'Poop Police' campaign for dog park
Rockland — “Are you going to clean up after your dog?”
This is the question Linda Athearn and Valerie Hooper ask pet owners that seem oblivious to the mess they leave behind. A common response is “Who are you? The Poop Police?”
While that is not a term they would use to describe themselves, Athearn and Hooper have taken on the challenge of enforcing the law that demands the proper disposal of dog feces.
“We stepped into it about two years ago,” said Athearn, with no pun intended.
The cleanup crusade began one day at Snow Marine Park when Athearn and Hooper saw a little girl go “sliding into dog poop” while playing. They said they picked up two buckets full of dog poop from the field before the children could play a game of soccer.
“I wish somebody would do something,” said Hooper at the time. “We can't just let this go.”
“We started taking down license plate numbers,” Athearn said. But the police were unwilling or unable to follow up investigating the alleged offenders, according to Athearn and Hooper. Hooper said this is understandable as “crime and other things are more important — drugs and killings.”
The pair then began an education campaign on the law, handing out fliers signed by former Mayor Will Clayton. They said their efforts were met with resistance from the beginning. Some would refuse the fliers, and others would shout obscenities and insults.
Athearn and Hooper said the majority clean up after their dogs, but there is a minority that is very resistant to change, and very angry. They sometimes fear for their safety and feel there is a real threat of retaliation. The pair did not want to be photographed with their dogs, as they feared for their dogs' safety as well.
Athearn said that she was assaulted at Snow Marine Park twice. Both times she was pushed from behind and fell into dog feces, she said. She was unable to see her alleged attackers.
They said the resistance has only made them more determined.
The pair said that City Hall has not been as helpful as they would like, but they believe their repeated visits to City Council meetings have made a difference. They said the attention they brought to the dog feces issue led to the discovery of E. coli from human waste at Snow Marine Park, which is now being remedied with repairs to the sewer system.
They said even though the E.coli discovered in the park was from human feces and not dogs, opening the park back up to dogs is not the solution. Both Athearn and Hooper said their dogs became ill as a result of exposure to other dogs' feces, and that the health of safety of humans and dogs is the paramount issue.
“What's it going to take?” asked Hooper.“The death of a child?”
Athearn and Hooper said that a dog park is the solution that will work for everyone. City Council stated that there is no money in the budget for a dog park, according to Athearn and Hooper, so the pair will turn to the public to make the park a reality.
“This is a community that can come together,” said Hooper.
Hooper said that she and Athearn realize they cannot do it alone and need the help of others with the expertise required to shepherd a project of this scale. They asked that individuals outside of the city government with knowledge of regulations, fundraising, and applicable laws contact them to get involved.
Hooper can be reached at 594-0696 and Athearn can be reached via email at email@example.com.
“We need the cooperation of the people,” said Hooper. “That's what makes a community strong.”
“We're going to keep fighting,” said Athearn.
“Because the people of this community deserve it,” said Hooper.
Courier-Gazette reporter Tina Swanson can be reached at 594-4401 or by email at Tswanson@villagesoup.com