Ken's View: Pooch pooping on public property: okay or not okay?
On the cover of this paper last week we ran a photo of people walking their dogs on Alki Beach at low tide. We received a note from a former subscriber who points out that this activity is against the law. Here is his note:
“Dogs on the beach are a $500 fine. Your photo is encouraging bad behavior. Be responsible. Your next edition should have a segment on why dogs are not allowed on city beaches and playfields and a picture of the signage stating this. “
“Attached are a couple of pictures of “No Dogs on Beach” signs. The problem with some of these signs is they are either poorly placed and/or aren’t readable. Sign on the light pole is 8 ft up and sun faded. There are some newer signs at a more readable height posted on the stairways as you move towards the east along Alki, but these seem to be routinely ignored.
I would suggest you have either Parks or Animal Control write something up for publishing, describing why dogs are not allowed on beaches or play fields. An understanding by readers as to why these rules are in place might go a long way towards fostering better adherence. If you do speak with them you might suggest they address the readability and placement issues of their signs.
With regards to dogs on playfields, that seems to be routinely ignored, especially at Madison Middle school. A group called Poogooders, while having good intentions, is creating a mix message by putting their dog poop container under the “No Pets Allowed” signage at Madison Middle School. Pics attached.
Which gets to a bigger point, the lack of an off-leash dog park at this end of West Seattle. Anything you publish is going to bring forth a lively dialogue on that subject. You will get full agreement from me that there needs to be an off leash park in the north end of West Seattle.
You might be thinking, why would anyone have these pictures on their phone. Well the plan was to send them to Parks or Animal control to let them know of the issues described above. Westside Seattle might be a better vehicle for getting the word out.
HERE ARE SOME PHOTOS SUPPLIED BY MR. PETTERS
He’s right it’s against the law. But it is seldom enforced and it’s not the newspaper’s job to enforce it. It’s highly doubtful that anyone seeing that photo will suddenly be “encouraged” to do anything. We could probably run photos of speed limit signs, no parking signs, bus zone signs, stop signs, and Yield Right of Way signs but that would not make for a very interesting newspaper. Nor would their appearance in the newspaper encourage or discourage people to either follow or violate the law.
What are your thoughts on this subject?
Mr. Petter is right. And while it’s not the newspaper’s job to enforce laws and ordinances, highlighting an illegal activity as a cover photo suggests tacit consent of that activity. There are serious environmental and marine mammal safety reasons for keeping dogs off the beach, and it would be lovely if folks would consider the needs of creatures other than their own pets.
As a former resident of the Alki Beach area, I got to the point of hating to take my friends and friends kids down to the beach, as too many piles of dog poop lay in the sand awaiting unsuspecting beachgoers. We also used to find plenty of piles in our driveway, where unwary visitors would get out of the car and step right into a pile of poop. If you own a dog, pick up the poop! It's what you do as an owner, not leave it all over the place.
Imagery does have an effect on attitude and behavior, as I'm sure you're aware- your strawman aside, which types of pictures/media you choose to show or omit in your content plays an important role in framing your narrative which is why these items are so carefully selected. It's not the newspaper's job to show people breaking the law in a positive light either, especially when their lawbreaking tends to lead to such disgusting and hazardous consequences for everyone else.
Dogs are banned from many beaches for a reason. Their waste is toxic and introduces harmful bacteria and parasites, dogs are predators that can attack wildlife or children, even less considered factors such as the flea/tick poison that is used on dogs' fur can wash off and kill sensitive marine life. And despite everyone's claims that they are one of the "good owners" who manage to clean up after their own dogs, someone is sure leaving a lot of it in their wake.