Down and dirty
A story about fighting city hall over dog poop - and winning.
The trial waged by the State of Israel against Talila Yosefi and her 13-year-old dog Stacy ended in acquittal last week. The fine that was hovering over the owner's head, NIS 475, has been revoked after the Tel Aviv municipality failed to prove that the substance found in the park was the product of the dog's digestive system.
This story can also be read as an allegory for the way the local authorities try to take advantage of law-abiding citizens. "When I decided not to pay the fine and challenge it in court, everyone told me I was crazy," said Yosefi. "So there you have it: I really am an idiot, but wonder of wonders, I managed to beat city hall in court."
The story begins on June 19, 2011, at 8 P.M. While Stacy was romping in the park, two inspectors gave Yosefi a ticket for allowing her dog to poop on the lawn. Yosefi tried to explain to them that her dog could not have done her business there because "she had filled her daily quota" - in the words of the verdict handed down by Judge Guy Hyman of the Tel Aviv Magistrate's Court.
Yosefi put forth the argument that "it is possible that the dog [only] urinated, whether as a gesture to a dog that preceded her on the lawn or in an attempt to mark out for herself a little piece of God's acre in the public garden," as the verdict put it. To prove her innocence, "Yosefi quickly touched the pile in question, which she found to be cold," but the inspector refused to conduct a similar inspection.
A friend who frequents the park, attorney Raanan Ben-Tovim, came to Yosefi's aid and represented her pro bono. He submitted to the court an authorized document "detailing all the outings - of this kind and the other - of the dog in her communing with lawns, bushes and even a pole." Along with this list were included 35 photographs documenting the relevant activities.
The judge decided to acquit Yosefi on grounds of reasonable doubt. The municipality, so it seems, picked the wrong victim in this case.
"I'm a very environmentally conscious person. When I take out the trash and see a plastic bottle in the garbage can, I remove it. I care terribly about environmental things," Yosefi said.
So what is the moral of the story? Says Ben-Tovim: "You can fight city hall, but it costs a lot of money."
Yosefi adds: "The Tel Aviv municipality has to understand that if an inspector is asked to touch the poop and see that it's cold, he is obligated to do so. That's his job after all: He makes a living from the poop."
This tale has a sad postscript, however, one that adds a final twist to the story. Stacy was hit by a car and killed on Friday.