RENO — The City of Reno’s Anderson Park was colored with small orange flags spotted along the edges of the walking path. The decorations were small, colorful reminders hiding a much bigger problem that litters parks throughout Washoe County.
Call it what you will — puppy poopie, dog droppings, animal feces — it’s all bad, according to several park specialists who held a special press conference at the park Friday to kick-off a public awareness and education campaign about the need of dog owners to take care of picking up after their pets.
“It’s up to you to pick it up,” said Bob Harmon, spokesman for the Washoe County Parks and Recreation Department. “It’s important for owners of the dogs to do that.”
In a half-mile of walkway, officials placed 200 flags where owners left behind droppings of all sizes.
The joint effort of directors of the Reno, Sparks and Washoe County parks departments, along with representatives from Washoe County Health District and Washoe County Regional Animal Services feel the current trends of dog owners leaving behind the piles of feces is threatening the future health and safety of local parks, trails, waterways and open space areas.
“A growing number of dog owners who are choosing not to pick up after their pets is raising concerns abut the potential health threats to pets and people, especially children, who use local parks, waterways and other public places,” Harmon said.
“We are on a dangerous course,” Acting Washoe County Regional Parks and Open Space Director Al Rogers said. “We are also a community that loves our dogs and we’re hoping to get a message out to all dog owners that it’s their responsibility to help keep this a community we can all safely enjoy.”
The community officials Friday stressed that owners should utilize Mutt Mitts that are available at most regional parks, but to first remember to bring along their own plastic bags to pick up the unwanted droppings.
In Sparks, the main problem areas are at the Sparks Marina and Golden Eagle parks, said Tracy Domingues, Parks and Recreation Director, who spent the morning with her dog, “Bear”.
“A lot of owners let their dogs off their leads and don’t pick up after them,” she said. “It’s always there.”
Maintenance workers usually do the dirty work, she said, though their job is supposed to be to enforce the park rules instead.
“Unfortunately, they do pick up a lot,” Domingues said. “We have Mutt Mitt stations all around Sparks Marina parks and we encourage people to bring their bags as well.”
One problem with the increase in left-behind dog waste, Domingues said, might be that the economy is forcing people to do activities that are free to the public and encouraging them to take dogs out to parks more often. The mild winter didn’t help either, she said.
Lt. Bobby Smith, a Washoe County Animal Control Officer, said fines can range from $100 to $400 and can reach the misdemeanor range if owners are caught allowing dogs to relieve themselves on sidewalks or other public areas.
“It is a big problem because it can cause a health problem for the community,” Smith said. “It happens at any park or open space.”
Washoe County code requires dog walkers to carry a suitable “instrument” for the removal and disposal of dog feces, and to remove it immediately. The code also mandates that dog owners have an absolute duty to keep dogs leashed in congested areas of the county, including public parks, unless otherwise designated.
For more information, visit www.washoecountyparks.com.