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Life in downtown Los Angeles has gone to the dogs, some complain

Two security guards leaned on a gate outside the El Dorado Lofts, watching the parade of foot traffic down Spring Street. It was just before dusk -- prime dog-walking time -- and for every few people who passed, there was at least one pooch.

The dogs strutted down the sidewalk, straining against their leashes, stopping here and there to lift a leg.
“Every tree gets tagged,” said John Arias, 51, as a pug sniffed and then marked a nearby tree. “There’s way too many dogs!”

Mickey Baker, 54, nodded. “There is a hell of a lot of dogs,” he said.

Baker and Arias aren’t the only ones grumbling. A growing number of people say downtown Los Angeles’ dog population has reached critical mass.

Downtown_dogs2 Just a few years ago, the proliferation of dogs was heralded as proof that a certain Westside hipness had arrived in the city’s central core. Blogs and magazine photo spreads celebrated L.A.’s new breed of urban canine -- one that patronized “dog parties” at posh nightclubs and ate frozen yogurt at the “paw bar” of a downtown pet boutique.

When Steven Areia opened up Bark Avenue doggy daycare on Main Street two years ago, several homeless people complained to him that the dogs were treated better than people living on the street.

The dogs were symbols of the demographic shift transforming downtown. As the human population soared -- from 18,000 in 1999 to nearly 44,000 today -- relaxed pet policies in downtown’s new loft buildings ensured that the number of canines kept growing, too. According to the Downtown Center Business Improvement District, an estimated 40% of downtown residents own dogs.

But with growth comes, well, new challenges.

“It’s the poo, man, the poo,” said Sylvain Copon as he poured himself a late-afternoon whiskey in his art gallery on the corner of 6th and Spring streets. “All day, pee and poo. It’s nonstop.”

Ever since one pup decided he really liked the planter outside Copon’s front door, the spot has become a favorite detour for dogs on their daily constitutionals. Worried that the resulting flies might bring disease, Copon bought an entire case of insecticide. He said he calls the Downtown Center Business Improvement District almost daily to complain.

The DCBID has weighed in, launching a small marketing campaign imploring owners to “practice good downtown dog etiquette.” According to a list of doggie do’s and don’ts it has distributed to restaurants, stores and bars, that includes directing canines away from sidewalks, planters and fire hydrants and toward tree wells and curbs.

“Dogs have played an extraordinarily important role in the residential development of downtown,” said Carol Schatz, president and chief executive of the coalition of downtown property owners, “but not having dogs poop on the sidewalk is kind of important to downtown livability.”

Areia of Bark Avenue said he thinks dogs are a key part of downtown culture -- and that downtown has bigger issues: “I think there’s more of a problem with people urinating.”

Copon, for his part, says the campaign isn’t working. So he has become a vigilante, accosting strangers who are too busy talking on their cellphones to pay attention to what their dogs are doing to his building.

First he demands to know where they live, then snaps: “Now I’m going to go pee on your front door!”

Copon, who speaks with a rough French accent, said he thinks many downtown dogs are simply accessories.

“It’s very fashionable,” he said. “You go downtown, you gay, you have tattoo, you have dog.”

Around the corner from Copon’s gallery, at a vintage clothing and furniture shop called Flea, owner Caryn Hofberg is a little less militant but no less fed up.

“I’m like a dog fanatic, I love them,” she said. “But I’m afraid it’s going to be a dog epidemic. I’ve never seen so many unspayed or unneutered dogs --- oh my god! And we don’t really have any place for them to go.”

Because there is little green space in downtown’s grid of high-rises, lofts, factories and parking lots, many downtown pooches never get to play in dirt or run in the grass, Hofberg said. She finds this sad. Downtown_dogs3

“A lot of girls go to FIDM [the Fashion Institute of Design & Merchandising, on South Grand Avenue] and they get designer dogs,” she said. “But there’s huge dogs too. There’s Great Danes, there’s mastiffs. There’s a guy in my building with a Saint Bernard.”

Hofberg said she would like loft owners to establish stricter dog policies and the city to better regulate animal licenses. Also, she said, “I have this vision that Cesar Millan, the Dog Whisperer, could do something great down here.”

She’s worried about a new loft about to open across the street -- “it could bring 300 more dogs!” -- but she also caters to her dog-owning customers.

