Officials Consider Installing Cameras in Irwin Park To Catch Irresponsible Dog Owners

While the New Canaan Police Department cannot spare an officer to patrol Irwin Park exclusively, authorities are recommending use of motion-activated trail cameras to help catch irresponsible dog owners who don’t pick up after their pets, officials said Wednesday night.

According to Sally Campbell, chair of the Parks & Recreation Commission, video footage that matches dog owners with their cars would be the “best way” to identify violators.

Police have “asked us to explore with IT what time of camera to use and the only a type of camera we are able to use is a game camera,” Campbell said during the commission’s regular meeting, held at Lapham Community Center.

“So we acquired a few of those and are trying to figure out how to best use them.”

The comments come as the commission explores ways to address a nasty problem at Irwin Park—as well as Waveny, among other public places—where people with dogs do not pick up after the animals. The commission formed a committee to work on the problem. Recently, one local woman has led an effort to place ‘Shame On You’ flags on abandoned dog waste at Irwin—a practice that will need to be halted soon, at least for a time, as the Parks Department will start mowing the grass there.

The commission itself appeared divided on the question of cameras at Irwin.

Commissioner Hank Green, a member of the ‘Dog Litter Committee,’ said, “I don’t love the idea that there is a camera watching me.”

Campbell responded that the commission has not “totally decided that this is what we will do.”

“But we thought this would be the most effective way to get people to take notice that they will get fined,” Campbell said.

She added that local news outlets may help deter offenders by publishing the names and mugshots—if such exist for violating the local ordinance—of those ticketed for failure to clean up after their dogs.

Under Section 108-8 of the Town Code, those who don’t pick up their dog’s mess can be ticketed $90 per offense: “The owners and/or keepers or any person having custody or control of any dog on any public street, public sidewalk, or public parking lot, or within any public park, public playground, or public school grounds shall promptly remove all feces left by the dog on such public areas and dispose of such feces in a sanitary manner.”

If the bad behavior on the part of dog owners persists, Campbell said, New Canaan may consider following the lead of other towns and banning dogs outright from designated parks such as Irwin.

Commissioner Francesca Segalas, also a member of the committee, said police are open to issuing more tickets to address the problem, and that there are environmental and health-related concerns at stake. Unlike horse or cow dung, she said, dog waste is “toxic” because the animals eat meat, and it pollutes water systems if it’s not disposed of properly.

Town Council Vice Chairman Sven Englund, a guest at the meeting, asked how long the images captured on the would-be trail cameras would be preserved.

Campbell said the cameras were “a suggestion on how to try to issue tickets to people.”

“This is just suggestion and we are hoping that by bringing it up people are going to be more aware and more courteous and we do not want to get to the point where we have to ban dogs from the parks.”

4 thoughts on “Officials Consider Installing Cameras in Irwin Park To Catch Irresponsible Dog Owners

  1. Who will sit and review the video, verifying people to license plates to dog poo?????? Our police force should not be spending time on this. Does that leave the committee as the enforcers?

  2. There is a much bigger problem at Waveny and Irwin Parks. Why it garners no attention is a mystery to me. As a responsible dog owner who obeys rules and picks up after my dog(s), I am continually stressed when the leash laws are not obeyed. The leash laws apply to the entire park other than the fenced dog area. Why can’t I walk my senior dogs without being accosted by your loose dog? The reason I go to leash parks is to keep my dogs safe. Over the years, I have experienced many loose, often aggressive in approach dogs who charge at me and my dogs. Entitled owners who do not think the laws apply to them sometimes shout “he’s friendly” (not always true) to which I reply “this is a leash area.” I wonder why they aren’t in the dog park if he’s so friendly. I should not have to defend my right to walk peacefully in the fields or on the trails. My last dog, post surgery and out for some fresh air in the sunshine, was tackled by a large unneutered black lab. I was upset and my dog was traumatized. The owner was self righteous about her behavior, as if I was in the wrong. Please, let’s address this topic also. Thank you for considering.

  3. This is one of the dumbest ideas I have seen; while there may have been fresh dog litter, I haven’t seen any at Irwin Park in quite a while. Why not have aerial surveillance by drones constantly flying over the parks, to take this overkill to a real extreme?? We have town workers who are paid very well but can’t be bothered with dog waste issues?

    The portable latrine at Irwin was a disaster last week with human offal and I reported that to the police who forwarded the call to parks. Have the bathrooms opened up at Waveny yet for all the heavy use they get?

  4. I agree wholeheartedly with Ms. Collins. While the dog poop issue in the public parks is annoying, especially when you encounter it on the walking paths and trails, the amount of people with unleashed dogs is startling. Even more surprising is their attitude when you remind them of the leash laws. Another problem I’ve often encountered are people who are absolutely certain their dogs are “friendly” and tell me so as their dog growls, lunges and snaps at my dog. When I inform them that that is not the behavior of a friendly dog, I am often told that “they’re just dogs” or that fido “never growls like that”. The thing is, I have a medium large dog, well-trained with voice commands. I understand his power and abilities, and while he’s willing to ignore most dogs and stay at heel, he has a problem ignoring growling, snapping, lunging dogs as he assumes either these “well-behaved” dogs are trying to hurt him, or worse, me. And even though my dog is well-trained, I’ve taken to using a prong collar when walking him so that I can control him when one of these dog’s idiot owners don’t realize how aggressive their dogs are as they try to attack my dog. Truly, given the amount of oblivious, entitled and annoying people in this town walking their dogs, we could really use a courtesy manual. Maybe Animal Control and the Police Department can come up with one and make it mandatory reading for dog owners? Then ticket people who don’t follow the rules or think the rules don’t apply to them. And then escalate the fine based on amount of infractions. And then if that still doesn’t work, bring the pet owners over to the stockades at the Historical Society and lock them up for 24 hours. That should do the trick.

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