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Our View...All the poop on a distasteful subject

The few recent days of early spring thaw have given us a taste of what lies ahead — dry roads, melting ice, budding trees and dog poop.

One of the unfortunate sidelights of spring is the emergence of all the dog poop that wasn’t uncollected by irresponsible or uncooperative owners and left to accumulate over the long expanse of winter. When the ice and snow drifts begin to disappear, the animal waste remains and along with it, an unsightly, smelly mess in yards, sidewalks and streets. And chances are, the water from the melting snow will wash at least some of that animal waste into the city’s storm sewers or down to nearby creeks, lakes and rivers.

That’s a problem, on many levels.

According to the Environmental Protection Agency, dog waste is as toxic to the environment as chemical and oil spills and is considered to be the number three cause of water pollution. With some 72.8 million dogs in the United States, and an estimated 40 percent of dog owners who admit to still not picking up their dog’s waste, you can begin to understand how that could happen.

When the bacteria from dog feces makes its way into streams, lakes and the water table, it can make people sick. A single gram of dog feces can contain 23 million fecal coliform bacteria that can cause cramps, diarrhea, intestinal disorders and kidney problems.

Failure to pick up your dog’s waste is not only unsanitary and damaging to the environment, it also can alienate your neighbors and those around you who have to put up with it. It’s what gives responsible dog owners a bad rap when it comes to animals being allowed in parks and other public places.

It’s also illegal.

Section 8.3 of Cloquet’s City Code, designed “to protect the public health, safety and welfare…guard against the transmission of disease....and promote city beautification,” requires animal owners to be “immediately responsible” for their pet’s waste. According to Caleb Peterson, assistant city engineer, that doesn’t mean waiting until the spring thaw uncovers it all — that means picking it up right away, before anyone else has to put up with it, and before any far-reaching damage is done to the environment.

The Cloquet City Council deems the removal of animal waste as “an obligation to friends, neighbors and members of the public.”

All law enforcement personnel, including the animal control officer of the Friends of Animals, are authorized to issue a citation to any person who is caught failing to pick up after their animals or who is believed to have violated the provisions of the city code in this regard. The penalty is considered a petty misdemeanor, and law enforcement will consider each incident to be a separate offense.

In addition, Peterson cited Section 18.3 of the City Code as it regards waste controls and prohibited discharges into the city’s storm water systems as a further means of enforcement for pet owners or handlers who fail to abide by the law.

“Dog waste is considered a pollutant,” said Peterson, “and as such, it is addressed in our stormwater management code as well.”

And so, disposing of dog poop makes perfect sense. But consider this — one poll showed that of the 40-some percent of dog owners who admitted to failing to pick up after their pets, 44 percent said even knowing the repercussions, they wouldn’t do it anyway.

That sort of blatant disregard of the law, environmental responsibility and common decency is, putting it indelicately, a whole lot of crap. If you’re one of those people, please give picking up after your pet another thought. Better yet, give it a try.

Wendy Johnson