Fine The Poopetrators - Locals to Dog Owners: Pick Up!
Quite a few Rockaway residents took to Facebook to express their concerns over the new hockey pucks at the hockey rink on Beach 108th Street. The only problem is, they aren’t hockey pucks. It seems as if some pet owners have turned the rink into an unofficial dog park and haven’t cleaned up after their pets after they let loose.
The hockey rink wasn’t the only poop hotspot. It seems to be a widespread problem, from Rockaway to Broad Channel. Some complained on Facebook that the boardwalk sections, the medians on Shore Front Parkway, areas around the Dayton Towers, Arverne by the Sea and other spots have become mine fields of dog droppings.
Zina Skachinsky, the Executive Director of the Allied Rockaway Foundation for Animal Recreation and Fitness (ARF-ARF) has acknowledged that the animal waste problem has taken a turn for the worse.
“Generally this year has been the worst year ever that I’ve seen people not pick up after their pets. I don’t know if it’s because of the snow or the cold but this really has been one of the most awful years that I’ve seen. Normally during the winter, people tend to not pick up after their pets because it’s cold and they want to get back inside as quick as possible but they have to know that dog waste is not fertilizer. The snow won’t wash it away,” Skachinsky said.
Besides looking and smelling unpleasant, residents should be reminded that dog waste is highly unsanitary. “A lot of studies have been done showing that dog waste has twice the amount of bacteria as human waste does,” Skachinsky said. Not only that, but it is more difficult for dog waste to break down since a dogs aren’t herbivores. “In order for dog waste to be converted into fertilizer, it has to go through a special process that takes over a year to complete,” she said.
She also noted that some dogs may carry parasites which can harm people with compromised immune systems or children who may not wash their hands right away. These parasites can also harm other dogs if a dog smells another dog’s waste. Skachinksy said that the eggs of these parasites can remain in the ground. “Even if the rain washes the ground, these parasites can go into the waterways and ocean. There is a lot of wildlife and sea life that are getting parasites that are typically found in household pets,” she said. “We have to be careful about what we do and it is highly recommended for people to pick up after their pets.”
Rockaway resident Dennis O’Connor posted a photo of the poop problem on Facebook when he noticed that the hockey rink, where his grandchildren and other neighborhood kids often play, was covered in waste. O’Connor said he has tried to make pet owners aware of the situation, but some don’t handle it well. “I will open my mouth, but what can you do? You say something to these people the next thing you know you’re in a fight!” O’Connor said.
Skachinsky has come up with a solution that gives pet owners the hint, without being too rude about it. “What I do is, I carry around a plastic shopping bag in my pocket when I go out, even if I’m in Manhattan, and if I see someone who isn’t cleaning up after their dog, I always walk up to the person and say politely, ‘Do you need a bag?’ Without sounding mean, I’m able to relay the message that, ‘hey, someone saw you and you need to pick up after your pet.’ If you give someone a bag, it’s difficult for them to turn you down.”
After the issue was brought up on the “Friends of Rockaway” Facebook page, some residents took action to try to curb it.
Sandee Doremus, the community liaison for New York State Senator Joseph Addabbo Jr. and the 100th Precinct Community Council President Danny Ruscillo brought the issue to the attention of Roy Tellason of the NYC Department of Parks and Recreation who reportedly said that signs telling pet owners to pick up were in place at the hockey rink before Hurricane Sandy and were never replaced. However Tellason reportedly said signs will be put up once again and Parks Enforcement Patrol (PEP) officials will be keeping an eye out for pet owners who don’t respect the area. Ruscillo also made the captain of the 100th precinct aware Pf the issue, who said that officers will also keep an eye out. Be warned, poopatrators may be ticketed.
Edwin Williams, president of the Palmer’s Landing homeowners association in Arverne by the Sea, said ticketing is the right way to approach the situation. “I think the dog poop problem is widespread throughout Rockaway and if Sanitation and the police department would write these tickets, I think it would drastically cut down the nastiness. At ABTS, we fine home owners if they do not pick up. A lot of owners have surveillance cameras, so it is easy to prove if someone disputes. I think maybe the mayor should make this quality of life issue a priority.”
Skachinsky also suggested that people should call 311 if they notice that a specific area is starting to get out of hand. “If they notice that an area is getting a lot of calls, they’ll send sanitation monitors out who will start watching the area and reminding people to pick up after their pets,” she said.
Not all pet owners are guilty of leaving their pet’s mess behind, which locals acknowledge. “Of course not all dog owners do this,” O’Connor said. “All dog owners start to get lumped into that same group, but it’s just one bad apple that spoils it for the bunch,” Skachinsky said.
Skachinsky hopes that dog owners will cooperate so that more areas that are designated for pets, like the Freeway Dog Run at 83-02 Beach Channel Drive, can be brought to the area. “I don’t agree with letting dogs run around in places that are not designated for them. However, I think the city should provide more places for people to be able to let their dogs run around. Not everyone can walk the 20 or 30 blocks to the one dog park.”
ARF-ARF has been advocating for more dog areas, but the group finds that their ideas sometimes get turned down when some argue that pet owners don’t clean up. “If pet owners want to do themselves a service and get more amenities, we have to work together and clean up and show that we do care about our community,” Skachinsky said.