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Kings Contrivance hopes to ease dog-waste problem with signs


Frustrated with pet owners who fail to clean up after their animals, the Village of Kings Contrivance Board is giving residents a way to strike back.

The weapon: cardboard signs that can be stuck in the ground at problem locations to remind offenders about the county's "pooper scooper" law.

The approach offers a less drastic response than a formal legal complaint for residents angry about the perennial problem of dog waste left behind by inconsiderate pet owners.

"I've been working here for 15 years, and every spring we have an onslaught of calls from a lot of people very frustrated with the problem," said Village Manager Anne L. Dodd. "This year, we're giving people something they could do about it."

Few areas are safe from the hazards of dog droppings, Ms. Dodd said. Residents have cited problems at school bus stops, tot lots, parks and ball fields and on private property, pathways and sidewalks.

"The problem's all around," said Joe Gabriszeski, a resident of Clocktower Lane in the Huntington community.

Mr. Gabriszeski, who has two young children, said that in his townhouse development, some pet owners won't leave the sidewalk for less-traveled areas while walking their dogs.

"People walk their dogs in the morning while they have on suits and nice shoes," he said. "They should go to the woods. There are plenty around. It's not like Manhattan."

Mr. Gabriszeski's wife, Charlotte, and a neighbor, Mary Lou George, sent a letter and petition in September to the County Council seeking tougher enforcement of animal control laws. They complained that the neighborhood and local park are like a minefield for children and adults.

But the County Council recently defeated a bill, introduced by Council Chairman C. Vernon Gray, D-3rd, in November, that would have increased fines and levied criminal penalties on pet owners who failed to clean up after their pets.

Council members were concerned that proposed fines ranging from $50 to $250 would be excessive compared with penalties for abuse or neglect of animals.

That leaves residents with the drastic alternative of filling out affidavits triggering legal action when they witness a pet owner who, off his own property, doesn't clean up after the dog.

But Ms. Dodd said many residents are reluctant to fill out affidavits or are unable to identify the culprits.

As a result, the Kings Contrivance Village Board looked for less formal -- and less harsh -- solutions.

"Discussions went on for weeks. You'd think it was the Middle East peace accords," said Village Board Chairman Bill Sowders. "We wanted something symbolic, but not obtrusive or dangerous."

The board finally contacted lawn-care companies to find out what types of stakes they use to post signs, settling on plastic as the safest.

Then the board designed and ordered 500 signs with the words "It's The Law!" and the depiction of a dog defecating, encompassed by a circle with a line through it.

Strategically posted signs will be given out to residents and numbered so the village staff can track their locations and collect them after two weeks.

"We don't want to litter the landscape. People will ignore them if they're there a long time," Ms. Dodd said.

"But if they're there, we hope people will respect them and stop using those spots."

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