Heights History: Dogs Foul the Streets

On May 26, 1972 the New York Times wrote about a clash between residents of Brooklyn Heights that “threatend” the “serentiy and harmony” of the neighborhood.   The bone of contention – the use of “pooper scoopers” by dog owners.

The newspaper reported that about 80 “vociferously pro-dog” residents gathered at the War Memorial in Cadman Plaza Park to voice their displeasure over New York Environmental Protection Agency Commissioner Jerome Kretchmer’s proposed law requiring pet owners to clean up after their animals.  A fine of $25 would be doled out to anyone violating the statute.

Local pet store owner William Garner and his Dog Owners Guild of Brooklyn Heights organized the rally. “Kretchmer said in his office last week that he is not anti-dog, he is pro-people,” Garner said. “I read this to mean he is anti-pro-dog people.”

Also on hand was writer and animal advocate Cleveland Amory who charged that Kretchmer’s law was “a barefaced attempt to get rid of dogs in New York City.”

Another voice at the rally was Dog Owners Guild co-founder Robert Angus.  He expressed concern over the recommendation made by the Brooklyn Heights Association’s “Cleanliness Committee” that dog owners voluntarily use a pooper scooper.  Angus worried that this “anti-excrement” position would cause residents to become vigilantes and would heckle non-compliant dog owners.

Angus told his fellow dog owners, “If you get heckled… heckle back!”  He added that the Guild was against dogs doing their business on the sidewalk but felt that dog owners should not have to stoop into the gutter to pick up excrement.

Cleanliness Committe member Nancy Wolff addressed “the hostile crowd”.  She pointed out that Kretchmer’s law would only clarify existing rules on the books outlawing the deposit of “offensive animal matter” on city streets.  She added that the BHA had not taken a position on the Pooper Scooper Law, quoting Assemblyman Joseph Martuscello who called it “another one of [Kretchmer’s] zany ideas.”

New York City’s Pooper Scooper Law was passed in 1978.  Jerome Kretchmer went on to become one of NYC’s most successful restaurateurs investing in several eateries including Bolo and JUdson Grill.  Nancy Wolf is still a member of the Brooklyn Heights Association.

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  • Publius

    This “movement” (pardon the pun) was part of a larger City-wide controvery at the time. There’s a recently published book called New York’s Poop Scoop Law: Dogs, the Dirt, and Due Process, by Michael Brandow that discusses some of the personalities, thought processes, and legal actions. (Yes, they write books about anything)

    The New Yorker recently reviewed the book: http://www.newyorker.com/talk/2008/07/28/080728ta_talk_collins

    As a responsible dog owner, I’m pleased with the city’s poop scoop law, and am old enough to remember what the city’s streets were like before the law. No one likes to step in poop, and as part of my responsibilities as a dog owner, I’m more than pleased to pick up after my dog.

    Interesting that over the years the various pooper scooper contraptions never really caught on and the simple bag wrapped around the hand became the poop scoop tool of choice. Call me odd, but I value the daily interaction with my dog’s excrement–it’s a great window into the dog’s health.

    To the small percentage of fellow dog owners who willingly do not pick up after your dog:

    1) You’re incredibly rude to your neighbors and community.
    2) You’re breaking the law.
    3) You’re endangering your own dog and other dogs due to possible spread of disease.

    New York City was recently voted #1 Dog Friendly city in America, due to all the business services, off-leash opportunities (dog runs and designated off-leash areas in certain parks before 9am), and other amenitities that exist for dogs and their owners.

    With all these privledges comes responsibility. Always clean up after your dog.


  • GHB

    Publius, I absolutely agree with you. And you’re right about the poop being a good barometer on your dog’s health. It still amazes me how some people will still leave a huge, steaming pile of dookie right in the middle of the sidewalk! Oh well…

  • mopp

    There will be justice when dog owners have to mop up the urine with a paper towel.

    Until then, get your g-damn dogs away from my stoop.

    Disgusting people, all of you.

  • GHB

    Someone forgot their meds today

  • No One Of Consequence

    Thank you publius, but I somewhat agree with mopp that dog urine is equally offensive. Curbing your dog helps, but few bother.

  • Reality Dept.

    Let’s also make sure all those rats, birds, and squirrels running around deficating and urinating also curb themselves.

    Isn’t it annoying when nature intrudes into our lives?

  • Anonymous

    You forgot to include the 2 legged animals who sometimes pee where it fits them…

  • Reality Dept.


  • GHB

    Not to mention the “Boerum Hill Crapper”…

  • my2cents

    I think Publius is well spoken with his comments. But I must say I agree that dog urine is totally disgusting and i don’t understand why people think it is ok to let their dog piss on anything they please. To Anonymous, your post highlights the fact that generally people DON’T piss all over the place and that we view that as unacceptable behavior for anyone but dogs. So why do we accept dogs peeing on buildings, fences and other private property not to mention garbage bags that will have to be handled by hapless sanitation men?
    Lastly, I have seen dogs that were trained by their owners to poop on a piece of newspaper outside. The owner slips the paper down under the dog when it commences its business. Then the owner wraps up the poop and throws it away. This
    A) makes it so the owner never “holds” the poop in his/her hand
    B) uses biodegradable newspaper instead of a plastic (non-green) bag
    C) keeps the sidewalk clean! (what a thought!! Look ma, no sh*t smears!)
    Why don’t all dog owners adopt this approach? It is win-win!

  • No One Of Consequence

    Reality, there is a difference between wild animals and pets.

  • ABC

    I am proud of my dog who poos and pees in the curbed. And I always clean up.

    BUT dogs are animals and if there is a lot of pee on your stoop/tree/pile of leaves that you never swept up, he will think it’s his god-given duty to add a wee bit of his pee. I have to DRAG him away. I do, but most won’t. So do yourself a favor: hose down your stoop and rake up the leaves once in a while and you’ll be happier for it.

  • Annette

    My dogs lived (and still do) by the no-stoops/no-tires/no-flowers rule. My parents’ house gets pee’d on – in the summer, it’s suffocatingly disgusting – I don’t allow my dogs to do stuff like that, ever.

  • http://selfabsorbedboomer.blogspot.com Claude Scales

    Hi, Annette. Greetings of the season. Liz still misses Kaylia.

  • Anonymous

    Good point about the newspaper. However, not everyone reads the news on paper but online. There are bio degradable poop bags available in the pet stores.