On the wall behind the cash register is her montage of photographs of “my little friends that come visit me”: Stella, Vinnie, Sweet Cheeks, Yum Yum. And she keeps a dog bowl full of water and a jar of gourmet pet treats at the ready. 

-- Kate Linthicum

Top photo: David Alexander crosses the intersection of 6th and Spring streets in downtown L.A. with his two dogs, Mr. French, a bulldog, closest to camera, and Bentley, a toy fox terrier.

Middle photo: Charra Cook walks her dog Norman, an English bulldog, on 7th Street near Spring.

Bottom photo: Horace Rogers places a plastic bag in a strategic spot beneath his dog Jacque, a French mastiff. Photo credits: Mel Melcon / Los Angeles Times

Comments () | Archives (16)

I live in downtown and my neighbor next door has the most obnoxious dog. I can't wait for it to bark past 10pm because the minute it does, I'm calling the cops.

Why not ticket dog owners who are not carrying dog poo bags. Use the parking enforcement people. If they see a person walking their dog without a dog poo bag, give them a $50.oo ticket. Also if a dog owner is caught in the act of letting their dog mess up the streets without cleaning it up, ticket them $100.00. It could help the city with revenue and it would be an incentive for all dog owners to pick up their mess. There's nothing wrong with dogs, it's people who are irresponsible.

I totally agree...way WAY too many dogs with too many owners who have no regard for others!

Not only do they have a dog..some have multiple dogs..in these lofts...now tell me..what kind of humane action is that towards a animal..locked in a loft..no wonder they go berserk when they get out!

Between the messes the dogs/owners make...the narrowness of these ancient sidewalks...the business owners who put their tables and other junk on our PUBLIC sidewalks (who's monitoring that in the city?) and the general overcrowding of this city now...SOMEONE in City Hall has to get some boundaries set for this to be a cohesive living arrangement!

It frightens me to go down a sidewalk and here comes a pit pull or mastif straight at me...not to mention an owner you know full well would never be able to control the animal!

This city must also remember...here in downtown...tenants also include the elderly and disabled..whom can't duck and swerve so easily as the younger owners of these dogs.

I used to love dogs. Now I despise the owners and can't stand the dogs. Too much defecation and barking.

I work downtown. I don't usually see people walking their dogs as pictured. These people seem to care for them and appear responsible. What bothers me are the dogs that downtown residents get from the shelter and then when it gets too big or they no longer want to care for it, they just let them loose! I feed some of these dogs that run around in packs. Many of them are pit bulls and people are generally afraid of them. Many of these dogs are feral and very afraid of humans. Perhaps dogs shouldn't be given to just anyone. Mainly because I think they treat their children the same way. God forbid I should make an un-PC comment like that!

It used to be called a city of homeless street of non class citizen.....now dogs bathroom street. OK, solve the problem: make some space(fenced ) available for dogs waste and let the dogs owner pay a fees for maintenance.This will solve the problem and will add revenue to the city.Or have a special community meeting to find out a reasonable solution.

Thank you so much for this piece. I live downtown and love it but the growing number of dog owners is seriously becoming a problem.

You can't walk down the street without looking down every couple of seconds to make sure you aren't stepping on dog pee or poo. It's not even the homeless who are the problem anymore. It's dog owners who have no regard for the community and their neighbors who use the city streets.

I love dogs and would like to have one one day but downtown is no place for them. It's a pedestrian-centric city and the streets should be pleasant for the pedestrians. There's nothing worse than walking down the street to get dinner and seeing AT LEAST one dog cop a squat or lift a leg. Not to mention the flies that you have to swat away after the fact (as mentioned in the article). What makes these dog owners think that this is okay??? Are they too busy thinking about how cool they look to notice that they are fouling up the streets of our blossoming city?

I completely agree that the majority of people who have dogs here own them for the purpose of accessorizing. Otherwise, if they truly cared about their dogs they would not confine them to a loft and only offer them a concrete playground.

And isn't it technically illegal to let your animal defecate in public? Check out the LA County Code 10.40.060.

And forget about the "dogs as your children" argument. You don't smear your child's diapers on the cement or let them pee on the planters outside your building. Why would this be acceptable for dogs? Keep your "child's" dirty business inside your home - get a pee pad, a patch of grass, anything to keep it off OUR public spaces.

