Fines for pet owners can reach $400

New attention is being paid to an old problem by the Hannibal Parks Department.

"We have really bad problem of pet waste, whether it be downtown or in the parks," said Andy Dorian, director of the Hannibal Parks and Recreation Department, during the Aug. 16 meeting of the Park Board.

While this is an issue throughout the parks system, special attention is being given to Central Park because of the number of events that take place there.

"When you've got a group of people doing yoga and that (animal feces) is sitting right there...  It's not something great for the community," Dorian said. "It's something we have to try and monitor and control, and do the best we can. That's all we can do."

Dorian does not believe he is overstating the problem.

"We all know in the grand scheme of things it's not drugs, but it is a health issue, especially with children," he said.

According to City Attorney James Lemon, a first violation of Section 4-109 of city statutes carries a $50 fine, plus court costs. The penalty increases to $100, plus court costs, for a second conviction. The fine is $400 for a third and subsequent convictions. Four new signs advising the public of the ordinance pertaining to pet waste are posted in Central Park.

"Allowing your pet to go to the bathroom in a park or other public property is not just a nuisance and disrespectful to others, it is also against the law,” Lemon said. "If you are caught, it is the policy of this office that we will not consent to a suspended sentence, but will ask that fines be assessed, and the fine schedule escalates very quickly for additional offenses."

Dorian said the public's help is needed and asked residents to report people witnessed not cleaning up after their pets. While Dorian knows it can be "very difficult" to catch an offender, Lemon said eyewitness accounts are not necessarily needed in these cases.

"Admittedly, it is always harder to get a conviction without an eyewitness in any case," he said. "It is not necessary that a police officer witness the offense. We will proceed on any credible evidence both from city employees as well as community members or visitors."