Greater Greater Washington

Public Spaces


Irving Street becomes unofficial dog latrine

Amidst the hustle and bustle of the early commute to the Columbia Heights metro at the corner of 14th and Irving, dog owners in the Highland Park apartments are busy taking their dogs outside so they can take care of their business.


A tree grows in Columbia Heights?

For those of you who are familiar with this stretch of sidewalk, there is very little green space and the sidewalks are particularly crowded in the morning with commuters going to the Metro or waiting for one of the many buses.

With so little green space, dogs pee on the large planters in front of the apartment building, leaving behind noticeable puddles of dog urine. For the dogs that do make it to the tree boxes, they are not the first for the ground is already fairly saturated by 8 am.

These dog owners are in no way breaking the law, unless they don't pick up after their dogs. However, how much dog urine is just too much for such a public space?

Public green space in Columbia Heights is a rare commodity. The recent building boom has brought has brought a slew of new business and residents in the last 5 years, including Highland Park on Irving Street. While Highland Park lacks a street level courtyard, they advertise a rooftop terrace with a landscaped garden. If there is a green space available on the roof, are tenants allowed to use this space for their dogs? Dog owners who live in apartment buildings, what is your experience with access to green space?

This is in no way an attack on dog owners, but raises some issues about the impact of large apartment buildings on densely populated areas as well as urban doggy etiquette. To be good neighbors, should apartment buildings build their own private dog parks? This would be a considerate gesture to the surrounding community as well as a desired amenity for renters.

Or should it rest on the city to build such spaces? What about the dog owners themselves? If you plan to own a dog in a city, shouldn't you at least consider taking your dog further then just the nearest tree box?

As it stands now, there is not enough green space on this small stretch of street to continue to satisfy dogs, commuters, and residents. And I have a feeling that the newly planted trees aren't happy about the situation either.

Lynda Laughlin is a family demographer at the U.S. Census Bureau. She holds a PhD in sociology and enjoys reading, writing, and researching issues related to families and communities, urban economics, and urban development. Lynda lives in Mt. Pleasant. Views expressed here are strictly her own. 

Comments

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Haha, "becomes."

by Matvey on Jan 28, 2011 11:22 am • linkreport

Third to last paragraph, jester needs to become "gesture"

by Canaan on Jan 28, 2011 11:25 am • linkreport

Fixed, thanks.

by David Alpert on Jan 28, 2011 11:36 am • linkreport

I am a dog owner and live in the Highland Park building... pets are not allowed on the roof terrace. Having more green spaces or a dog park in our area would be great. I for one try to keep my dog from going on the planters, but when he has to go, he has to go.

by Jon on Jan 28, 2011 11:41 am • linkreport

This is sort of a conundrum. Urine is pretty harmful to trees, and dog owners should be discouraged from letting their dogs go in tree boxes. But letting them use the sidewalk means puddles for pedestrians. Not sure what the answer is.

by TM on Jan 28, 2011 11:43 am • linkreport

I live at Highland Park and have 2 dogs. There is green space atop the building, but it's off-limits to dogs. There is a dog-relief place, but it's about the size of 1/2 a parking spot and it's gross, gross, gross. I personally like to take my dogs down to the edge of the school yard down the street.

by Richard on Jan 28, 2011 11:43 am • linkreport

I'm a dog owner (in Chinatown) and we had a sim situation ... in the old days we all walked to the building museum grounds and there were not not many of us so the impact was minimal --- as the neighborhood grew I was realllllly disappointed in the dog owners who have completely ruined that bit of greenspace - my pup is tiny and does most of her business indoors on a piddle mat... but a growing contingent of owners just continued to use the most convient (closest) space instead of tryin to spread out a bit to other areas...its not about whats legal etc it just seems the "neighborly" thing to do...

by suicide_blond on Jan 28, 2011 11:44 am • linkreport

"I personally take my dog down to the edge of the school yard down the street."

I hope it's not in a space where kids play.

by Bob on Jan 28, 2011 11:48 am • linkreport

Timely post - just last night, I was walking east on Irving from dinner at Commonwealth when I nearly stepped in a big pile of doog poop, right in the middle of the sidewalk. That's not an uncommon occurrence on that block. There are several extraordinarily inconsiderate dog owners on that block (not in the Highland Park building, but on Irving). I confronted one owner last fall after I watched him take his dog to poop and then walk away from the result - his response? "Look at all the other dog droppings here - everyone does it." I have no idea how someone becomes that self-centered.

by dcd on Jan 28, 2011 11:50 am • linkreport

"I live at Highland Park and have 2 dogs. There is green space atop the building, but it's off-limits to dogs. There is a dog-relief place, but it's about the size of 1/2 a parking spot and it's gross, gross, gross. I personally like to take my dogs down to the edge of the school yard down the street."

