Is it legal to put dog poop in a neighbor's trash can in Portland, OR?
June 3, 2015 10:27 PM   Subscribe

Is it legal (or lawful... I don't understand the difference) to put bagged dog poop in a neighbor's trash can in Portland, Oregon. Assume you're walking your dog, you've got a bag of poop, the can is at the curb: is it okay to put the poop in the can? Does it matter if it is the scheduled trash collection day?

For the purposes of this question, I'm not interested in ethics or courtesy or neighborliness, just law.

I know you are not a lawyer, or my lawyer, or a particularly good lawyer. It's cool, man.

Extra points if you can cite pertinent laws in your answer. (And you want the extra points... you're super close to leveling up.)
posted by thinman to Law & Government (8 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
From the City of Portland: Illegal Dumping:
Putting bagged garbage into, or next to, someone's else garbage can that has been set out on their pickup day.
I don't have an actual legal citation (and it wouldn't be the first time a city has made up a law that doesn't exist), but I'll search around to try to get the points.
posted by zachlipton at 10:42 PM on June 3, 2015 [4 favorites]

Well I found Multnomah County Code 21.702 (PDF), which is relevant but a bit vague:
No person, firm or corporation shall throw or place or direct another person, firm or corporation to throw or place, other than in receptacles provided therefor, upon the private land or waters of another person, firm or corporation without the permission of the owner, or upon public lands or waters, or upon any public place, any rubbish, trash, garbage, debris or other refuse or recyclable material.
Conceivably, you could argue that someone else's can counts as a "receptacle provider therefor," but that doesn't seem like a great argument to me, since the can is there to hold their own garbage rather than something provided for your dog poop. Interpreting statues is something a lawyer does though, and I'm not one of those.

In any case, the local government seems to think that it's illegal based on their website. If you're truly interested in getting to the bottom of this, I'd write them and ask them to clarify that statement.
posted by zachlipton at 11:05 PM on June 3, 2015 [4 favorites]

Finally, Oregon state law says (ORS 164.805):
1. A person commits the crime of offensive littering if the person creates an objectionable stench or degrades the beauty or appearance of property or detracts from the natural cleanliness or safety of property by intentionally:
(a) Discarding or depositing any rubbish, trash, garbage, debris or other refuse upon the land of another without permission of the owner, or upon any public way or in or upon any public transportation facility;
posted by zachlipton at 11:10 PM on June 3, 2015 [3 favorites]

And that should read "statutes," not "statues..."
posted by zachlipton at 1:54 AM on June 4, 2015 [1 favorite]

In Australia I've heard it referred to as a "theft of service".
posted by taff at 4:03 AM on June 4, 2015

This exact topic inspired the longest-running, most passionate and vitriolic discussion on my neighborhood's Facebook discussion page (not Portland.) Since you're looking for strictly legal info I surmise it's a hot topic in your local area too. I don't recall what the municipal statutes were in our case, so I ask the mods' forgiveness for the non-helpful non-answer--but I can also tell you that nobody seemed to be particularly swayed by invoking legality, either.
posted by Sublimity at 5:50 AM on June 4, 2015 [1 favorite]

I've lived in places where property owners pay for trash collection directly to the trash company.
I've lived in places where the town pays for trash collection through property taxes.
I've lived in places where you had to buy special trash bags at a ridiculous cost per bag or else the trash collection wouldn't pick it up.

In any case, someone (not you) is paying for that trash to be collected. taff's "theft of services" comment would seem to make sense in that context. zachlipton points out laws on the books in Portland making it illegal, though I don't know if they'd enforce it for a simple turd. I think this is more people who take their entire household trash, every week, and put it in a neighbor's trash can or in the dumpster behind a grocery store or something like that.

Personally, I likely would not care if someone else threw bagged dog poop in my trash can (provided the trash company hadn't just picked it up). But I can see how the points of view of others might differ. To be on the safe side, best to take it with you to a public place and throw it out there, or use a trash can on a city sidewalk.
posted by tckma at 8:53 AM on June 4, 2015 [2 favorites]

I realize I am going to lose points for this (insert shrinkingmario.wav), since you specifically asked us to ignore the ethics of the matter, but in the interest of completeness, I think it is important to reference this amazing AskMe from several years ago on just that topic.
posted by Rock Steady at 9:20 AM on June 4, 2015 [1 favorite]

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