By Conor Greene
A Maspeth woman is vowing to fight a ticket issued to her for failing to immediately clean up after her dog, which had just finished pooping on a patch of grass in front of her house. The woman, who was nine-months pregnant at the time, was sitting on her front steps when an officer issued her the ticket earlier this month.
Alicia Fernbacker, a 19-year-old local college student, was sitting outside her father’s 57th Drive home on September 14 with her dog while waiting for a friend to pick her up before class at Queensborough Community College, where she is pursuing a liberal arts degree. Several minutes after her dog, Kimmy, did her business on a patch of grass, a Sanitation Department officer walked up and began writing a summons because she allegedly “made no attempt to remove dog feces in a legal manner.”
Fernbacker, who eventually gave birth on September 18 – twelve days past her due date – says the officer was sitting in his parked Sanitation Department car with his seat reclined while she was outside with her dog. After the mutt pooped, the officer got out of the car and asked for identification while he wrote up the $250 ticket. She told the officer that she was about to go inside the house to get a napkin, but “he said it doesn’t matter.”
“I said that I was going inside for a tissue and that it was my property, but he said it didn’t matter and that I should fight it in court,” Fernbacker told The Forum. “I think he was being unfair. I wasn’t going to leave dog poop in front of my own house.”
In an e-mail statement, Sanitation Department spokesman, Matthew Lipani, said that officers write summons “when they see a violation” and noted that the Canine Waste Law has been in effect for 30 years. “Anyone who believes they received a summons in error can plead their case to the Environmental Control Board,” he wrote.
Lipani did not response to a question asking how quickly an owner must clean up after a dog goes to the bathroom, or whether the officer should use discretion when dealing with pregnant or elderly residents.
Fernbacker, who is on a leave from school after undergoing a Caesarean section last week, says the $250 fine is a hardship, especially with school and the baby, who she named Scarlett. To add to her stress levels, the baby’s father Mike Leser is a Marine who just completed basic training and expects to soon be deployed to Afghanistan.
“I’ve never been to court before, so whatever you have to do to fight the ticket, I’ll do,” she said of her October 15 hearing. “I just think it’s completely ridiculous [since] I didn’t do anything wrong to get a ticket,” she added. “If he had waited in the car he would have seen me come out of the house again [with a tissue]. He just jumped out of the car” and began writing the ticket, she said.