It's unsanitary, unpleasant, and inconsiderate.

Downtown is looking great in so many respects so let's please not let it go to the dogs. Better yet, let's get these dogs' owners to wake up and smell their own pooches' crap.

Lots of the loft buildings have private dog runs. I lived downtown for three years and never subjected my dogs to having to cop a squat while buses rumble by. The rooftop run at my building was a fun social center where dogs and their owners could hang out together. On weekends we'd go to either Runyon Canyon or Silverlake dog park as long as the weather was dry. We'd finish at the Cat and the Fiddle patio for a beer (us) and water (dogs) break before heading home. Our dogs are not fashion. They're family.

Yeah, homeless guy who complained that dogs got treated better? I remember what was there in front of that parking structure before it built the little storefronts that Bark Avenue moved into. Because there were no vendors to complain along that half a block, that space was populated with street people openly doing drugs, hanging out, cursing out passersby. I personally saw crack smoked there, and a guy passed out with a needle in his arms. Would you rather have that or a dog groomer?

The dogs are not the problem- it's the planners and politicians. WHERE ARE THE PARKS DOWNTOWN? The politicians let greedy developers build build build more concrete with no green space. If there were parks (or A park) this would not be an issue and ironically, more people would live downtown (see: New York and Chicago). Stupid planners, greedy developers and polticians who only care about $$$. Better idea- why dont we have Politician Pick up the Poop Day downtown and maybe they will get on with building a park downtown!!

It seems there is a logical solution: pay the homeless people to clean up the dog's messes by having a special $25 a year "downtown dog license assessment" which dog owners must pay upfront before moving in to apt./condo managers, who then turn these fees over to the city.

Lets say there's 10,000 dogs downtown - that equals $250k a year for special doggie patrols made up of the homeless who would go around spraying disinfectant on the pee and sccop up the poo.

This way everyone wins: downtown gets cleaned up, homeless folk get some income, non dog owners are mollified, shop owners are freed from the tiresome chores they now endure in cleaning up their premises.

All this would take is for the CBD officials, reps from neighborhood councils, property owners and homeless shelter sponsors to get together and hammer out an agreement.

Of course, this will never happen, but one can dream.......

People should take better care of their dogs, but as a responsible downtown dog owner, I resent the criticism--especially when I see plenty of human beings doing their business on sidewalks and the sides of buildings on a fairly regular basis. Dogs are the least of downtown's "livability" issues.

Obnoxious and irresponsible dog owners. Pets are not accessories nor do they belong in lofts. This isn't NYC.

This is a great article! Whenever possible, we want to remind Angelenos the importance of picking up after their pets to prevent stormwater pollution! To find out more info on this and how you can get a free container with doggie waste bags check out http://www.lastormwater.org/pet

For those saying that more green space is the answer, it would have to be dog only spaces (privately funded by dog-owners as suggested in other post). The second any dog owner sees a patch of grass they claim it as their dogs' own potty-pad. Hence the art installation with greenery around it on spring and 9th posting poison caution signs to keep dogs off. Real or not, it works and we get something nice to enjoy and liven the neighborhood.

The new lawn at the LAPD building on 2nd was never intended to be a dog park but it has turned into one. What about local families that want their children to run around (human children, I'm talking about). They can't play there because there's too much poo, pee or the stench of it left over. Not to mention that pee KILLS grass.

One of the reasons I chose my building is because it did not have a dog run on the roof. I want to enjoy it, lounge, sunbathe, and sit in the hot tub without seeing dogs squat or having the wind whiff over their droppings, even if it is picked up. I understand that they are some people's family but come on, you don't see kids crapping their pants. It's contained and out of public sight on the streets.

And no, dogs are not an important part of downtown...people are. People are making the choice to move in and bring the city back. This would happen with or without people owning dogs.

Simply said, if you cannot look after your dog's mess then maybe you should rethink about getting a dog or adding another dog to your line up. Downtown area is far too populated for people, you add a dog to every person then that is population explosion of both humans and canine. In the end being sensitive to other people's private space should be the attitude that dog owners need to develop in this world seeming full of dog lovers, like me!

Lived down here for a minute, and yes, the doggie doo-doo in totally boo-hoo.

However I'd say that at least half of those landmines on the sidewalk is people poop.

Just sayin'...


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