The dog relief place is gross, so you take your dogs to a SCHOOL to do their business? Words fail me.

by dcd on Jan 28, 2011 11:54 am • linkreport

I know what the answer is: don't have a dog. Sure, sure, you had a dog when you were growing up in suburbia and now that you're officially a grownup you want a little doggie of your own so so much, and city people in the movies and on the tube have cute little doggies, so it must be okay. Right?

But it's inappropriate to have a dinky little apartment/condo and a 10 to 12 hour a day job and to live in a building without any nearby green space...and to have a dog. Choose the apartment and job and urban environment, or choose a dog and all the human living arrangements that go along with that. This ain't the movies, kiddo.

If I sound aggrieved, it's because I walk along that stretch of Irving every day. Yuck. Gross.

by Gross on Jan 28, 2011 11:57 am • linkreport

What about the dog owners themselves? If you plan to own a dog in a city, shouldn't you at least consider taking your dog further then just the nearest tree box?

well, maybe you've never had a dog. Dogs wanna go where every other dog goes. This is how they communicate. Also dogs are creatures of habit. They get used to going in a place and return to it every time. you could get your dog in the habit of leaving a message on that popular message board on the return walk when the bladder has been emptied.

But remember, most dogs get heavily praised for doing it outside! Anywhere outside! Especially in the first months of learning.

When I lived in a condo with a dog I avoided this problem (of the dog going on the condo trees) by jogging to the nearest park (1 block) with my dog who was happy to be running with me as we went out the door. But I lived in a park-rich area and my dog was already a house-trained adult.

I know of one condo bldg near the Cathedral that has its own dog park. maybe there are others.

Maybe you think dog urine on the sidewalk is gross. Not saying it isn't. But people love their dogs. Dogs are disgusting creatures but we love them. (Babies and toddlers are disgusting too BTW). So we're not nearly as easily grossed out by dogginess, like urine, as non dog lovers. (Just like parents aren't as grossed out by their own kids as non-parents).

People and dogs have been living together for at least 15,000 years. Domesticated dog DNA is 100,000 years old.

If you want to live in a city where there are people you will have to learn to live with other peoples dogs (and their disgustingness)too. If you don't like dogs/their gross habits your only choice is to live where there are fewer humans.

Really, unless the trees are being harmed which is unlikely be/c Urine will kill leaves, like the shrubs on a roof deck but not roots, this might be a nuisance but its not a pressing urban problem. Get some shoes with thicker soles. I think this, as a "problem" is barking up the wrong tree.

by Tina on Jan 28, 2011 12:07 pm • linkreport

According to a quick google search: pet urine on small shrubs or young trees would have an effect, but has little to no effect on mature healthy trees. And dog gender can matter: male dogs pee on vertical items and it runs down, female dogs squat in more open places.

But yeah on taking your dog to various locations - give your dogs more places to mark territory.

As a dog owner, I am often appalled at how much dog feces I see left in DC.

There is a stretch of Ontario, between Kalorama and Florida with the big wall from the Beekman Place condos that is dogpoop row. I often take extra bags to clean up that area.

I have offered bags to people who have walked away from their responsibility. When I get the dirty looks, I have also bagged it and left it on the front door of their houses with a note "Think you forgot this, just wanted to drop it off for you".

I wish there was a way to shame these irresponsible people. I hate that people hate on dogs, because of the laziness and lack of honor their owners show.

by greent on Jan 28, 2011 12:08 pm • linkreport

I'm not a dog owner, but I thought the polite thing to do was to train them to use the curb and go at the edge of the street. As long as it's not at corners or cross walks and they actually do go in the street it shouldn't be that much of an inconvience to anyone.

by Kate on Jan 28, 2011 12:09 pm • linkreport

@kate - yeah i really want my dog pooping in the gutter and getting run over!

by joe on Jan 28, 2011 12:13 pm • linkreport

@greent I have also bagged it and left it on the front door of their houses with a note "Think you forgot this, just wanted to drop it off for you". Good for you! I also hate it when people do this b/c its bad for dogs. people hate dogs for this instead of the stupid humans.

However, this post was specifically about urine, not poo.

by Tina on Jan 28, 2011 12:16 pm • linkreport

As a reminder to the urban dog owners, particularly since we're in the midst of winter: your dog's excrement does not melt with the snow. Pick it up.

by David T on Jan 28, 2011 12:17 pm • linkreport

I've often wondered why the tree pits in the newly rebuilt 14th Street streetscape are flush with the sidewalk. The mulch applied to them washes away within days, and the soil is already terribly compacted from all the foot traffic -- even though the project was only officially completed mere weeks ago.

