Rules about picking up after dogs hard to enforce in Fort Worth

The city says it is hard to punish dog owners who don't pick up after their pets.

The city says it is hard to punish dog owners who don’t pick up after their pets.

Take a walk around your Fort Worth neighborhood and you may see the brown mounds plopped on the grass.

They’re stacked along the sidewalks near apartments on the Near Southside. They’re in grassy areas in Arlington Heights and Crockett Row. Residents in far north Fort Worth neighborhoods like Trinity Heritage, Villages of Woodland Springs and Rolling Meadows have posted angrily on Nextdoor pages about irresponsible pet owners leaving unwanted gifts on lawns.

Wherever you look — if you’re looking — you’re bound to see something.

“There’s always some, at least,” said Amelia Markezich, pointing at one poop pile in the grass as she made her way out of her Southside apartment building for a walk with her chiweenie.

City code dictates people have to pick up after their animals. But at the city’s code compliance office, the complaints about lack of pet cleanup come and go. Sometimes, director Brandon Bennett said, they come in waves. Other times it’s radio silence.

And when it comes down to enforcement, it’s difficult to do, leaving property owners with the burden and frustration of cleaning up the problem.

Enforcement for pet cleanup on private and public properties differs. Bennett said that when people don’t clean up after their dog on private property — like at an apartment complex — it is up to the property owner to fix the problem.

The process gets more difficult when dog poop is left behind on a public property.

Those who fail to clean up after their pet can face a class C misdemeanor, which is a $500 fine, Bennett said. But even then, someone — either the person who complains, a code enforcement officer or police officer — has to see the act happen in order for the perpetrator to be punished. Then comes the technicalities of identifying who didn’t pick up after the dog.

The problem in Fort Worth, specifically, has reared its head enough that companies have been built entirely off the enterprise of picking up dog poop.

Take Doggy Dogz, a Fort Worth-based company that can come on a schedule to clean up poop. It’s a task no one likes to do, owner JC Cummings said, and when life gets busy and the poop piles up, it can be a tough task to complete.

Cummings said that people not picking up after their dogs is in fact a problem, and that he’s seen prevalent issues in places with less social visibility and higher traffic, like apartment complexes and backyards. At apartments, it’s a domino effect. If one person isn’t inclined to clean up after their dog, the next person won’t be either, Cummings said.

People have often called for Doggy Dogz’s services after getting sick from not cleaning up their yards, Cummings said.

“It’s basically like a toilet that you never clean,” he said.

City parks are usually better about not having excess feces because of the social pressure to clean up. Where places are busier, there are more people watching, Cummings said.

Picking up after pets is important because parasites found in dog poop can spread not only to your dog, Cummings said, but to humans as well. Cummings said the best time to step in dog poop is when it’s fresh, even when it’s arguably at its grossest, because parasites haven’t had a chance to form.

Bennett said more vigilance on behalf of code compliance helps the issue a bit. When people see code compliance is watching, he said, they’re more inclined to follow the rules. Even then, he said the office relies on citizens to be the eyes and ears.

And if someone is caught not picking after their dog and gets a ticket for it, Bennett said they’ll become an example of what not to do.

He advises dog owners to take advantage of bag dispensers, and if their dog goes and they don’t have a bag, go get one and come back.

At the end of the day, the solution is simple.

“Be responsible and do the right thing,” Bennett said.

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Abby Church covers Tarrant County government and a little bit of everything for the Star-Telegram. She has a degree in journalism and creative writing from James Madison University. Abby comes to Texas after telling stories across Virginia and in North Carolina. Send news tips via email, on Twitter, by phone or text.


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