Residents complain about dog poop in Lincoln Park
Story by Dara Belic
Despite a city ordinance that prohibits dog littering, canine excrement clutters the sidewalks and parks of Lincoln Park.
That’s not surprising, given the number of public trash cans on Lincoln Park’s commercial streets: zero.
Colt Cummings, a Chihuahua breeder and long-time finance consultant at the Anti-Cruelty Society in Chicago, estimates at least 70,000 dogs live in Lincoln Park.
So where does all that dog poop go?
April Terry, a sales associate at Barker & Meowsky Pet Boutique, 1003 W. Armitage Ave., said the fact that there are no public garbage cans on Armitage – which stretches 26 blocks – causes dog owners to discard smelly baggies in store-front plants, at business doorsteps and on the sidewalks.
And more often than not, said Terry, owners simply leave the dog poop where the dogs left it.
“Leaving dog waste on the street, whether it’s bagged up or not, is against the law,” said Chicago Police Officer Victoria Turner.
Chapters 7-12 of the Chicago Municipal Code governs animal care and control in the city, but residents in the 43rd Ward say the removal of excrement law, which mandates a fine of “no less than $50.00 and no more than $500.00,” is rarely enforced.
“Police officers are responsible for ticketing violators within their beat,” said Turner. “But it’s extremely hard to ticket dog owners for not picking up after their dogs. We would have to follow and watch people while walking their dogs in order to catch them; frankly, that’s just too much time and energy for any of us to spend on dog poop.”
Neither Turner nor Chicago Police Officer Carlos Alvarez, who also patrols Lincoln Park, has written a single ticket for this offense.
“The ordinance is one that kind of exists in theory but can’t realistically be enforced,” said Alvarez. “And the problem is not high up enough on the city’s agenda to be taken seriously right now.”
But for some residents of Lincoln Park, the dog-doo problem is at or near the top of their lists.
“I always pick up after my dog. I think it’s absolutely disgusting when people don’t,” said Lincoln Park resident Sara Horstein, who owns a miniature Doberman Pinscher.
Horstein said public trash bins on strategic corners throughout Lincoln Park and particularly on Armitage would encourage even the laziest of dog owners to pick up after their pets.
But 43rd Ward Superintendent Mike Restivo said public trash bins on commercial streets create “eye-sores,” and if they’re not meticulously maintained, can cause the overflowing of garbage on to the street, leading to a pungent odor.
However, residents say without the bins, the disposing of dog waste becomes an inconvenient, grating task.
“Sure, there are residential trash bins in alleys,” Terry said. “But it’s pretty inopportune for dog owners to drag their dogs and themselves all the way to an alley every time feces have to be disposed.”
Residents upset by the poop problem concede they’ve done nothing to make the city fix it.
“It just seems like common sense to me; if you don’t pick up after your dog, people are going to notice you and be pissed, maybe even yell at you,” said Horstein. “I mean, I have no problem going up to a dog owner and reminding them how irresponsible he or she is.”
Terry, who is also a dog owner, agrees.
“They say dogs are extensions of their owners,” said Terry. “No human being in his right mind would leave his own bodily waste lying on the sidewalk or on someone else’s doorstep, so why in the world would he leave his dog’s?”
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