They should be raised somewhat, or have low fences/walls, or tree grates instead. Those steps would keep both people and dogs away from the young tree roots. That small upfront investment (especially given the huge scope of the project) would save a lot in the long run by not having to replace the trees so often.

by Payton on Jan 28, 2011 12:19 pm • linkreport

Man, that's really crappy. If I lived on that block, I'd be quite pissed at this.

by Rich on Jan 28, 2011 12:26 pm • linkreport

@Tina - Dogs are great and yes they do behave a certain way. My critique and frustration is more about the lack of planning and green space in this particular part of the District (although I am sure it is a problem in other areas with the recent building boom). Apartment buildings should really be held more accountable for the "spaces" they offer for their tenants and their tenants pets.

by Lynda on Jan 28, 2011 12:30 pm • linkreport

The problem is definitely not the dogs..it's the humans. Don't own a dog if you can't be bothered to walk it at least 45 minutes a day. AT LEAST! If your idea of "walking the dog" is going outside for a lap around the block so your dog can relieve itself. DON'T OWN A DOG! Or, if that's how much you go outside with your dog, get a freakin treadmill and teach your dog to use it. Dogs need exercise, lots of it. Finally, and this is way off topic (ok, my whole rant was mostly off topic), for those of you with small dogs that like to pick them up and carry them. Please for the love of God stop...they have 4 legs..that's two whole legs MORE than you. They are better at walking and running than you are so I'm pretty sure you don't have to carry them.

by thump on Jan 28, 2011 12:36 pm • linkreport

@Rich: nice

by greent on Jan 28, 2011 12:38 pm • linkreport

DC Municipal Regulations:
24-1380. SCHEDULE OF FINES FOR VIOLATIONS OF THE LITTER CONTROL ADMINISTRATION ACT

"Failure to remove animal excrement from public space" results in the following fines or hours of community service...

1st violation within a 60-day period: $100 or 8 hours
2nd violation within a 60-day period: $200 or 16 hours
3rd violation within a 60-day period: $300 or 32 hours
4th violation within a 60-day period: $1,000 or 100 hours

by Doug on Jan 28, 2011 12:40 pm • linkreport

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1l1VyrpvVFY

by mlktoast on Jan 28, 2011 12:50 pm • linkreport

I have to agree with Gross. Dogs and cities don't mix well. I don't want to revive the flame wars we've had in our neighborhood between dog owners and non-dog owners but...[insert anti-dog statement here to start said flame war].

Urbanist pet suggestions:
Fish, reptiles (turtles, snakes, iguanas), hamsters, gerbils, and even rats.

We told our son he can't have a dog, so I feel it's ok to tell my neighbors they should reconsider their choice to bring a pooping, peeing non-human into a densely settled human community.

by Ward 1 Guy on Jan 28, 2011 12:59 pm • linkreport

BTW, it's not like the tree in that tiny tree box is going to grow into this huge beautiful shade tree if dogs didn't pee on it. It will last 10-15 years, and then get starved for root space and die, and hopefully be removed before it falls on someone's car or a person.

by ah on Jan 28, 2011 1:05 pm • linkreport

@Tina: Thanks.

@Ward1Guy: Why would you think it is ok to treat adults like you treat your child?

by greent on Jan 28, 2011 1:21 pm • linkreport

@greent Fair enough. My logic wasn't spelled out well. What I meant was, it's not like I don't think dogs are great and that giving them up is not a sacrifice. I would love to have one myself and it was hard for me to say no to our son. So when I go all "don't own a dog in the city" to neighbors I'm being more sincere and less self-serving than if I told them not to keep dogs in the city just because I think dogs are gross.

I had a dog in my terrible suburb where I grew up and loved it. We all make tradeoffs. I didn't have to spend 3 hours getting home last night, but when I got home, my fish didn't jump up and wag their tails and lick my face.

by Ward 1 Guy on Jan 28, 2011 1:29 pm • linkreport

@Lynda-My critique and frustration is more about the lack of planning and green space in this particular part of the District
I think thats a great question, especially given the reality. I reiterate: humans and dogs have lived together at least 15,000 years and its not going to change.

but you said this: What about the dog owners themselves? If you plan to own a dog in a city, shouldn't you at least consider taking your dog further then just the nearest tree box? , which is a direct critique about the human end of the leash. However this critique can be partially explained by your first observation: lack of green space and/or provisions in the bldg design. Its somewhat like critiquing the man for walking in the road when the sidewalks are impassable.

by Tina on Jan 28, 2011 2:54 pm • linkreport

You urban hipsters should just own cats unless you have a backyard. Not having a dog is just one more sacrifice you'll have to accept--along with crappy schools, no congressional representation, high taxes, lots of crime, tons of noise, and no parking to speak of.

