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City takes on messy issue

December 18, 2012
Jodelle Greiner - Staff Writer , Fairmont Sentinel

BLUE EARTH - The poop is piling up and Councilman Glenn Gaylord doesn't like it.

Gaylord registered a complaint at a work session of the Blue Earth City Council on Monday about dog feces left in public areas, such as the school playground. Gaylord is a custodian at Blue Earth Area middle school, where kids "track it in the school and track it on the buses," he said, adding that it's not healthy.

He wants to ban dogs from the playground.

"It boils down to people just don't clean up after their animals," Gaylord said.

City Attorney David Frundt said the city and the school district both have the authority to ban dogs in that area.

"We do have citizens who are good about taking their little bag, but they are in the minority," said Councilman John Huisman, who added some re-education is in order to remind people they are responsible for cleaning up after their pooches.

Frundt said it is equivalent to a trespassing violation and, depending on whether it is processed through the courts, could cost $50 or $135.

Councilman Rick Scholtes doesn't want to punish lawful dog owners, and believes the real problem is from dogs running at large.

Huisman asked Police Chief Tom Fletcher how many times this issue has come up.

"Never," Fletcher said. "This is the first complaint I've heard of it."

"A majority of dog owners in town are responsible," said Stacy Aukes, who works at the local animal shelter, but she did acknowledge some don't pick up after their pets.

The council and members of the audience discussed finding a better way to get people to license their dogs.

"In 2010, we had 127 licensed animals; by 2012, we only have 40," pointed out Kathy Bailey, city administrator.

Doubt was expressed by some that the number of dogs has actually dropped that much.

Todd Heenan, animal control officer for Blue Earth and Faribault County, said some people tell him the reason their animal isn't licensed is they can't afford it.

"If you can't afford a $5 license, you can't afford to take care of your animal," Heenan said.

"It makes our job easier, if a dog comes in with a license," Stacy Aukes said.

The council discussed the number of dogs that have been deemed potentially dangerous or dangerous.

Fletcher is upset that a dog that may have killed domesticated rabbits was adopted from the shelter before an investigation was complete. The police weren't notified, he said.

Aukes said the dog was being fostered and an adoption was pending at the time the dog allegedly attacked the rabbits. Fletcher said any dog under investigation needs to be held. Aukes said she didn't know that, but she will follow the guideline in the future.

The subject was raised about banning certain breeds of dog. It's against state law to pick a particular breed and ban them, Bailey noted.

Aukes said no breed is bad: "It depends on how they're raised."

Safety remains uppermost in Gaylord's mind.

"I don't want some little kid getting hurt," he said. "We need to talk about it because once that happens, it's too late."

Huisman suggested assembling a committee with representatives from law enforcement, the animal shelter and the city to draft a plan. He volunteered to be the city's representative.

Since Monday's gathering was a work session, the council could take no action, but Mayor Rob Hammond did state a meeting should take place among the respective parties.



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