To control rats, city eyeing crackdown on backyard dog doo-doo

SHARE To control rats, city eyeing crackdown on backyard dog doo-doo

City rat sign | Sun-Times file photo

Chicago dog owners who fail to pick up after their pets in their own backyards would face fines of $50 to $500, under a crackdown in the works to control the city’s burgeoning rat population.

Mayor Rahm Emanuel and rookie Ald. Carlos Ramirez-Rosa (35th) are teaming up for the first time to cut off a primary feeding source for rats: dog feces.

“I hear from my constituents all the time: `My neighbor has a dog that defecates in the backyard. The neighbor hasn’t picked it up. The odor is horrible and, worst of all, rats feed on the feces at night,’” Ramirez-Rosa said.

“To those residents who have to keep their windows shut year-round because the odor is so horrible, help is on the way. To those residents tired of rats, help is on the way. The goal is to give the city a tool to ensure that property owners aren’t inadvertently creating a rat buffet in their backyards.”

For 41 years, Chicago dog owners have been required to pick up after their pets or face fines if that business is done on public streets, alleys and sidewalks.

But dog owners who allow their pets to pile up the poop in their own backyards have gotten a pass, even when neighbors complain about the stench and a rat population that feeds on animal waste explodes.

That would change, under the ordinance jointly introduced by Emanuel and Ramirez-Rosa at this week’s City Council meeting.

It states: “Feces from pets deposited upon any private property must be collected and removed daily by the property owner or agent by bagging and placing them in a city-issued or other rodent-resistant lidded waste container.”

Property owners and agents who thumb their noses at the new requirement would face fines ranging from $50 to $500 for each offense.

Pest control giant Orkin declared Chicago the nation’s “rattiest” city in 2013 and 2014, and the problem has only gotten worse since then.

The city’s 311 non-emergency system is on pace to field 50,000 rodent-related complaints this year, up from 32,855 complaints in 2014 and 36,425 last year.

Ramirez-Rosa said it’s high-time the city get tough.

“The city has increased the amount it spends on rat abatement over the years. We could see savings. Rats just love to feast on animal waste in backyards. We’re cutting off the source of food for rats,” the alderman said.

“It’s a common-sense change. Other cities have done it. Ultimately, this will allow the city to issue warnings and say, `Clean up that dog waste in your backyard, or you’ll face a fine.’ “

Delinquent dog owners were a pet peeve of former downtown Ald. Burton F. Natarus (42nd).

During the 1990’s, Natarus persuaded the City Council to transfer control over enforcing the city’s 1975 pooper-scooper requirement from police and animal control officers to the city’s Department of Streets and Sanitation.

On Friday, Ramirez-Rosa argued that the new ordinance affecting private property would be enforced in response to 311 requests, along with complaints about overflowing garbage bins and weeds that are too high.

“It’s easier on private property. On the street, you don’t know who did it unless you see the dog in the act,” he said.

The partnership with Emanuel is a surprise, considering the rookie alderman’s outspoken criticism of the mayor. But  Ramirez-Rosa said it shouldn’t be.

He came to the mayor with a problem and a solution to a chronic neighborhood complaint, and Emanuel was more than willing to join forces. What does that bode for the future?

“It means that when there are common-sense things like this, absolutely I’m going to work with the mayor. But, everything is on a case-by-case basis. The overriding principle is, what’s good for the community,” he said.

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