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Fines for irresponsible dog owners?

Owners of dogs who do not keep clean up after them in Portland parks would be subject to a $150 fine under a new policy to be considered by the City Council on Wednesday.

The fines could also be issued to owners who do not keep their dogs leashed in park areas outside of the city's designated 32 Off-Leash Areas.

At the present time, violators can be cited for criminal trespass by police after first being warned and excluded from city parks. But, according to Portland Parks & Recreation, many park users say this escalating punishment process is not effective. The new fines could be issued by parks employees.

"Despite these efforts, and the efforts of many dog owners to encourage respectful behavior, a culture of non-compliance with leash and scoop laws exists throughout Portland's park system," says a report from the parks bureau the council will discuss Wednesday.

According to the report, in 2011, city Park Rangers made 3,750 contact with park users regarding dogs, resulting in 2,126 warning and/or citations. In addition, of the 131 related to leash and scoop laws received since July 2011, 95 percent requested additional enforcement.

Those enforcement actions were not enough to stem the flow of complaints, however.

"PP&R receives more complaints about dog violations than any other type of illegal behavior," the report says.

Because of the complaints, parks officials asked a citizens advisory committee for recommendations on how to increase compliance with the leash and scoop laws. The committee recommended allowing immediate fines to be issues, coupled with a public education campaign.

A fiscal analysis estimates the change will cost the city $100,000 a year. It also estimates the city will collect $130,000 a year in fine revenue. The proposal before the council would amend the City Code to allow the fines to be issued.

"Many park users, including dog owners, are extremely frustrated by persistent leash/scoop violations. Without a code change, PP&R is unable to address the issue and begin to curb chronic non-compliance with leash/scoop laws," the report says.