Government South Orange

Trustees Talk ‘Poop,’ as South Orange Considers Allowing Dogs in Parks

An ordinance allowing and regulating dogs in public parks, banning pet shops from selling “puppy mill” animals, and a discussion of the disposal of canine feces were major topics of discussion at the August 13, 2018 South Orange Village Board of Trustees meeting.

Trustee Karen Hilton kicked off the conversation by introducing Ordinance 2018-30 which would allow South Orange residents to walk their dogs — on leash — in South Orange public parks, an activity that is currently forbidden.

“This ordinance essentially allows dogs to be walked in our public parks,” said Hilton, who explained that the proposed ordinance would proscribe that dogs in parks must be on leash, must be with a person who is able to control the dog, and that the person in control must clean up after the dog. Dogs in parks would be restricted from certain areas of the parks, including playgrounds, baseball infields, the town pool, basketball courts and tennis courts (exceptions could be allowed for events such as a proposed “Dog Day” event at the pool in September).

The ordinance would also ban the sale of puppies and kittens sourced from so-called “puppy mill” operations.

Hilton explained that the ordinance had been “carefully crafted over 6 months” — longer than she had anticipated. Hilton noted that dogs were the only thing that South Orange residents got more “riled up” about than taxes.

“We love our dogs in South Orange. It’s evident and this ordinance demonstrates this enthusiasm,” said Hilton.

Hilton noted that the allowance of dogs in parks “only works if we have complete compliance.” She pleaded with dog owners to clean up after their dogs. “If people don’t pick up, we will have to revisit this.”

Trustee Deborah Davis Ford had noted earlier in the meeting that the potential “pooper scooper” ordinance was the hottest topic on Next Door West Montrose throughout July. “Many people love animals but have a problem with other people’s animals pooping on their lawns even if they scoop it up.”

Village Counsel Steve Rother said that the ordinance “makes it clear right now that your dog cannot poop anywhere in South Orange without the party having custody cleaning up or disposing of it in a sanitary way.”

Trustee Mark Rosner countered, “That doesn’t address the issue.” Rosner said that people were objecting to other people’s pets defecating in their yards even when the owners cleaned it up.

Rother responded, “Nobody has that right to step on that property” but added that if a dog does defecate on someone’s property “you have to clean i up.”

Collum offered, “So it’s understood that there is no trespassing, but accidents do happen…”

Said Rother, “You have to clean it up.”

An earlier point raised by Trustee Davis Ford seemed to go unaddressed: “So how do we address poop residue in public places like Flood’s Hill?”

Fines for not cleaning up after dogs would be $100 for the first offense, $200 for the second offense, and an amount not to exceed $500 for the third offense.

Trustee Howard Levison asked the other Trustees if the town should consider installing “poop bag dispensers” in park. Trustees agreed that that was a discussion for another time due to cost.

The ordinance was passed on introduction; a second reading and vote is scheduled for September 10.

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