Hard-to-enforce dog pick-up rules in Fort Worth

The city says it's hard to punish dog owners who don't pick up after their pets.

The city says it’s hard to punish dog owners who don’t pick up after their pets.

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Walk around your Fort Worth neighborhood and you might see the brown mounds planted on the grass.

They are stacked along the sidewalks near the Near Southside apartments. They are found in grassy areas in Arlington Heights and Crockett Row. Residents of Fort Worth’s Far North neighborhoods like Trinity Heritage, Villages of Woodland Springs and Rolling Meadows have angrily posted on Nextdoor pages of irresponsible pet owners leaving unwanted gifts on lawns.

Wherever you look – if you look – you are bound to see something.

“There always are, at least,” Amelia Markezich said, pointing to a pile of poo in the grass as she exited her Southside building for a walk with her chiweenie.

City code says people must pick up their pets. But at the city’s code compliance office, complaints about the lack of pet cleaning come and go. Sometimes, said director Brandon Bennett, they come in waves. Other times, it’s radio silence.

And when it comes to enforcing the law, it’s hard to do, leaving landowners with the burden and frustration of sorting out the problem.

The application of pet cleaning on private and public property differs. Bennett said when people don’t clean up after their dog on private property — like at an apartment complex — it’s up to the owner to fix the problem.

The process becomes more difficult when dog poop is left on public property.

Those who don’t clean up after their pet can face a Class C misdemeanor, which is a $500 fine, Bennett said. But even then, someone – either the person complaining, a code enforcement officer or a police officer – must see the act happening for the perpetrator to be punished. Next comes the technical details of identifying who did not pick up after the dog.

The problem in Fort Worth, in particular, has grown big enough that businesses have been spun out of the dog poop picking business alone.

Take Doggy Dogz, a Fort Worth-based company that can come on a schedule to clean up poop. It’s a job no one likes to do, owner JC Cummings said, and when life gets busy and the poo is piling up, it can be a tough job to do.

Cummings said people not picking up after their dogs is actually a problem, and he’s seen widespread problems in places with less social visibility and higher traffic, like apartment complexes and backyards. -Classes. In apartments, it’s a domino effect. If one person isn’t inclined to clean up after their dog, neither will the next person, Cummings said.

People have often called Doggy Dogz services after falling ill from not cleaning up their yard, Cummings said.

“It’s basically like a toilet that you never clean,” he said.

City parks are generally better off without excess excrement due to social pressure to clean up. Where places are busier, there are more people watching, Cummings said.

Picking up after pets is important because parasites found in dog poop can spread not only to your dog, Cummings said, but to humans as well. Cummings said the best time to get into dog poo is when it’s fresh, even when it’s arguably its coarsest, because the parasites haven’t had a chance to form.

Bennett said greater vigilance in the name of code compliance helps the problem somewhat. When people see that code compliance is their business, he says, they’re more likely to follow the rules. Even then, he said the office relies on citizens to be eyes and ears.

And if someone is caught not picking up their dog and gets a ticket, Bennett said he will become an example of what not to do.

He advises dog owners to take advantage of bag dispensers, and if their dog leaves and doesn’t have a bag, go get one and come back.

In the end, the solution is simple.

“Be responsible and do the right thing,” Bennett said.

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Abby Church covers Tarrant County government and everything for the Star-Telegram. She has a degree in Journalism and Creative Writing from James Madison University. Abby arrives in Texas after telling stories through Virginia and North Carolina. Send topical tips via email, Twitter, phone or text.

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