Tampa tries to curb dog poop with waste stations, reminders
TAMPA - As residents move into once-vacant high-rise buildings and condos in the city's center, a new problem has arisen: dog poop. Many of those residents are moving in with their dogs and not cleaning up after them, fouling downtown sidewalks, streets and contaminating stormwater drains. That has Tampa officials raising a stink. "It's becoming a major concern," said Bob McDonaugh, the city's urban development manager. "Unfortunately, there are some people who are inconsiderate of others."To curb the problem, the city is preparing to put up dog waste stations downtown and in the Channel District as part of a new campaign to get pet owners to do the right thing. The waste stations would have with bags for poop and a receptacle in which to dump it. Lynda Remund, director of district operations at the Tampa Downtown Partnership, said city guides have started handing out post card-sized notices to downtown residents asking them to clean up after their pets and informing them that not doing so is a violation of city code. The problem has "gotten out of control" in the past year alone, she said. "We've had guides who have witnessed this happening and told the owner to clean it up, only to be told that, 'It's your job to clean it up,' " Remund said. "Well, guess what? It's not." Some residential downtown property managers have begun issuing fines to tenants who don't clean up after their dogs on their property, she said. Despite a city ordinance requiring owners to clean up after their pets, citations are seldom issued. That's because the code enforcement or police officer has to actually witness the offense to give them a ticket, the same as issuing a traffic citation. Even then, there is no system to fine a violator. The city's parks and recreation department has installed dog waste stations at several city parks, including Cotanchobee, MacDill, Kiley Gardens and Herman Massey. Waste stations will also be installed at the newly renovated Cutis Hixon Waterfront Park and Lykes Gaslight Square downtown. City officials said the stations are working, for the most part. "But it's really up to pet owners to be responsible and pick up after the pets in the parks and along the streets," said Linda Carlo, the parks department spokeswoman. The stations cost from $200 to $800 a piece, McDonaugh said, but there is money in the city's downtown redevelopment fund to cover buying and installing them. He said the city hasn't decided how many new pet stations to install. Not cleaning up after a pet is more than just a nuisance; it's a serious health issue. Because stormwater drains do not always connect to water-treatment facilities, untreated animal feces often end up in lakes and streams, causing significant water pollution. The city is required by state regulations to take steps to reduce contamination of the waterways from pathogen-loaded pet waste that gets washed down storm drains. That includes putting up pet stations and educational campaigns to inform the public. The city is also tackling the problem by giving people a dedicated place to take their pets, building new dog parks whenever possible. such as the one at Curtis Hixon Waterfront Park behind the new Tampa Museum of Art. A small park in the works for the Channel District will include a dog park. McDonaugh said if the educational campaigns, pet stations and dog parks don't work, another option would be for the city to start issuing fines to the offenders. "We haven't gotten to that point yet," he said. "Hopefully, we won't have to go that far."
Reporter Christian M. Wade can be reached at (813) 259-7679.