The Miami Herald has lately been recognizing the importance of SouthBeach on its front page. It’s about time, for Miami would not be worth very much without SouthBeach, at least not in my sober SOBE opinion. Before McClatchy took over the Herald from Knight Ridder, the paper was more or less a trumpet for the power elite, especially real estate developers and their political hacks. About all the rag was otherwise good for was its TV guide and coupons, and to alert neighbors to the fact that one might be dead when papers piled up on the doorstep.
So we’ve got a better major daily now, but the Herald articles on SouthBeach, although deeply appreciated, still lack depth. Take for instance the Sunday (June 7, 2009) piece about Mr. Clucky, our iconic mascot (www.mrclucky.com), a rooster who is kept along with his mate, a black hen named Wallflower, in the closet of caretaker Mark Buckley’s Jefferson Avenue apartment. Apparently Mr. Clucky crowed one time too often, at as usual, just after SouthBeach revelers and their bartenders and other drug dealers retired for the day. As a consequence, a Code Compliance officer arrived at Mr. Buckley’s place and handed him a $50 ticket for living with a farm animal. He has 10 days to get rid of the rooster, or else. Or else nothing, except more fines and citations, which he won’t be arrested for, said Assistant City Manager Hilda Fernandez, if he doesn’t cough up – whether or not the rooster and hen will be taken by force has not been figured out yet.
Although your illegally parked car will be towed in nothing flat for a fat fee, the lack of stiff enforcement of certain city ordinances is certainly nothing new in the history of SouthBeach, notwithstanding Urban Week. A far greater nuisance than a single cock crowing at dawn is the tolerance of dogs crapping all over the neighborhood at all hours of day and night. So lax is enforcement that many residents have developed the habit of looking down while walking, not because they are depressed by the flagrant violation of the ordinance, but because they don’t want to step in a pile. Dog lovers used to at least curb their dogs, but our tolerant society has lately encouraged them to allow their dogs to crap directly on the sidewalk. Some sidewalks and curbs are worse than others – lazy dog owners do not even bother to take their dogs in front of another building, or at least into the alley in back of their own building, to answer Nature’s call.
The small apartment complex where I live has a fence around it. The landlord has allowed his tenants to turn our common yard into a kennel – he refuses to fix the lock on the back gate, so human animals come into the yard at night, on their way home from the clubs, to also relieve themselves. If a tenant complains about the piles of feces and streams of urine on their outside doors, or the open use of drugs on the premises, not to mention noise unto the wee hours, he is scorned by the landlord and neighbors, and called a “racist” or “crazy” or “nosy.” One neighbor, however, was apparently ratted out by someone unknown, and was then fooled by a ticket for keeping a mixed-breed pit bull. Thinking that he would have to pay fines and might be arrested and have his dog seized, he left the city.
It has gotten so bad that some of us have started referring to dogs as crapping machines. But it is not their fault. Their owners are to blame. The owners are from all walks of life – one affluent woman in my neighborhood allows her huge dog to crap regularly in the middle of the sidewalk right on a Washington Avenue corner – one block away, a rundown building is surrounded by feces left by three huge dogs kept on its lanais. We might blame the mess on so-called low-class or trashy culture, on the acquisition of bad habits. But habits, which are at first learned hence are dispositions that are the result of previous changes, can be changed. Negative reinforcement or punishment for offenses might do some good. Sociologists and cops will tell you that the great majority of people will routinely violate rules of behavior if they know they can get away with it because everybody else does; and if they can do wrong long enough, wrong feels right to them, so the law must be wrong, right?
Of course, one might reason, it would be too costly to post Compliance officers on every block, on dog-dodo stakeouts. In fact, several officers have been laid off due to budgetary concerns. Anyway, they have more important things to do. Well, then, let’s up the penalty to $1,000 and 30 days in jail, and outsource the task to trained dog watchers on every block, paying them $500 per ticket. Yes, if city officials were really responsible, if they really cared, they would find a way to solve the problem of our excremental SouthBeach culture: New York City found a way several years ago, and even made horses wear diapers.
As for Mr. Clucky, he should have a licensed public defender. Some of my Puerto Rican neighbors in New York kept live chickens in their kitchens, and for good reason. Anyone who complains about a cock crowing at should get a day job. The Herald quoted Brian Antoni, a longtime SouthBeach resident, as asking, “What’s next, cats?” Maybe Mr. Antoni has a dog, so dared not mention dogs. And why not ban dogs? Mind you that I like both dogs and humans hence I do not eat them – my father thought dogs ought to be canned and sent to Asia to feed the poor who do eat dog meat.
But let’s be fair! Why cannot we keep pigs in our apartments? Although pigs are naturally smarter than dogs and cleaner than many humans, they cannot be kept in our chic SOBE apartments as pets. Of course parrots can be kept – they have the intelligence of a 3- to 5-year-old child, and have the same tantrums absent constant attention, so frustrated parrot owners turn them loose to multiply into flocks and crap on us from above. And what about Brigitte Bardot’s cow, which she liked better than people, so kept it in her quarters? Why cannot animal lovers live with their cows? Shall there be no justice? Shall not even birds, although of different feather, be treated alike?
I have always believed that dogs should be kept in the country, on farms and ranches where they have plenty of room, and not cooped up in little rooms in the city. In other words, dogs should be “farm animals” in my opinion. If they are to be kept in the city, their owners, many of whom, alas, have no other friend than their dog, should have respect for their neighbors and pick up after them. Otherwise, they should be fined and jailed, and their dogs sent to the farm.