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BEEs letters unearth hidden grievances

DOG WASTE CONCERNS
by: Elizabeth Ussher Groff There is a problem in the neighborhoods that gives new meaning to pet peeves. The word on the street is that many neighbors are put off by people who don’t pick up their dog’s droppings, unlike Woodstock resident Liz Lake, here, who always carries a bag to scoop when necessary after her dog Hurricane. He’s on a leash, too. Both are the law, in the Rose City!

It's a stinky mess when we walk in it - when our eyes don't see it under gray skies or when we are not focused on the sidewalk or grass where we are strolling. The small crevices on the soles of modern-day walking and running shoes are particularly inhospitable to what dogs leave behind, and can be frustratingly difficult to clean.

Most dog owners are responsible, and clean up after their pets, but evidence found on our shoes and in piles right before our eyes and noses indicates that some are either lazy or unprepared, or both. Further, there now is concern about just where those clean-up bags are left.

The problem was been discussed in May and June letters to the editor of THE BEE, and there's more about it in the letters column of this issue too.

Yes, a topic once thought to be unfit for such public discussion seems now acceptable material for public debate. Why? Because a pet peeve of many neighbors throughout the city is people who don't pick up after their pets.

How to dispose of the droppings turns out to be an equally hot topic.

'It is an important issue, because so many people have pets, and exercise them outdoors,' agrees Linc Mann, public information officer for Portland's Bureau of Environmental Services.

Both the city and county concern themselves with animal waste. Multnomah County law is specific: 'Any person in physical possession or control of any animal off the premises of the animal's owner or keeper shall immediately remove excrement or other solid waste deposited by the animal in any public area.'

Public area includes sidewalks, parking/planting strips, and other public rights of way.

When asked about the consequences of leaving dog waste on the ground, Mann refers to the health issue of possible E. coli, Leptospira, and roundworm contamination for children, wildlife, and other dogs.

'It's a tremendous bacteria problem, because it will eventually decay and soak into the ground, and eventually gets into a sewer system or stream,' says Mann.

Some people may think that because many residential downspouts have been disconnected and sumps installed in neighborhood streets - depending on the neighborhood - it is safe to put dog droppings and other pollutants down storm drains in the street. However, according to Mann and Internet websites explaining the process, water from storm drains still eventually goes into stream or river water.

'Nothing but rainwater should enter storm drains because dog waste, cigarette butts, or any chemicals will eventually get into surface water. Too many people think those catch basins are convenient little trash receptacles. In fact, it's illegal to dispose of materials in a storm drain. Storm water is dirty enough because it washes over the road, and anything else added just exacerbates the problem,' says Mann.

'Putting dog droppings into the solid waste stream [i.e. the landfill] is better than putting it into the wastewater stream,' Mann advises. 'It is best to pick it up and dispose of it in a plastic bag in the garbage.'

And, to be a good neighbor, refrain from putting it into others' garbage bins - that's the other controversy raging in the BEE letters column. Carry those bags to your own!

The best guideline for dog waste disposal may be the empathy of the Golden Rule: If you don't like stepping in it, don't create circumstances where others might get a boot-full. And if the Golden Rule isn't enough motivation, there's this: Violating either Portland's scoop law or leash law (and there are a lot of violators of that one, too) can result in a $150 fine.

For more information on watershed health, dogs, and environmental health issues, go online to:

www.portlandonline.com/bes/tips -- or: www.portlandonline.com/parks/dogs -- or: www.portlandonline.com/bes/watersheds .