Scoop Laws Seldom Enforced

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Claudia DiMenna walks her dog Coco, an 11-month-old Maltese/Yorkie mix around the lakes at Green Valley Park.

"I take Coco for a walk as often as she wants -- at least twice a day unless it's too hot," DiMenna said.

DiMenna carries a portable bag dispenser (Bags on Board, around $10) on Coco's leash at all times. For the dog walker, it's handy, compact, lightweight and easy to use.

"They attach to the leash and you never leave home without it," she said.

DiMenna said she sees plenty of dog owners shirking their poop-cleaning responsibilities.

"Sometimes we see poop from other dogs where we are walking, and we pick those up too," DiMenna said. "I get very angry when I see people leave poop on the ground behind them. In fact, I've had to stop a few people and say, ‘You are going to pick that up, aren't you?'"

Two public dog-bag dispensers have been placed in Green Valley Park for the dog walker's convenience. One is located next to the park offices, the other is on the west end of the park near the boat ramp. The dog area at Rumsey Park also has bag dispensers, and using all those extra Wal-Mart bags as your dog-walking companion is a great way to recycle.

"One of the primary rules for the dog park is that people must keep an eye on their dogs, pick up their poop and put it in bags and dispose of it," said Donna Rokoff of Paws in the Park, the nonprofit organization that made the dog park possible. "Otherwise, can you imagine how (rife) the dog park would be?"

Rokoff did plenty of research and contacted many parks and recreation directors before Paws in the Park proposed Payson's only off-leash dog park.

In her conversations with small-town managers throughout Oregon and California, she found that when a citizen's group backed the creation of a dog park, it stayed clean and became an asset to the community.

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Coco, an 11-month-old Maltese/Yorkie mix, waits patiently as Claudia DiMenna pulls a bag from a portable dispenser attached to the leash.

When a town opened a park on its own, the grounds got polluted and stinky quickly, and wound up closing.

"You have to have users of the park who will reinforce the rules as diplomatically as possible," Rokoff said.

Neighborhood diplomacy and self-regulation often become the guiding rule for dog owners.

Carol Snarr tries to walk her dogs, Charlie and Buddy, every day. They usually walk in the street, and she always brings along a bag to clean up after them.

"There's not much you can do about them peeing," she said. "But I do keep them away from plants and shrubs."

Many Payson neighborhoods have rules about curbing dogs written into the covenants, conditions and restrictions on top of town codes.

But for new Payson residents like Juanita Sizemore and her 11-year-old son, Casey, Payson's scoop laws are not readily posted, so many residents are unaware of fines.

"A lot of people I know have bits and pieces of what they think is the law, but nobody seems to really know," said Juanita.

Until Monday, Casey, Juanita and their two large dogs lived on 20 acres of land near Jake's Corner where the animals could do their business at their leisure, without the worry of plastic bags and the long arm of the law.

On Tuesday, Casey took his pet rottweiler, Izzy, out for their first walk together inside town limits.

"If she pooped I'd probably go get a bag," said Casey. "I've stepped in dog poop before and had to use a stick to scrape it off -- it was pretty gross. I don't want that to happen to anyone else. I might get a large stick and move it out of the way so people wouldn't step on it."

But when a pet owner looks the other way and walks away, animal-control ordinances can be enforced.

Fines for violating the "animal control chapter" are $50 for the first offense, $100 for the second, and $300 thereafter -- considerably a less-expensive civil offense than littering, which can be as much as $1,000 per offense.

Payson Police Department's animal control officer, Don Tanner, said he's never actually had to fine anyone for failing to clean up after their dogs.

"Every once in a while I do have to issue a warning, but I've never had to issue a citation," he said.

Most of those warnings have been for people with stinky yards.

Unattended dog droppings fall under the public nuisance ordinance defined in 90.04 and in the 2005 s-13 supplement to the code. This law also covers barking, running at large, unprovoked attacks and vehicle-chasing dogs.

"I see people walking their dogs and they carry bags with them, and that's a good idea -- I respect that," Juanita said. "I never like it when a neighbor walks their dog by the house and leaves the poop in front of my yard for me to clean up."

For more information about specific ordinances, visit the town's website at www.ci.payson.az.us.

Dog licenses

Dog licenses are required by the town of Payson and Gila County. Proof of rabies vaccination must accompany the request. Proof of spay or neuter must be provided as well to be eligible for the lowest fee.

Town of Payson

Licenses can be obtained at the Town Hall Finance Department, 303 N. Beeline Highway, (928) 474-5242, ext. 221.

1) One-year license:

Spayed/neutered dog $3

Unaltered dog $7

2) Two-year license:

Spayed/neutered dog $6

Unaltered dog $14

3) Three-year license:

Spayed/neutered dog $9

Unaltered dog $21

Gila County

Licenses can be obtained at the Gila County Department of Health, 107 W. Frontier St., (928) 474-1210.

1) One-year license

Spayed/neutered dog $7

Unaltered dog $15

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