I yell out the window and declare a 3425 violation and make a citizen’s arrest? The commission needs to clarify this issue.

Since both my dogs have passed on I support this ordinance. Before my beloved animals died I was unaware of the ordinance. I walked them two miles every afternoon and guess they have done their business in just about every neighborhood yard in a two-mile radius.  I now apologize for their movements and if it was in your yard, I am truly sorry. I hope the statute of limitations has expired.  I know the evidence has disappeared.

This is a disagreeable ordinance to understand and is fraught with interpretation…are cats included?…are pet birds included?  My cousin has a whole house full of cats and two birds. She could get life.

There are cows still living in the community just off Shawnee Ave. Does their owner have to remove their deposits? Are they grandfathered in before the ordinance? Yuck! What about our beloved horses?

On the serious side, owners are required to pick up after their animals. There are preferred methods described in big city interpretations. One method is described as the inverted inside out plastic baggy system where the owner grabs the leftover by hand and pulls the bag closed. I would suggest using a heavy gauge paper bag, as it will deteriorate in the landfill whereas plastic will not.

Other methods include using an old spatula and scoop method. A firm handle is recommended along with an extended practice for the owner. Other devices can include old fireplace shovels, garden shovels and in the Shih Tzu case even a set of tweezers might be used.

My group of venture capitalists came up with a common sense option. Why not develop a disposable doggy diaper? Dogs wear winter dog coats. Why not design a new “Puggie” diaper to eliminate the need for tools and plastic implements.  “Puggies” could come in all sizes with a little rear removal window.

This newspaper will continue to monitor the progress of the City Commission on this smelly issue but in the meantime….. “Watch where you step!”


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