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City to consider limiting dogs in public cemeteries
I bet they didn't go over this in public administration school: Controlling dog poo in public cemeteries.
But if you hang around Lawrence City Hall long enough, you will find that almost any subject can come up at any time. At tonight's meeting, it will be dog poo in public cemeteries.
City commissioners are set to approve a new ordinance that will require any dogs in a public cemetery to be on a leash and to remain on the roads of the cemetery.
As a city memo on the subject explains, "the general purpose of the recommended ordinance is to prevent dogs from traveling across tombstones and/or burial sites (relieving themselves, etc.) which is not in keeping with the desire for decorum and respect in a cemetery setting."
The city's current ordinance requires that dogs be on leashes, but it does not confine dogs to the roads of the cemetery. The ordinance does require dog owners to pick up any waste that their animals may leave behind.
Whether that always happens, though, is debatable. The city received a complaint from an individual who went to pay his respects at his son's grave and found dog waste on it. Obviously upset, the individual brought the matter up to the city.
City officials have responded with this proposed ordinance, although there is some question about how effective it will be in preventing future dog waste problems.
A city advisory board reviewed the subject and didn't recommend the ordinance. (Yes, there is a city advisory board for almost anything. No joke, the city lists about 35 advisory boards/task forces on its Web site.)
In this case, it was the city's Parks and Recreation Advisory Board that heard the issue. I was at that July 9 meeting, and have notes from it. (Aren't you jealous about all the cool things I have?)
"I'm not a big fan of creating rules that you can't enforce, and you can't really legislate respect and courtesy," board member Jana Dawson said at the time.
But to be fair, the advisory board mainly was being asked to weigh in on whether the city ought to ban dogs entirely from the cemetery. It didn't discuss the middle-ground option of allowing dogs but confining them to the road. So, who knows, maybe its recommendation would have been different had it had that option.
City officials did some checking and found that most cities do allow dogs in their cemeteries, although Manhattan was the exception. (Based on this weekend, they apparently don't allow defense in the last few minutes of a football game either. Hey, I've got to get these football jokes in before KU's season starts.)
Parks and recreation officials said the new ordinance likely would impact quite a few people because the cemeteries are popular places for people to walk their dogs. They're shady, well-maintained and also quiet, officials told me.
The ordinance is likely to be enforced by cemetery workers who happen to notice people with dogs in the area, or by other patrons calling in a complaint. The ordinance gives the municipal court judge broad discretion in setting a fine for the offense, as long as it is between $10 and $500.
Commissioners will tackle the subject at their 6:35 p.m. meeting tonight at City Hall. The issue, however, may get very little discussion. It is on the commission's consent agenda, which means it is scheduled to be handled with a routine vote, unless someone pulls it to discuss. That is possible. I've discovered there are three things that can come out of nowhere at City Hall: Dog poo policy, advisory boards and discussion.