Enjoy.

by JB on Jan 28, 2011 2:55 pm • linkreport

If you can not clean up your pet you should not have one.

Get a fish, turtle, snake, iguana, hamster, gerbil, rat, just as Ward 1 Guy said or a mouse, bird, or cat etc if you can not be bothered to take care your animal.

Make the dog wear a diaper other animals can wear them or see if you can teach to use the toilet like some cats.

I don't want to say this but since there are violations and fines as listed by Doug; if you can not properly pickup after your pet maybe DC should add this under animal neglect or perhaps the 5th should be seizing your animal.

by kk on Jan 28, 2011 2:55 pm • linkreport

@Tina:

1) Humans have never lived at the level of density we have now.
2) The level of hygene has increased significantly since the stone age.
3) We've had numerous domesticated animals for generations. Not all are appropriate for every situation. Would you be ok with your neighbor keeping a water buffalo?

Things are different in the modern age.

by dynaryder on Jan 28, 2011 3:33 pm • linkreport

@dynaryder

There's an argument to be made here, but I can just about guarantee if you make this an argument against dogs, you will lose.

Focusing on the behavior of their human owners and the design factors in an urban environment is a much better approach. Just my suggestion.

by Alex B. on Jan 28, 2011 3:37 pm • linkreport

@Alex B. Focusing on the behavior of their human owners and the design factors in an urban environment is a much better approach. doggone right!

by Tina on Jan 28, 2011 3:48 pm • linkreport

I think this says more about the assholes who live in Col Heights than anything else. Self-absorbed, entitled pricks who feel they have a right to own a dog. No, you don't.

by SW on Jan 28, 2011 3:52 pm • linkreport

@SW: "Self-absorbed, entitled pricks who feel they have a right to own a dog." It may not be a constitutional right, but I may own whatever is legal for me to own, provided I properly maintain all legally required ownership responsibilities.

@Alex B. "Focusing on the behavior of their human owners and the design factors in an urban environment is a much better approach" here here

by greent on Jan 28, 2011 4:00 pm • linkreport

@AlexB: in this particular situation,dogs are not appropriate. Growing up in the burbs,we had plenty of yard and greenspace for our dogs. In most DC neighborhoods,pets like what kk and others listed would be a better idea. Tina was trying to say that because our forefathers,who lived in caves/villages/settlements/etc kept dogs,then it's ok for us to have them here too. One of my ancestors was a knight;is it ok for me to walk around DC carrying a sword?

by dynaryder on Jan 28, 2011 4:02 pm • linkreport

I know that @SW and @dynaryder will find this evidence a compelling in favor of urban dog ownership:

http://www.frenchgardening.com/postcard.html?pid=3085048551141846

Now, can you boys just admit the error of your ways, and we'll all shake hands and move on?

by oboe on Jan 28, 2011 4:09 pm • linkreport

dogs are here to stay. "Stay!" your outrage is wasted. (Need a bag to pick up your outrage waste?)

by Tina on Jan 28, 2011 4:10 pm • linkreport

@dynaryder

You may not think dogs are appropriate for the city. I don't agree, but that's your opinion and you're free to have it.

My point is this: It is not a winning argument if you want to convince others to join your position. I would note that your position is clearly in the minority. Lots of people have dogs. Even more don't, but still love dogs (like me). Starting an anti-dog campaign is bound to be as popular as the pro-AIDS argument.

You're not going to win that argument. However, you have a much better shot at improving the behavior of dog owners.

by Alex B. on Jan 28, 2011 4:13 pm • linkreport

Sigh. It's simple. As long as DC does not outlaw owning dogs (and cats, and goldfish, etc), they can be owned. Owners are responsible for making sure their pets behave appropriately. Given the reality that there are dogs, it is practical for the government and builders to plan and design accordingly. Dogs don't need a whole lot. A little patch of grass here and there is plenty. Safe and cleaned sidewalks are needed as well. An occasional dog park is handy as well. We do have plenty of parks in DC, that is no issue.

by Jasper on Jan 28, 2011 4:13 pm • linkreport

@Tina: outrage? I was making a point,not spewing venom. If you want a dog,move to Cleve Park or someplace similar. I'm sure the dog would like it better as well. Now go lay down.

