Recently, several readers have complained on these pages about the amount of dog waste on the sidewalks and in the parks of Kirkland. It is a subject that pits dog owners against non-dog owners and one which we, as a city, need to address.
The scoop on poop
There is nothing more unpleasant than realizing there is dog waste on a sidewalk after you've stepped in it. The inconsiderate actions of a few dog owners can ruin the reputation for all and that is clearly what is happening in Kirkland. Most dog owners are conscientious. They carry their own bags and dispose of the waste properly. But what should we do about the dog owners who either don't know or don't care about their responsibilities?
There was a time, which seems now to be a long time ago, when Kirkland provided dog waste bags in our parks. Of course, that was before several rounds of city budget negotiations which lead decision makers to cut services. At about the same time that dog waste bags were cut from the budget, public toilets were closed and trash cans were removed from neighborhood parks -- all due to lack of funds. Remember how popular those moves were? No wonder the city cut dog waste bags from the budget if they couldn't even afford to empty the trash cans!
It is the sole responsibility of the dog owner to clean up after themselves
The problem is that some dog owners are less well behaved than their beloved pets. Anyone who spends much time in downtown Kirkland has witnessed bad dog owners pretending not to notice as their pooch leaves a "pouch" on the sidewalk, then they move on their merry way as if nothing happened, whistling or talking on their phone, praying that no one else saw them, never establishing eye contact. Another example of a inconsiderate dog owner is the thoughtless morning runner with dog in tow. This individual runs with a dog along Lake Washington Blvd and too often ignores the fact that their dog needs to go. The evidence of the poor animal's situation is the ten-yard long trail of dog waste left on the side walk. All because the runner was more focused on running than on the needs of his/her dog. Could such a dog owner really be unaware of the mess he/she leaves for the rest of us? Or is keeping a steady clip on the morning run more important that stopping and picking up after yourself? Besides, if nobody says anything about it, nobody cares, right?
Finding a solution
How do we deal with these situations? Do we leave it up to the individual dog owner to "behave" and clean up their pet's mess? Do we tell the police to write more citations? Or do we provide dog waste bags so that the few bad dog owners don't foul up our city and inconvenience everyone?
Personally, I would like to see the repeat offenders scoop up their mess using their cell phone as a shovel. Sadly, that won't happen. So we are left trying to find a more practical solution. We may need to provide bags for those thoughtless individuals who don't bring their own. In my view, dog waste bags sponsored and paid for by the private sector is the best solution. I would support such a move wholeheartedly.
I think that all dog owners in Kirkland have a responsibility to the rest of the city to make sure that dog waste does not litter our streets. We need to step up and pick up what others won't. It is not incumbent upon those without pets to deal with dog waste. When the dog owners of Kirkland banded together and asked the city to support an off-leash park, I think they showed great leadership. It is only fair that they also band together to rid our city of dog waste on our sidewalks. I support the off-leash park and I support KDOG. I also support KDOG's efforts to solve the problem of bad pet owners leaving messes for the rest of us.
As the owner of Molly the dog, I say there should be no excuse for dog waste in public spaces. How we find a solution to this problem will affect the relationship between dog owners and the rest of the city. I hope we, the responsible dog owners in town, will step up and do the right thing by supporting ways to keep our city clean. Carry extra dog waste bags and pick up after others. When you see a bad dog owner soiling our city, bring it to their attention. Be friendly and offer them a dog waste bag.
Like it or not, in the eyes of some, all dog owners are blamed when bad dog owners act irresponsibly. I want my non-pet owning friends to feel that Kirkland's dog owners are cleaning up after their own and being good stewards of our community. I don't claim to know the solution, but I have shared a few of my ideas above. I'm sure there are many more good ideas as well and I hope the community will take this responsibility seriously. Let's not act like the bad dog owners by looking the other way. Responsible dog owners need to solve this problem.
If you see that thoughtless runner with dog in tow, try to set them straight. Stop the runner while the dog is in the act (of course be careful where you step). If the runner claims they do not have a dog waste bag to clean up the mess, give them one of yours.
Or tell them to scoop the poop with their cell phone.