It ought to be a beautiful day in the Los Alamitos Beach neighborhood of Long Beach. The sky is cloudless and blue, the temperature is in the high ‘60s in the middle of January and the palm trees sway in the ocean breeze. But what is that sour smell? It definitely isn’t the crisp ocean spray or even remotely fishy. It is the repugnant smell of dog poop bordering the sidewalks all over town.
A Long Beach ordinance states that a person who is responsible for any animal may not allow that animal to defecate on any public of private property without immediately removing the defecation and putting it into an appropriate trash receptacle. However, the existence of this law doesn’t seem to stop the multitude of offenders.
Not only is the law far too lax to be taken seriously, but on top of that, none of the people in positions of authority are willing to enforce it.
The repercussions for abandoning the furry friend’s feces are severely lacking with first a verbal warning, then a written warning and finally a citation with an undisclosed fine.
When the Long Beach Police Department was asked what their official response typically is to pet owners who are caught walking away from their animal’s fallen excrement, they briefly cited the aforementioned city ordinance (6.16.200 – Defecation—Removal required).
“This is mostly enforced by the Animal Care Services Bureau Enforcement Officers.” An LBPD representative said, “They would be best to comment. Technically any officer can issue a citation for this municipal section, however it is best left to the experts.”
But with all of the obvious offenders, where are these supposed experts in fecal matters?
“We can’t be there all of the time,” said Patricia Rodriguez, dispatch for the Animal Care Services Bureau Enforcement Officers. She said that much of the responsibility to stop dog owners from breaking the law lies with citizens in the neighborhood.
“We require neighbors to take a photo, and then that is proof enough for us to cite,” Rodriguez said.
It seems that people have been left to take matters into their own hands with dog signs posted in their front lawns in multiple languages on East Seventh Street and Redondo Avenue, as well as plastic bins nailed to trees containing extra poop bags for those dog owners who may have forgotten theirs on East Third Street.
“My neighbors are notorious for their little dogs that poop all over the place,” said police officer Capt. Virgil Munoz. “So what I’ll do is have my big dogs right in the front yard when I see, because I already know. I’m an observer in my neighborhood. So I’ll just have my two dogs sitting there while their little dogs come, and I’m just eyeing them as they walk by.”
Capt. Munoz spends three or four days every week assigned to California State University, Long Beach where people normally clean up after their pets, but close to his home near Bixby Park, they often don’t.
“And my dogs are big, so they have landmines.” Capt. Munoz said. “So I’m like, just because your dog’s tiny doesn’t mean you don’t have to pick it up. ‘Oh, but it’s just a little piece of chocolate.’ But no, it’s not!”
If the residents of Long Beach petition City Council, perhaps they can raise the fine, and encourage police officers to respond, causing negligent pet owners to take the ordinance more seriously.
By taking pride in the city of Long Beach and keeping it clean, the residents would benefit from living in ever-improving neighborhoods, the freedom to walk over their own lawns uninhibited and the sweet smell of dung-less air.
“You poop in somebody’s yard, you pick it up.” Rodney Dickerson, another police officer assigned to CSULB, said. “It’s just a respect thing.”
How would Officer Dickerson handle an offending dog owner on his lawn?
“Now, I know where you live, so I’m going to pick up all of my dog’s poop and go put it in your yard and see how you like it,” Officer Dickerson said.