Joseph Harvey takes care to never walk across the graves of those buried at Lawrence cemeteries, so he finds it odd that multiple pet owners allow their dogs to tramp all over burial sites.
"It is filthy, contemptible and disrespectful in regards to honoring those who have left this life," Harvey told Lawrence city commissioners Tuesday night.
But it still remains legal in Lawrence. City commissioners at their weekly meeting unanimously rejected an ordinance that would have required dogs in a cemetery to be kept on a leash and to be confined to the roads of the cemetery.
Commissioners said they had received several comments from members of the public who felt the proposed regulation was an overreach by city government.
But Harvey, who has a son buried at a local cemetery and has seen dog waste left on grave sites, said he thought the proposed law was just asking for common decency.
"It is a difficult thing to consider that this is an ordinance that wouldn't be widely acclaimed," Harvey said.
Commissioners said they were sympathetic to the issue, but directed staff to first install better signs at local cemeteries directing pet owners to keep their animals on a leash and to pick up any waste. The current law requires dogs to be on leashes and for owners to pick up waste, but it does not make it illegal for the animals to be in the burial areas of the cemetery. Commissioners on Tuesday said they wanted to still allow pet owners to take their dogs to a grave site.
"I don't think there is any real safety issue here that requires us to act," said City Commissioner Terry Riordan. "And what's been proposed could cause some problems with people who want to visit a grave site with their dogs. Dogs are very important to some people."
Parks and recreation officials previously had researched the policies of other cities and found most allow dogs on leashes to be in public cemeteries, although Manhattan has a ban on dogs at grave sites.
Harvey was a few minutes late in arriving to Tuesday's meeting, so he was not able to make his comments to commissioners until after they already had voted. He said that because of that he may ask commissioners to formally reconsider their vote at a future meeting.
In other business, commissioners:
• Unanimously approved an increase in fines for speeding tickets. The fine for a ticket of 10 mph over the speed limit will increase to $80, up from $30. The city last raised the fine in 2009.
• Unanimously approved a policy that will allow the Lawrence Municipal Court judge to order Municipal Court defendants who have been provided an attorney by the city to repay the city for those costs, if the judge believes the defendant has the ability to pay. Only defendants who have been convicted of a crime or agreed to a diversion will be subject to the repayment provision. State law requires the city to provide a defense attorney to defendants who don't have the means to pay for one on their own and who face possible jail time if convicted.