Doodie duty hot topic in Stow: Council hopes increased awareness will decrease offenses
Whether it's the first, second or turd offense, Stow dog owners who do not clean up after their pets are now guilty of a minor misdemeanor, punishable by a non-enhanceable fine of $150.
Previously, only the first offense was a $150 fine, and subsequent offenses were a fourth-degree misdemeanor punishable by up to $250 and 30 days in jail.
Stow Council does not anticipate that the amendment itself will curb behavior, but instead hopes that increased awareness surrounding the topic will convince residents to "doo" their part.
"I'll call it what it is: I've never seen more conversation on social media about dog poop than I have over the last several weeks," Council vice president Jeremy McIntire said. "It's one of those things, you know, out of sight out of mind, but when people start talking about it, you start seeing it."
According to parks and recreation director Linda Nahrstedt, dog waste has been a major problem not just in Stow, but also in the state and county parks due in part to increased visitors.
"There are so many users over the past year that typically wouldn't use or appreciate the parks, so we're not the only ones," she said.
Nahrstedt added that waste stations were installed in the City Center last year, and they spend "thousands upon thousands of dollars" to purchase bags, "but if it gets people to use the containers, we'll do what we can."
Stations are also on Higby Drive.
Despite the previous punishment schedule, Police Chief Jeff Film said that there had only been one citation ever issued in the history of Stow Municipal Court, which covers 16 communities.
Council president Sindi Harrison noted that while they had the option to jail someone for up to 30 days for subsequent offenses, the cost to jail someone was "not worth the benefit."
On law director Jamie Syx's recommendation, council changed the punishment to a $150 fine, regardless of the number of offenses.
Councilman Steve Hailer, who was prompted to address the legislation after a resident made a stink about dog poop being left in parks, said that in order for the change to be successful, the city cannot just rely on the ordinance, but should also have dog waste bags regularly stocked at trailheads.
"We're trying to legislate courtesy here, and the right kind of behavior," he said.
Reporter Krista S. Kano can be reached at 330-541-9416, firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @KristaKanoABJ.