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April 20, 2014

Bee Investigator: On dropping leaves and barking dogs in Modesto

Why are the La Loma area’s big trees losing their leaves at this time of year and what are the rules for how many dogs are too many? Bee readers want to know.

With large Easter and Passover meals just behind us, we’ll keep this week’s column quick and light, easy to digest.

We have two questions – one about trees (an always popular topic), and the other on dogs.

Mary Kiskinen of Modesto asks about falling leaves in her neighborhood: “Can you find out what is up with the La Loma area big trees? They are losing lots of their new leaves.”

This is a “common occurrence,” said Steve Lumpkin, acting director for Modesto’s Parks, Recreation and Neighborhoods Department. Blame it on anthracnose, a fungus that especially hits the Modesto ash.

“It happens when rain falls on new, developing leaves,” Lumpkin said. “It happens in the whole Central Valley when we have warm, moist weather in the spring. It doesn’t have any long-term impact, except for maybe some extra cleanup work for the homeowner. There’s no way to avoid it.”

Actually, it’s a bit of a boon for the city crews who get a few extra weeks to tackle that pesky mistletoe problem that also likes to target Modesto ash trees. When the leaves drop, the crews can continue to work on removing the mistletoe because it is more visible, Lumpkin said. Occasionally, he added, the fungus will hit twice if the spring rains continue. Of course, if March and April had been dry, the leaves wouldn’t be falling. But I’d rather have the rain and falling leaves, wouldn’t you?

The trees leaf out again, so the shade is back before those scorching 100-plus Fahrenheit days hit each summer.

Arlene Kennedy of Modesto has a canine concern:

“I am a dog lover, but my neighbor that borders my backyard fence has three to five dogs,” she said. “My problem is that these dogs bark and jump on my fence as though they want to attack me when I am doing yard work. I find that scary. I do not know whether the fence boards will withstand their attack.

“I think I read some time ago in The Bee that there is a Modesto ordinance that limits the number of dogs a residence can have. I have no problem talking to the neighbor, but I want to back up my fears with some legal authority. He may not be aware there is an ordinance if, in fact, there is one. Can you give me some insight?”

Sure thing. Annette Patton, executive director of the Stanislaus Animal Services Agency, said the number of pets you can keep depends on your city of residence. For example, Modestans are limited to two dogs and three cats, while Patterson and Ceres residents can have four dogs and Hughson folks can keep three canines.

So Arlene can gently remind her neighbor that he’s breaking the city code by keeping so many mutts out back.

But she may want to reinforce that fence because when the neighbor gets rid of the extras, the remaining two dogs will probably still keep jumping on her fence when she’s gardening. Sorry.

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