Beginning next month, pet owners will have to scoop up after their animals to comply with a new ordinance designed to clean up public areas.
The City Council last week unanimously adopted the law in response to complaints from joggers and pedestrians that pet droppings were turning public sidewalks and parks into obstacle courses.
"Some people are just not careful," Mayor Keith Nelson said. He added that a utility right of way that spans the city has become popular for joggers, walkers --and dogs.
"You'd be walking through the park and there it would be," said Councilman Richard Polis, the council's only dog owner.
Complaints had been piling up in City Hall over the last year. Officials first tried an educational approach, with articles in the city's quarterly newsletter discouraging pet owners from using the public domain.
However, "we didn't seem to get the kind of response or concern we wanted to," Nelson said. So then came ordinance No. 86-07.
The new law, which takes effect in mid-July, is aimed at dogs in particular, although it includes all animals.
Polis said some residents complained about horse droppings, which have been reported on Coyote Creek, in the northwest part of the city.
According to the ordinance, pet owners or other people in custody of an animal must clean up any mess outside of their own property. Enforcement will be through citizen complaints that could develop into court citations.
The maximum fine is $100, but officials said they will impose penalties only on repeat offenders and only after issuing warnings.
"We're not out to penalize people," Nelson said. "We're out to clean up our city."
City Manager Paul Bussey, a dog owner himself, said the city will launch a campaign publicizing the new law "so the public generally becomes aware of it."
Ron Hudson, chief of special services for Orange County Animal Control, said the county has an ordinance similar to La Palma's, but such "curbing" laws are difficult to enforce.
By having its own ordinance, the city has an additional enforcement tool, Nelson said.
"These laws are made to make the public aware that (pet droppings) are a public nuisance," Hudson said. "It's just a responsibility that goes with owning the dog."