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El Paso dog owners facing very messy problem

By: Melissa Gundersen
EL PASO, Texas -- A group of pet owners who bring their four-legged friends to a west El Paso dog park daily is speaking out about a very messy situation that has them knee deep in frustration.

Helen Farina brings her five dogs to the Westside Community Park off of High Ridge every weekday morning, but her fun trip often turns into a chore.
 
When we arrive the park its dirty.  (There is) a lot of fecal matter from people who have not picked up the droppings of their dogs, said Farina.
 
When Farina walks around the park in the morning she typically finds more than 20 piles of dog waste other owners didnt clean up from the day before. She said its usually the worst on Monday mornings after the weekend rush.
 
It takes me a good 20 minutes to a half hour depending on whos been here before me or how many dogs have been here since the last pickup, said Farina.
 
There are a combined four Mutt Mit stations filled with clean-up bags found in the small dog and large dog sections of the park, which are provided by the citys Parks and Recreation Department.  Farina said she rarely sees the clean-up stations empty and doesnt understand why people dont take the few seconds to pick up after their pets.
 
So now I just get a bag, I just hand it to you and say, 'Your dog just did something; would you like to pick it up?' said Farina.
 
Farina said shes not only frustrated because she has to spend time cleaning up after other pets, but its also a health hazard.
 
Theres lots of different diseases (in the feces), said Dr. Amy Star, the owner of Mesa Veterinary Clinic in west El Paso.
 
Star said ringworm, hookworm, parvovirus and giardia are all commonly seen in the Borderland, many of which can spread not only to other dogs, but also humans.
 
As children even just walk by, maybe them theyre walking by in sandals and their sandal slips off, it (certain types of worms) can penetrate through the skin.  So its not only do they need to have that oral contamination, said Star. 
 
Star said some of the diseases that may be found in dog poop could live in the soil for a few hours to a few years.
 
If it sits for a day or two then it becomes more able to infect, said Star.
 
Star said many owners dont realize their pet is sick because worms may be undetectable by the human eye.  This is why she recommends not bringing pets to any park until they are fully immunized.
 
Farina said cleaning up the park is for both health reasons and also to show pride in the community. 
 
The park was built on our tax dollars.  It was a big campaign to get the park built.  Now we have to respect it.  We have to show pride in our community by keeping it clean, said Farina.
 
Staff at the citys Parks and Recreation Department said while enforcement is difficult in parks, anyone who caught failing to clean up after their pet can be fined.
 
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