To Enforce Dog Poop Pickup, Haverhill Councilors Weigh Punitive Measures

File photograph. (Image licensed by Ingram Image.)

Dog poop downtown was top of mind for Haverhill city councilors last week.

Past measures to reign in the downtown doodies—like increased trash cans and doggy bag stations—appear to have been ineffective. Councilors last week called for more punitive enforcement, including steeper fines, mobile surveillance cameras and directing an animal control officer to stake out hotspots.

“I think we could find the mad pooper if we had the cameras in the right spot.” McGonagle said.

Councilor Shaun P. Toohey grew passionate about someone who left their dog’s number two “all over” the street leading to his and his wife’s businesses. Having run her family’s small businesses, Mayor Melinda E. Barrett said she knows how “gross” it can be when someone tracks turds inside.

The issue came up at a 2023 Council meeting when Matt Gaiero, of G’s Texas Southern Flare restaurant, shared a petition that garnered 250 signatures. Councilor Melissa J. Lewandowski proposed a fine of up to $1,000 for repeat offenders at the time.

She proposed a similar approach at the recent meeting. “And this might be the former prosecutor in me, that we can put as many signs, we can put as many bags, we can put as many, ‘oh please don’t do that,’ and units for people to be able to put stuff in. At the end of the day, it comes down to enforcement, which we’ve talked about tonight, and penalty.”

Her suggested penalty involves a “graduated system,” with problematic individuals facing more expensive fines after each offense. She emphasized the dogs’ innocence.

“Let’s just say, and I just want to [make a] blanket statement. It’s not the dog’s fault. It’s always the owner’s fault,” she said, repeating in a stage whisper, “it’s always the owner’s fault.”

The discussion grew out of a presentation by Clean and Green Downtown Haverhill, which organizes volunteers to pick up trash, place planters, remove graffiti and more. Team Haverhill Vice President Lisa Marzilli asked the city to bring in more maintenance workers. Pressed by Councilor John A. Michitson, Barrett explained there is already one part-time worker, and this year’s budget does not allow for more. The city has struggled to fill public works positions recently, she added. She said the city similarly had to postpone a—she estimated, $1.7 million—planned overhaul of Washington Square for budget reasons.

According to Marzilli, volunteer Karl Brunelle picked up most of the 342 poops Clean and Green disposed of downtown so far this year.

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