A new city ordinance prohibiting domestic animals from the Milton Cemetery passed June 4 by a vote of 5-1, with Milton City Councilmember Larry Laehn voting against the measure.
According to Milton City Administrator Al Hulick, the ordinance was developed in response to requests made by community members and members of city staff, all of whom had voiced concerns about people walking dogs in the cemetery and not cleaning up their feces.
The new ordinance will only affect Milton Cemetery on Janesville Street, Hulick said. Other cemeteries in the community, including Junction Cemetery and St. Mary’s, are privately owned and not under the city’s authority, he said.
“This is an unfortunate situation in which conditions have worsened over time in terms of individuals who have brought their pets into the cemetery and not cleaned up after them,” Hulick said.
Hulick said he found the problem unfortunate because of the disrespect it presents to those “who reside in the cemetery,” further pointing to sanitary and safety concerns especially for city staff who have reported a need to regularly clean feces from lawn mowing equipment.
While a citywide ordinance already exists, requiring pet owners to clean up after their pets, enforcement can sometimes be difficult, Hulick said.
“As Chief (Scott) Marquardt told me when we were discussing this, it’s very difficult for the officer to see the moment of deposit.”
The new ordinance, prohibiting pets in the cemetery, would give officers the ability to simply tell the animal’s owner that the animal cannot be in the cemetery, Hulick added.
Hulick said he realized the issue came with some sensitivity: “There are folks who use the cemetery for recreational activities, walk their pet, walk themselves, and their pet may even visit a site.
“As with most things in government, regulations are created rarely for those who follow good social behavior; they are created for those who do not.”
Citing his reasons for voting against the measure, Laehn said he lived near the cemetery and often walked his dogs, which he has trained, he said, to defecate at home before going for walks, in the cemetery.
On his walks, he said, he has noticed feral cats, stray dogs, and even coyotes that frequent the area, suggesting they may be contributors to the fecal problem.
Pointing to the existing citywide ordinance, Laehn said: “I agree with what you said that it’s difficult enforcing it, so if the current ordinance exists, it’s difficult to enforce that ordinance, putting in another ordinance is still going to be difficult to enforce. Unfortunately, I always find that you can’t legislate morality.”
Describing the magnitude of the problem, Robinson said when staff cleans equipment after caring for the cemetery, they sometimes get fecal matter on themselves.
“It’s become steadily worse over the last couple of years,” Robinson said.
“We do hear from people that just walk out there that have concern about animals,” Robinson said, adding, “They have asked over the years that we just don’t have pets out there.”