To address the ongoing complaints about dog owners and walkers failing to clean up after their pets at Irwin and Waveny Parks, the Parks and Recreation Commission unanimously approved at its meeting Tuesday night the formation of a committee of six volunteers who will be permitted to place “Shame on You” flags where animals’ feces are left behind and administer waste bags to those who need them.
The Dog Litter Committee members approved by the commission include: Jean Scheidl, Linda Gordon, Lise Schoenfield, Lynn Tilon, Meredith Landis, and Christina Thompson.
Commission member Francesca Segalas—who formed a subcommittee with members Hank Green and Steve Haberstoh to help coordinate the “Dog Poo Initiative”—spoke on behalf of the Dog Litter Committee members, who were not present at the meeting, about how Irwin Park visitors are responding to the flags.
“The reception has been very positive. There’ve been a few dissenters—maybe one in 10,” she said at the meeting, held in Lapham Community Center.
Segalas, who has been planting flags and handing out waste bags at Irwin Park with other volunteers, described meeting the lone dissenters at Irwin Park. She offered waste bags to the elderly couple walking in the park with their grandchildren and pets.
“I asked them if they were aware of the ‘Dog Poo Initiative’ and if they needed any bags and they said they didn’t, but when they were coming back from their walk, I didn’t see any bags in their hands,” Segalas said. “[The man] said, ‘You know the nutty lady who has the idea of polluting the place with flags…’ and I was just like, ‘OK, but there are some people who disagree [with you].”
“But we just really want to keep the park with the dogs having the privilege to come here. And it is a privilege, and the Parks and Rec Commission is having to consider whether or not dogs can continue going there.”
Green added that he’s also received positive feedback from residents, even those who aren’t pet owners. “They see the yellow flags and they come up to us, and say ‘Thank you,’ ” he said.
Segalas said that if the initiative continues to see success at Irwin, the committee will do the same for Waveny.
She added that the committee is in the process of creating five signs that will be placed in sections of Irwin Park where pet owners are most likely to leave dog feces behind.
“There is the path that is parallel to Hackney and then comes in from Bayberry, past the little gazebo and up the hill,” she said. “That area is not easy to look after and so I think that’s where people secretly let their dogs poo or they throw their [waste] bags.”
When commissioner Jason Milligan questioned whether posting five signs would be considered “over signage,” Segalas replied that it’s important for park visitors to know that exposure to animals’ feces is considered a health hazard.
“It’s required by law [to clean up after your pet]. I think having that reminder in there is a good idea and I think having it at the places where people come into park and they don’t see the already-existing dog poo stand with the bags that are available to them,” she said. “So, this would be at the corner of Hackney and Weed Streets, not facing the entrance, but facing the people walking down the path.”
Segalas also coordinated efforts with Pet Pantry Warehouse for the local retailer to provide free waste bags that will be handed out by volunteers and the Dog Warden, so that the inventory provided by the existing dispensers isn’t depleted.
The subcommittee is also working to package an ordinance with dog license renewals that will include rules about cleaning up after pets while visiting the parks.