Dog walkers had better watch their P's and Q's when walking their canine companions in public areas. It seems that New York City's 311-complaint line has received 3,000 poop-related complaints last year, with an increase of 900 calls made in 2004. To respond to this increase, the Sanitation Department added seven agents to their task force. Revenue received from summonses has increased approximately 40 percent over the same period from the prior year. Working from unmarked cars, dressed in plain clothes, the agents in the Sanitation Department's Canine Task Force carefully cover all five boroughs each day. They enforce the stringent "pooper scooper" law, which went into effect in 1978. The Department takes this health and safety measure very seriously, with other large cities around the country modeling their doggie hygiene programs on New York City's. Summonses come with a hefty price tag. The maximum fine is presently $100.00, however may be increased to $250.00 a pop! A bill is awaiting Gov. David A. Patterson to sign it. Mr. Patterson is reviewing the increase. I for one sure hope he signs it. Leading the number of summonses is the Bronx, with 335 during the 11 months of this fiscal year. Brooklyn logs in with 215, Brooklyn, 157, 109 in Manhattan, with the least number of infractions going to Staten Island, logging in with 53. To receive a summons, an agent must witness the dog in action, with the owner walking away, not cleaning up after his dog. To make matters more complicated, if the owner of the dog is not carrying identification, summonses may not be issued. Many dog owners refuse to show their IDs, or claim to have left it home. Since leaving dog waste is a health code violation, offenders cannot be arrested, leaving agents powerless. With the large numbers of dogs in New York City, in an area that extends approximately 305 square miles, and the infraction happening in an eye-blink, the agents are not able to catch the offending owner. Agents are also responsible for handing out $200.00 fines for unleashed dogs, and for throwing household rubbish into the city's garbage cans. Having lived in New York City, years ago, I still have vivid memories of accidentally stepping into dog poop when getting out of my car. It was one stinky nightmare as I recall. However while there have been significant improvements made since the stringent rules went into effect, it is by no means perfect. Not only is it unattractive to look at, dog feces can carry parasites that may infect humans. I have to say that I am hopeful with the added numbers of agents the Sanitation Department's Canine Task Force, that the parks and sidewalks of New York City will become pristine, thereby much more sanitary.
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