The ancient Mongolian Emperor Kublai Khan owned 5,000 mastiffs, dogs that weigh between 100 and 130 pounds. It's a good thing there were no dog poop laws on the books in Mongolia in the 1200s. Picking up the poop of 5,000 mastiffs would have kept him quite busy.
How It All Began
new-york city image by Pierre-Emmanue Bayart from Fotolia.com
It began in 1971 in New Jersey when a Great Dane living in the little town of Nutley kept doing his business on the pristine lawns of the neighborhood while being walked. When a Great Dane poos, people take notice. So the people of the town got together and passed the first pooper-scooper law. One city official reported, "We got calls from people all over the world; they told us it was the greatest thing since the Emancipation Proclamation." Indeed, many cities, including New York City, quickly followed suit.
New York City
In his book New York's Poop Scoop Law: Dogs, the Dirt and Due Process (yes, there's a book!), author Michael Brandow describes how getting the poop scoop law passed in New York City was difficult. He writes, "It's hard to imagine: 8 million people stepping into dog crap -- and no one could agree on what to do." But eventually Mayor Ed Koch managed to get New Yorkers to begrudgingly agree to pick up Fido's feces. The law is enforced by authorized employees of New York City’s departments of health, sanitation or Parks and Recreation and punishable by a $50 fine for the first offense as of 2012.
Do We Have To?
Yes, please. To scoop the poop demonstrates good citizenship, responsible pet stewardship and concern for the environment. When people ignore dog poop laws, doggy-doo ends up in lakes, rivers and streams, where it elevates bacteria levels, making swimming dangerous and sickening wildlife. Insects carry bacteria from feces: another good reason to poop scoop. Here's one more: When it rains, dog droppings wash into other people's lawns, where children play people gather and garden, and other dogs come in contact with it. Picking up after your pet can be icky if your dog's movements aren't firm, but the consequences of not doing so are worse.
Even the President?
President Obama dutifully picks up after his dog. He told a television interviewer, "We go out and we're walking and I'm picking up poop, and in the background is the beautifully lit White House. It's quite a moment."
Yes, even the president of the United States must pick up after the first dog. As the law in Washington, D.C., dictates, "No person ... having custody of a dog, except a Seeing Eye dog, shall allow or permit the dog to defecate ... or ... permit the dog’s excrement to remain on private property without the consent of the owner or occupant of the property." Including the White House.
- New York's Poop Scoop Law: Dogs, The Dirt and Due Process; Michael Brandow
- Dog Law: New York City’s Dog Poop Scoop Law
- L.A. Times: The Poop on White House Dog Bo
- D.C. Bar Association: Pets and Community Housing
- University of Wisconsin: Pet Waste and Water Quality
- Planet Dog, A Doglopedia, Sandra and Harry Choran
Michelle A. Rivera is the author of many books and articles. She attended the University of Missouri Animal Cruelty School and is certified with the Florida Animal Control Association. She is the executive director of her own nonprofit, Animals 101, Inc. Rivera is an animal-assisted therapist, humane educator, former shelter manager, rescue volunteer coordinator, dog trainer and veterinary technician.