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Our civic doody

SHAUN STANLEY/Durango Herald

Bicyclists on the Animas River Trail pass a plastic bag of dog waste left between the trail and the Animas River last week at Schneider Park.

By Jim Haug Herald staff writer

Dog owners, your duty does not end when you bag up doggie doody.

The doggie bag must be thrown into a trash container and not left on a trail or sidewalk.

This might sound like an obvious common courtesy, but the city of Durango has put up new signs this year to clarify that dog waste must be properly disposed.

The issue also came up at a recent public hearing on a proposed fee for disposable bags when a speaker, Bruce Meininger, said he sees “dog bags on the trail more than I do plastic bags. They’re tied up in a nice little bow. Do people just forget?”

In an interview, Juliet Whitfield, a dog trainer and owner of Durango Dogs, believes people leave bags on the trail to pick up later when they loop back around or come back down a hill.

Whitfield said she has picked up other people’s dog bags and does not think it is that big of an issue. “It’s not like I see 20 bags,” she said.

But Cathy Metz, the city’s director of parks and recreation, said dog bags are getting left on trails all over town and not just in the remote spots.

Pet owners “just leave it. They don’t take it to a trash can, even when there’s one nearby. I saw this in a couple of places,” Metz said. “Clearly, they’re not finishing what we’re asking them to do. There are a lot of trash cans. We put them at all the major trailheads.”

Leaving it in the bag is still considered littering and punishable with a $30 fine for a first offense. Second-time offenders have to go to municipal court and answer to a judge.

For dog owners’ convenience, the city provides about 408,000 bags a year, spending about $17,025 per year from its general fund on the biodegradable bags, Metz said.

Why dog owners can’t finish the job by throwing it in the trash makes other dog owners bow in shame.

“It really frustrates me as a dog owner,” said Chris Nelson, director of the La Plata County Humane Society. “It gives all of us a bad rap. As director of the Humane Society, I want the community to be open and accepting to dogs and cats. That’s one way of not doing it.”

Negligent pet owners are “just lazy,” Nelson said. “If they’re on the river trail, there are plenty of waste baskets. Maybe they’re assuming some city worker is going to come along and pick it up. That’s the only reason I assume they would do that. To me, if you’re going to take your dog on the trail, you should be respectful to everybody who uses the trail. Yes, bag the waste, but pick it up and take it to the trash. It’s not that hard.”

Ginger Jenks, a life coach, dog enthusiast and author of Wag Live Love: What Dogs Teach Us About Happiness and Life, said the solution is simple.

For those who don’t want to carry the bag or who are preoccupied managing more than one dog, they need to outfit themselves for the job.

“People have to carry a fanny pack or have some system to carry the waste to a receptacle,” Jenks said. “It’s as simple as that.”

Jenks also knows what to do about plastic bags too. She has seen collection sites at parks in other cities where people can drop off their plastic grocery bags.

Dog owners can then use the bags to pick up their dogs’ waste.

So the bags get reused. The city does not have to purchase doggie bags.

“It’s such a no-brainer,” Jenks said.

jhaug@durangoherald.com

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