@AlexB: were we discussing dogs in the *city*? No. We were talking about them in this particular neighborhood. From the OP,it doesn't sound like this is a good place for a dog.

by dynaryder on Jan 28, 2011 4:29 pm • linkreport

@dyna If you want a dog,move to Cleve Park or someplace similar. I'm sure the dog would like it better as well.
this sentiment is quite different from your 1st two comments
which were generalized anti-dog/anti dog in the city

by Tina on Jan 28, 2011 4:44 pm • linkreport

Were we discussing dogs in the *city*? No. We were talking about them in this particular neighborhood. From the OP,it doesn't sound like this is a good place for a dog.

"Stalked by hunger and the deadly lances of the Cossacks, the decimated army reached the Berezina River late in November but found its route blocked by the Russians. On November 26, Napoleon forced a way across at Studienka, and when the bulk of his army passed the river three days later, he was forced to burn his makeshift bridges behind him, stranding some 10,000 stragglers on the other side. From there, the retreat became a rout, and on December 8 Napoleon left what remained of his army to return to Paris with a few cohorts. Six days later, the Grande Armée finally escaped Russia, having suffered a loss of more than 400,000 men during the disastrous invasion."

by oboe on Jan 28, 2011 4:46 pm • linkreport

@oboe-thanks for that link! very nice.

by Tina on Jan 28, 2011 4:48 pm • linkreport

It is absolutely about the behavior of the human owners. I love having dogs in my neighborhood. If only people would take proper care of them, and their surroundings. Alex B. is right - arguing against dogs is a certain loser.

Speaking of particularly absurd arguments that are guaranteed to alienate all but the most rabid (sorry) partisans, how about those dog owners who equate their dogs to others' children . . .

by dcd on Jan 28, 2011 5:23 pm • linkreport

"These dog owners are in no way breaking the law, unless they don't pick up after their dogs."

Not so. DCMR 24, 900.7: "No person owning, keeping, or having custody of a dog, except a seeing eye dog, shall allow or permit the dog to defecate or urinate on public parking or any sidewalk or in any and each such person shall immediately remove dog excrement from any curb, gutter, alley or street."

Note the "or urinate".

by Jack on Jan 29, 2011 9:43 am • linkreport

@ Jack: I don't think there's much permitting involved when dogs piss. Even the most lax dog owners have their dogs somewhat trained to piss in appropriate spots. Most dogs like it that way - when they piss on hard surface they often end up standing in their own piss, and not even dogs like this. When dogs piss elsewhere, it's usually not because they're "permitted" to do so. It's because they have to go.

In short: this is a silly law.

PS: Good luck cleaning up piss from asphalt.

by Jasper on Jan 29, 2011 10:43 am • linkreport

There are non toxic chemicals that others can put down to discourage dogs using specific sites.

by CC on Feb 1, 2011 1:26 pm • linkreport


This my friend is Smart Growth as we know it. Growth without the necessary supporting community/neighborhood infrastructure investment. Instead developers like Donatelli Development are allowed to pocket this investment. The community at large is left to absorb the impacts, this is why "Smart Growth as we know it" pushes the mythology that no community of consequence existed before Highland Park or that those people are just NIMBYies. Unfortunately, many Smart Growth folk talk livable communities but have really been bought off by developers. This urine is an indicator of really we really are with Smart Growth once we move past the hype.

by W Jordan on Feb 2, 2011 11:12 am • linkreport

Curb your dog.

by Trulee Pist on Feb 4, 2011 4:08 pm • linkreport

Why are people so angry? Lets get upset about DC traffic... or angry employees that never smile at you during your Target checkout.

My dog will urinate in the Highland Park tree beds.. she also will poop there. Nothing gets on the sidewalk. I always pick up the the poop, and always will. People know this is the right thing to do, and if you see dog poo poo on the ground- don't let it ruin your day. Just say to yourself "that's too bad".

When I see numerous human beings peeing all over Irving and 14th street, I just look the other way and say "that's too bad". Keep Columbia Heights a great place to live/visit.. and calm the F-down about things that are just ridiculous.

Peace.

by NicoleGW on Feb 24, 2011 3:47 pm • linkreport

There is a dog pee/poop space at the back of Highland Park. It's apparently to "gross" for the residents' dogs to use. That's ridiculous. You know what else is gross? Your attitude! Take your dog to your apartment's dog toilet. If you don't like it, tell the apartment complex to get it to your liking! Don't come and destroy our trees and leave your dog mess on the sidewalk!

by Lou on Apr 21, 2011 11:27 am • linkreport

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