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A sign of things to come in North Hempstead

A sign informs pet owners to clean up

A sign informs pet owners to clean up after their dogs near the intersection of Poplar Place and Harbor Hills Drive in Port Washington on Nov. 25, 2014. Credit: Barry Sloan

Change the sign or change the fine?

That's a dilemma facing North Hempstead town officials, who are proposing a law to raise the maximum fine for failing to pick up dog waste to $250.

Signs in town already incorrectly warn of that fine, when an offender can only be charged $25 to $75 per violation, say officials from the town attorney's office.

"Those signs aren't accurate," said Mitch Pitnick, the senior deputy town attorney.

If the law is passed, the hundreds of signs found throughout town would not need to be replaced, town officials say.

Leaders of the town-run animal shelter have for years been requesting an increased fine schedule, town officials say. The town last increased fines in 1994.

A new range, which Pitnick said would likely be up to $250, is expected to be introduced and discussed at a Dec. 9 public hearing. It would require approval of the town board.

A range would also be created for other violations, such as failing to provide vaccines for dogs or to keep them leashed in public.

Similar codes in two other Nassau County towns have higher maximum penalties, as much as $250 in Oyster Bay and Hempstead.

Area officials say such laws can be difficult to enforce.

North Hempstead officials say no one there has been cited for failing to pick up dog waste in the last year. The 311 call center, however, has received 23 complaints from residents about unattended waste, said town spokeswoman Carole Trottere.

Flower Hill village administrator Ronnie Shatzkamer said she does not believe the village has issued a fine for failing to pick up dog waste "because the code enforcer would have to witness it." The code spells out a maximum $5,000 fine for such violations.

William Burton, the village attorney for East Hills, said such a fine there may not exceed $1,000 per day of violation, according to the local code.

"This is hard to enforce," Burton said in an email, noting one reported case in which the owner was assessed less than $500 by the village court. "The dog was caught in the act."

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