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Pay $150 if you don't pick up your dog's poo in Curtis Hixson Park and downtown Tampa

DOWNTOWN — Some might think of them as tiny trophies showing the success of urban renewal here.

Others see it for what it really is — dog poop.

As people start to fill in downtown developments, their pets have started to fill planters, parks and more with leftovers of a most unpleasant kind.

And now the city is putting to work an ordinance that has been on the books for years. Until recently, however, there was little need for enforcement downtown. Officials now are reminding pet owners to pick up after their dogs or face a $150 fine.

"The issue is that we have more residents downtown than we ever have had before," said Paul Ayres, spokesman for the Downtown Tampa Partnership. He estimates about 3,000 people live downtown.

Of the dog droppings, he said, "It shows that people are living here and that they have animals. It's a weird way, but it's showing progress."

Robin Cahill is part of that growth. She moved into the SkyPoint condo tower about a year and a half ago. Nearly every day Cahill, 45, takes KoKo Poco and Ringo, her two chihuahuas, to the Riverwalk dog run at Curtis Hixon Park.

They get excited now when she mentions going for a walk.

"We always pick up," said Cahill. "It's not that hard."

Other owners aren't as responsible.

"Some only clean up when there is someone around," she said.

Todd Marrs knows there are dog owners who don't pick up after their pet.

"I hate that," he said, as a black plastic bag hung from the leash tethering Roscoe, his 10-year-old Shih Tzu.

Marrs, who has lived in SkyPoint for two years, said he did not know about the increased enforcement but hopes the threat of a fine is enough to persuade owners to pick up after their pets.

"I really hope people straighten up about it," Marrs said as he walked Roscoe through the riverfront promenade. "I would really hate for such a nice park to get ruined."

The city has set up "pooch stations" along the Riverwalk dog run and in Curtis Hixon Park. At the stations, pet owners can throw away dog waste or get bags to take along on their walk.

Jake Slater, director of code enforcement, said officers stepped up efforts about six weeks ago to make owners obey the "removal of animal excrement" ordinance as part of the "Canine Litter Campaign."

The fine is $150 for owners caught not picking up after their pets. Subsequent fines are $300, then $450 for the third offense and any thereafter. If the fine goes unpaid, a warrant will be issued and the owner could face jail time. So far, though, Slater said no one has gotten a ticket. Code enforcement officers are just giving verbal warnings and hanging up fliers.

Like Ayres, Slater sees good in all this.

"I think it's kind of neat to have the people downtown with their dogs outside," he said. "I think it's great for downtown Tampa."

But the law is the law. So code enforcement officers are on the lookout mostly in the early morning and after work hours.

"Those are the prime dog-walking times," Slater said.

Jared Leone can be reached at (813) 226-3435 or jleone@sptimes.com.

Pay $150 if you don't pick up your dog's poo in Curtis Hixson Park and downtown Tampa 03/25/10 [Last modified: Wednesday, March 24, 2010 5:49pm]
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