The area is over­run by dog walk­ers. What to do?

Home­own­ers find it not so pleas­ant when ca­nine care ser­vices crowd their streets.

Los Angeles Times - - BUSINESS - By Donie Van­itzian Zachary Levine, a part­ner at busi­ness and in­tel­lec­tual prop­erty law firm Wolk & Levine, cowrote this col­umn. Van­itzian is an ar­bi­tra­tor and me­di­a­tor. Send ques­tions to Donie Van­itzian, JD, P.O. Box 10490, Ma­rina del Rey, CA 90295 or noe

Ques­tion: Our com­mon­in­ter­est devel­op­ment is in the mid­dle of a busy area in Los An­ge­les but still off the beaten path. It faces a pub­lic street that the city main­tains along with street light­ing and side­walks.

Five years ago, our area was dis­cov­ered by dog­walk­ing ser­vices. We know they are paid be­cause of their fliers and busi­ness cards. Their branded ve­hi­cles would take up all of our valu­able park­ing spa­ces. Some pro­fes­sional walk­ers jug­gle eight ca­nines at a time, four leashed on each arm.

Most of these walk­ers pick up their dogs’ mess but the urine still dam­ages stucco, wood, brick fenc­ing and veg­e­ta­tion clos­est to the side­walks. It is costly and not al­ways pos­si­ble to re­move the stains and odor left be­hind, prompt­ing some prop­erty own­ers to re­place gates and fences. Even though most walk­ers pick up their dog waste, veg­e­ta­tion in the area still dies and continues to smell and at­tract flies. Some own­ers have even found bags of waste ap­par­ently tossed onto their prop­erty.

We have in­curred big ex­penses in land­scape up­keep that we would not oth­er­wise have. We con­tacted var­i­ous pet com­pa­nies ask­ing them to share our land­scape costs; they de­clined. Af­ter­ward, they sneak­ily parked many blocks away but con­tin­ued to walk their dogs us­ing our side­walks. Now they use un­marked cars but still con­duct their dog walk­ing here.

The walk­ers are a nui­sance. They talk loudly, they use walkie-talkies and cell­phones, and their dogs bark and growl at peo­ple and other an­i­mals. Some own­ers have ap­proached them, ask­ing for dog li­censes and vac­ci­na­tion in­for­ma­tion — con­fronta­tions that have turned ugly. The walk­ers in­sist they are un­der no obli­ga­tion to pro­vide proof of busi­ness li­censes, dog li­censes or vac­ci­na­tion in­for­ma­tion.

Our board won’t get in­volved be­cause it only af­fects own­ers whose homes front the pub­lic street. Don’t the dog walk­ers have to pro­vide their busi­ness li­censes, dog li­censes and vac­ci­na­tion in­for­ma­tion if asked? What’s the law and what can we do about it? An­swer: Other than sup­port­ing your ef­forts to iden­tify the wrong­do­ers, your board can­not do much be­cause this isn’t re­ally an “as­so­ci­a­tion” prob­lem.

Com­pa­nies can con­duct busi­ness on pub­lic prop­erty, such as streets and side­walks, with the ne­c­es­sary per­mits. Even if ad­di­tional li­censes, per­mits or bonds are re­quired, a pri­vate ci­ti­zen can­not di­rectly force a busi­ness oper­a­tor to present proof of com­pli­ance.

And though it is pos­si­ble some paid dog walk­ers do not have busi­ness li­censes, there is a whole in­dus­try of law-abid­ing dog-walk­ing ser­vices in South­ern Cal­i­for­nia that are li­censed.

In Los An­ge­les, var­i­ous an­i­mal-re­lated busi­nesses and ac­tiv­i­ties, in­clud­ing dog groom­ing and mo­bile groom­ing, op­er­ate with per­mits. In­di­vid­ual cities have dif­fer­ent or­di­nances, but typ­i­cally there are re­quire­ments for ob­tain­ing a bond, dog li­censes and leashes, a max­i­mum num­ber of dogs walked at one time, and prop­erly car­ing for and clean­ing up af­ter an­i­mals.

Still, the fact that a pro­fes­sional dog walker has a busi­ness li­cense doesn’t pre­vent res­i­den­tial neigh­bor­hoods from be­ing over­bur­dened by dog-walk­ing ser­vices.

So what can neigh­bors in your com­mu­nity and prop­erty own­ers in your as­so­ci­a­tion do?

The Los An­ge­les Mu­nic­i­pal Code specif­i­cally states that it is “un­law­ful for the owner or per­son hav­ing cus­tody of any dog to fail to im­me­di­ately re­move and dis­pose of in a san­i­tary man­ner ... any fe­ces de­posited by such dog upon pub­lic or pri­vate prop­erty” (LAMC 53.49).

You might try post­ing signs re­mind­ing peo­ple to clean up af­ter their pets.

The Los An­ge­les City At­tor­ney’s Dis­pute Res­o­lu­tion Pro­gram of­fers me­di­a­tion and in­for­mal res­o­lu­tion as­sis­tance at no cost. Me­di­a­tors are pro­fes­sional and trained in group fa­cil­i­ta­tion with a goal of re­solv­ing dif­fi­cult sit­u­a­tions where there may be sev­eral peo­ple, even large groups, re­quir­ing as­sis­tance or in­ter­ven­tion.

If that is un­suc­cess­ful, start re­port­ing vi­o­la­tions to the proper au­thor­i­ties. These dog walk­ers may not be re­quired to pro­vide proof of com­pli­ance to prop­erty own­ers, but they are re­quired to pro­vide proof to law en­force­ment or other reg­u­la­tory agen­cies.

As with most le­gal is­sues, you can al­ways im­prove your po­si­tion by con­sis­tently doc­u­ment­ing and re­port­ing your complaints.

There is also strength in num­bers, so band to­gether with like-minded neigh­bors — even if they don’t par­tic­i­pate in the complaints, they will be less likely to pa­tron­ize the ser­vices of com­pa­nies that aren’t fol­low­ing the rules. Eco­nomic pres­sure is some­times more ef­fi­cient than le­gal ac­tion.

Justin Sul­li­van Getty Im­ages

PRO­FES­SIONAL dog walker Jon Lovette in San Fran­cisco. Cities have dif­fer­ent or­di­nances on an­i­mal­re­lated busi­nesses, but usu­ally have rules for proper cleanup, li­censes and a max­i­mum num­ber of dogs.

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