This is why average New Yorkers are both puzzled and outraged by the inconsiderate attitude of those who fail to pick up after their dogs, creating obstacles on our streets and sidewalks where every step carries a potentially unpleasant surprise. We all feel that those who fail to comply with the pooper-scooper law show a complete lack of respect for their neighbors and our communities.
The “Pooper Scooper” law became law in New York City on August 1, 1978. With its enactment, the Big Apple became the first major American city requiring dog walkers to be responsible for picking up and disposing of their dog’s waste. Many other cities across the country – and around the globe – have since followed suit with similar laws.
We all know the M.O. of those flouting the law. They walk their dog, and when the pooch gets the “call of nature,” they stand by trying to look casual - all the while carefully looking left and right, checking for possible witnesses. Even before their dog has finished its business, it’s apparent they’ve decided not to bother to clean up after it. They think that what they do is no big deal...unless they themselves step into another lawbreaker’s mess!
Sanitation’s enforcement agents have a very different view and consider failure to pick up after a dog a punishable violation of the law. And while selfish dog walkers react with some embarrassment when getting caught in the act by their neighbors, they always seem to mind when embarrassment turns into a fine.
The fact is that - whether scofflaws choose to acknowledge it or not - failure to clean up after your dog is a violation of a state law and carries a fine of $250.
I’m proud to say we’ve made New York City the cleanest it’s been in over three decades. However, no matter how much our dedicated Sanitation workers clean or merchants and residents sweep their sidewalks and pedestrians comply with Sanitation regulations, inconsiderate dog walkers can spoil a clean block, not to mention a pair of shoes, with their blatant disregard for the law.
With that in mind, the Sanitation Department’s ongoing citywide outreach and enforcement efforts aim at increasing compliance with the “pooper scooper” law and, when necessary, impose fines.
It’s time for all responsible dog walkers to make sure they clean up after their pets and keep them on a leash, and for all New Yorkers to reclaim their streets, sidewalks and parkland. The simple pleasure of long walks with no unpleasant surprises along the way, and most particularly under foot, must be preserved.
The bottom line is that canine waste is not only an unsightly nuisance, but it can also pose health hazards when it’s not cleaned up.
To report issues of canine waste in your area, call 311. We’ll send our Canine Enforcement Agents there to try to catch these inconsiderate lawbreakers in the act.
John J. Doherty is commissioner of the Department of Sanitation.