Mary Jane Coolen said that no matter what route she takes as she walks her dogs around Cheverly, she can count on seeing one thing: dog waste on the sidewalks and streets.
“If somebody steps in it, it’s really going to ruin their day,” said Coolen, the Ward 2 councilwoman.
After hearing complaints from residents for years about the problem, the Cheverly Town Council is considering purchasing wastebaskets — complete with plastic bags that can be used for cleanup — to install around town.
The town might pay for the wastebaskets with part of $8,000 put aside for park supplies in the fiscal 2014 budget, said Mayor Michael Callahan.
“The key piece is that people are frustrated by dog waste on the sidewalk,” Callahan said. “I would say that the vast majority of pet owners are responsible and clean up after their dogs. It’s unfortunate when those few that don’t spoil it for everyone else.”
He said the town might start by placing two wastebaskets around town, but could increase the amount based on how well they are used.
The price per waste station — a wastebasket, bags and a pole to place them on — could be around $200 or more, according to an online search.
People can be fined $25 if they do not clean up after their dog within Cheverly town limits, Town Administrator David Warrington said. But he said the last time he remembered a fine being issued was in the early 1990s.
Callahan said that because the fine is difficult to enforce, the council is considering promoting better citizenship rather than increasing penalties.
“What would we do? Have code enforcement or cops follow around dog owners?” Callahan said. “It’s not the type of thing that is easy to identify.”
Resident Sheila Salo said wastebaskets could encourage people to clean up. She said she often walks to town meetings in the evening and sees dog waste on the sidewalk or street.
“The time that it would be the greatest annoyance is in the winter when it is dark [earlier],” Salo said. “I would really not want to step in anything.”
Coolen said she also supports making it easier to dispose of waste rather than trying to address the issue with fines. She said she brings plastic bags with her on walks to clean up after her dogs, but sometimes needs to wait to dispose of it at home because there often are no trash cans around.
“Adding trash cans around is a really easy way to get people to actually do it,” said Coolen, who owns two dogs. “I’d much rather have the town spend money to put them out and have garbage men pick them up, than slap $25 fines on people.”