The winter solstice is upon us. The sun sets before 5 PM. It is often dark when our friends and neighbors walk their dog or dogs for the last time in the evening. That darkness makes a difference: the problem of Used Dog Food (UDF) left where the dog involved placed it always reaches its peak in the winter. Is this because the darkness makes it hard to collect the UDF or because the darkness makes it easier to avoid being seen leaving it behind? A flashlight can make cleaning up easy but it is each dog walker’s character, which “… is what we do when we think no one is looking” (H.Jackson Brown, Jr. according to brainyquote.com), that determines the latter.
To quote, without comment, a post on nextdoor: “To the person that doesn’t pick of their dog poop on the sidewalk around the Kentlands Ridge condos-you are a real jerk. Found 5 pieces along the sidewalk this morning. One piece someone had stepped on. This has been going on for months now. Bad enough that you don’t pick up in general, but on the sidewalk? Have some respect for your neighbors.”
The Kentlands Citizens Assembly’s (KCA) Board of Trustees and President are aware of, and concerned about, the UDF issue as we are every winter. It is covered, however, not by the Kentlands Code but by the City’s rules. Chapter 4 – Animals and Fowl of the Code of the City of Gaithersburg, Maryland, which runs 12,734 words according to Microsoft Word, covers everything from animal health to humane care to dangerous animals to rabies to keeping dogs on leashes to cleaning up after pets to Enforcement Officials (Section 4-51 if you’re interested).
When people do “pick up after their pet,” some have some interesting ways to dispose of the bag containing the retrieved UDF. There is the ever-popular “hang the bag from a tree branch” and the old reliable “throw the bag in the bushes when nobody’s looking.” Some aficionados apparently feel that displaying the collected UDF bags next to their font step or, in some cases, beside the garage door, does not create an “offensive living condition.” Perhaps the display is intended to provide graphic evidence that the resident takes cleaning up after their pet seriously but it seems unlikely to improve “curb appeal.”
Please, please, put the UDF filled bags in a trash can!
The law involved is clear: Section 4-4 of the City Code (animal public nuisances and sanitation) says, in part: “It shall be unlawful for any person to … cause, suffer or allow such dog, cat or other animal to soil, defile or defecate on any public property or upon any common thoroughfare, sidewalk, passageway, bikepath, play area, or common grounds owned jointly by the members of a homeowners or condominium association, or any place where people congregate or walk or upon any private property other than that of the owner or custodian … No person … shall permit any waste matter from the animal to collect and remain on the owner’s or custodian’s property, or the property of others so as to cause or create an unhealthy, unsanitary, dangerous or offensive living condition …”
What can a person do if they “see something” that violates the City’s Code and want to “say something” to the right person? The simple answer is “contact Animal Control” by phone (301-258-6343) or email (firstname.lastname@example.org) any time from 8 AM to 5 PM Monday through Friday or 301-279-8000 for after hours emergencies. Provide as much information as possible with things like what (a person abandoning UDF, for example), when (date and time), and where (a specific spot along a path, for example). The most important piece of information is “who,” data without which little can be done and information that the early darkness of winter conceals. The owner’s name is best, and necessary for annoyance issues such as not cleaning up the dog’s mess.
Emergencies, such as a dog bite, are different. Call 911 for help if the danger is acute. Details such as the type of dog or what the person with the dog was wearing can help emergency responders such as the police find the dog and its owner and address the situation.