By LeAnn R. Ralph
COLFAX — Kathy Dunbar says she does not know if people who walk their dogs around Colfax but do not clean up after them are ignorant — or intentionally disrespectful.
Dunbar, who lives on the corner of Railroad Avenue and Evergreen Street, spoke to the Colfax Village Board about the amount of dog feces being left around Colfax at the village board’s September 14 meeting.
Dunbar also wrote a letter to the editor addressing pet owners that was published in the September 9 edition of the Colfax Messenger.
“Lately we’ve had people stopping with dogs and letting them run in the yard, make a big mess and then walking away,” Dunbar said, adding that she was wondering if it was just the Dunbars who were having problems with dogs in their yard.
During the Community Wide Thrift Sales the weekend of September 12 as part of the Colfax Firefighters’ Ball, Dunbar held a thrift sale and reported to the village board that eight people had approached her to say they had read her letter and that they have had the same problem.
“This has to stop somehow. I don’t know if people are ignorant or what it is,” Dunbar said.
“I would like each person who applies for a pet license, at the time they apply for that license, they are handed a copy of the ordinances covering that animal and a copy of the fines if they don’t comply. Maybe this will help,” she said.
“I would like to also have this type of thing posted at the post office, the bank, the grocery store,” Dunbar said.
Section 7-1-10 of the Colfax ordinances covers animal feces.
The ordinance reads, “The owner or person in charge of any dog, cat, horse, or other animal shall not permit solid fecal matter of such animal to deposit on any street, alley or other public or private property, unless such matter is immediately removed therefrom by said owner or person in charge. This Section shall not apply to a person who is visually or physically handicapped.”
The ordinance also prohibits fecal matter accumulating on private yards.
“The owner or person in charge of the dog or cat must also prevent accumulation of animal waste on his/her own property by regularly patrolling and properly disposing of the fecal matter,” the ordinance states.
Colfax Police Chief Bill Anderson said many people may not realize they can be fined for not cleaning up their own yards.
“If they let the dog out and it defecates, they are responsible for immediately cleaning it up. You could be fined on your own property,” he said.
A first violation of the ordinance is a $50 fine plus Dunn County circuit court fees for a total of $200.50.
A second violation of the ordinance is a $100 fine plus Dunn County circuit court fees for a total of $263.50.
The Colfax Village Board abolished the Colfax Municipal Court several years ago. All ordinance violations now go through Dunn County Circuit Court.
Dunbar wondered if pictures of people letting their dogs defecate on someone else’s property, or on public property, would be “admissible evidence.”
Dunbar said she was concerned about the village’s parks, too.
“If you’ve got them in the act,” Police Chief Anderson replied, noting that he has run into the problem around the municipal building as well.
One day someone came into the police department to complain about a dog defecating in the park next to the municipal building, he said.
Police Chief Anderson said he told the person if he or she could identify the person with the dog and were willing to make a complaint, he had no problem with writing out a ticket.
“But they did not want to do that. A lot of people don’t want to do that,” he said.
Dunbar said she told the people who had mentioned her letter at the thrift sale that she was planning to talk to the village board at the September 14 meeting.
“I asked people if they wanted to come down here with me, but they didn’t want to upset their neighbors,” she said.
Dunbar noted that she walks three to five miles around the village every day.
“There are dog leavings everywhere. You shouldn’t have to walk through the village watching your step. It makes our village look bad,” she said.
Village Trustee Carey Davis asked if Dunbar had said anything to anyone she has seen.
Dunbar noted that by the time she gets out to her yard, the dog and the accompanying person are gone.
“Usually I just find what they left … if I catch them, I will let them know,” she said.
“I have yet to see anyone in our area carrying a Baggie with them. Why am I the one who has to go out there and clean it up?” Dunbar asked.
Annie Schieber, village trustee and owner of A Little Slice of Italy, also experienced problems with dog feces when someone did not clean up after a dog in front of the steps to her restaurant in June.
Dunbar talked to Schieber about the problem, and “we brainstormed how to make people aware,” Schieber said.
One idea is to post flyers around town with cute little sayings, Schieber said.
For example: “If your dog pooped but nobody saw him, would it still stick to the bottom of my shoe?” And then include the ordinance and the fine for violating the ordinance, she said.
Another idea would be to hand a copy of the ordinance to people who are walking their dogs, Schieber said.
“Make it a friendly gesture,” she said, adding that the message could be, “we are trying to address the dog feces problem.”
“I think people are just generally disrespectful of other people’s property and village property. When you have dog poop left in front of the post office and in front of Annie’s and out here (by the municipal building) on the handicapped ramp. Really? That’s just beyond,” Dunbar said.
Village President Scott Gunnufson said village officials “will follow up accordingly.”