Bayonne officials promise enforcement after pet waste fine hike

Is a fine up to $1,250 enough to stop violations?

Bayonne has increased the fine for not cleaning up pet waste, and city officials are vowing to follow through with enforcement.

The City Council adopted an ordinance amending and supplementing the revised general ordinances of the city relating to animal control, specifically the section regarding the removal of pet waste and the accompanying fines and penalties at the August 17 meeting.

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Fines upped for violations

According to the ordinance, it is the duty of any person who owns a pet to have the means with them to “remove any feces left by the pet on any gutter, street or public area, and to dispose of same in a sanitary manner.” However, this is not applicable to a guide dog accompanying a blind person.

Previously, summons could be issued by a member of the Police Department or a Sanitary Inspector employed by the city. The ordinance now dictates that a summons, which also now includes a notice of violation of any provision of the existing animal control ordinance pertaining to pet waste, is cause for an enforcement document to be issued by the Police Department.

The ordinance adds that the Animal Control Officer, Litter Inspector, Park Enforcement Officers, or any municipal officials designated or authorized by either the Department of Public Works, the Director of Municipal Services, the Director of Public Safety, or the Health Officer, are now also be able to issue enforcement documents to a violator of the ordinance. However, the ordinance no longer includes a Sanitary Inspector as an enforcer of the measure.

In addition, the maximum penalty for a violation of the ordinance was raised. Previously capped at $50, the new fine now ranges up to as much as $1,250. The penalty also includes imprisonment for a period not exceeding 10 days, according to the ordinance. The minimum fine is increased from the previous $25 to $100.

In addition to fines for not cleaning up pet waste, the city also installed some pet waste stations several years ago to encourage cleanup. Additionally, the Health Department currently distributes signs for residents facing pet waste issues to put on their lawns.

Residents question enforcement

At the public hearing for the amended ordinance, resident Mike Ruscigno asked about enforcement and how many fines have been written last year under the existing ordinance.

“I hear complaints all the time from everybody,” Ruscigno said. “I was just wondering how many fines have been written? I mean it’s great if you make it a million dollars, but it’s not enforced.”

“Not enough is probably the answer,” City Council President Gary La Pelusa said. Law Director Jay Coffey said that he didn’t an answer.

Board of Education Trustee Melissa Godesky-Rodriguez, a frequent face at council meetings, also spoke on the importance of enforcement of the amended ordinance.

“The enforcement is really what it’s all about,” Godesky-Rodriguez said. “It’s income for the city and it’s accountability on the residents to keep a cleaner neighborhood.”

Godesky-Rodriguez asked the council what the plan was to help increase enforcement.

“What are your ideas, what are we looking at as far as enforcement?,” Godesky-Rodriguez asked. “What can we change to start getting it enforced? Because if they wrote me a $1,250 fine, I’m probably going to clean it up and never do it again. That’s me. That may be a lot of other people as well. So what are we thinking about enforcement?”

In response, La Pelusa said: “This is the city being proactive. We see it as a means for this.”

Officials vow to tackle problem

La Pelusa said the fine hike would coincide with increased enforcement. He did not, however, elaborate how or in what ways said enforcement would occur.

“Right in the ordinance it explains who is going to be enforcing this,” La Pelusa said. “The fines went up also. So there was a change to that. Now it’s within $100 to $1,200.”

Godesky-Rodriguez asked if the city could “put the pedal to the metal” on enforcement of the fines for violations.

“This might sound mean… but don’t be scared to ticket,” Godesky-Rodriguez said. “I would love to see that income to the city and cleaner streets for sure.”

La Pelusa ended the conversation by vowing that enforcement would be visibly increased.

“We would rather just see everybody just pick up so we would have to have it come that way,” La Pelusa said. “If not, this is the city basically putting everybody on notice to say ‘We’re with you. We understand your problem. And we’re going to try and enforce this… You’re going to see once it’s signed in that there is going to be an increase in enforcement.”

For updates on this and other stories, check www.hudsonreporter.com and follow us on Twitter @hudson_reporter. Daniel Israel can be reached at disrael@hudsonreporter.com.

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