Heights History (A Slight Return): Brooklyn Heights Dog Poop War of 1972

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 (he’s seen here with his noise abatement truck, another project) 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. Aside from his career in politics, Jerome Kretchmer went on to become one of NYC’s most successful restaurateurs and real estate developers investing in several eateries including Bolo and JUdson Grill. Nancy Wolf is still a member of the Brooklyn Heights Association.

This piece originally ran on BHB in December 2008.

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  • TMS

    Dog poop should be cleaned up, period. No one wants to step in it. It can carry diseases as well. Lately, watching dogs pee all over the sidewalk makes my stomach turn. But here’s my question: why can dogs pee all over the street and not people? What’s the difference, really? Urine is sterile and when you gotta go, you gotta go.
    PS I normally post about public schools, useless luxury coops and overcrowding, but poop is another hot topic for me. :)

  • Heights Observer

    TMS: I am a dog owner who ALWAYS cleans up after my dog. Always. There is no excuse not to. I don’t think I want to step in it as much as anyone, but honestly what can one do about urine. As long as the dog owner makes sure their dog avoids trees or shrubs or private property there is nothing that can be done. If it makes your stomach turn, don’t look. Dogs are not going to be outlawed.

  • TMS

    Maybe they can wear dog diapers? It’s disgusting stepping in hot steamy bubbly pee when the deed is done. Oh, and thank you for cleaning up the poop, I wish everyone did!

  • Rocky Raccoon

    When was the last time a dog owner got a ticket for not “picking-up”?

  • http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UlsiLOnWCoI Arch Stanton

    Simple solution: Watch where the f you are walking. There are many other objectionable things one can tread upon on NYC streets, garbage vomit, blood, carcasses, syringes, broken glass and human excrement, to name a few.

  • Heights Observer

    Dog diapers? Are you serious? Forgive me, but that is a very stupid suggestion and even you must be aware that it is certainly not a viable or realistic solution. Funny, I never seem to step in dog urine, but I see more garbage than anything else on the streets.

  • Heights Observer

    Ask a cop.

  • Bloomy

    About the same time the last car got ticketed for speeding in the city.

  • Rocky Raccoon

    Cops don’t ticket dog poopers. That is the Sanitation Dept’s job.

  • TMS

    They sell dog diapers, so it’s not that stupid. Think about it…babies go in diapers, cats go in boxes, little dogs go on pads…why can’t people who don’t want to pick up poop simply diaper their dogs? One example attached and linked to, but just google dog diaper and you can see all the available options.


  • TMS

    How can I maintain my good posture if I am always looking down?

  • Heights Observer

    That’s funny, A cop once trailed me to make sure I cleaned up after my dog and I’m sure he wasn’t doing it for fun. As soon as the dog went and I cleaned up – off he went.
    The DOS is the primary enforcer perhaps, but in reality police can ticket you for the offense just the same.

  • Heights Observer

    I stick by my original post. Your diaper suggestion is a stupid and not a viable solution. The dogs are not incontinent. Watch where you walk and you’ll be fine. Just how delicate are you? And you live in NYC?

  • Heights Observer

    Re the above: not talking about poop – just urine and I am afraid it’s less offensive than the average overflowing litter basket or restaurant refuse falling out of their bags in the summer!

  • Curmudgeon

    Do exercises at home. Geez, I’d worry more about the syringes etc.than the dog wee. There’s lots to concern us in this city and dog we is pretty low on the list.

  • Heights_Neighbor

    But, mostly it’s dog sh*t, 90% of the time. Can’t remember the last time I stepped on a syringe, lol!

  • Earl_of_Clinton

    Forget about the dog poop, can we please resurrect the noise abatement?

  • Rocky Raccoon

    Maybe he wanted to ask you out for a date. But, found someone else more interesting.

  • BrooklynBird

    Worst. Idea. Ever.

  • TMS

    Never seen a syringe. Have stepped in dog poop and pee despite my vigilance. I have two words to say, and I say them loud and clear: DOGGIE DIAPERS. In fact, I think it’s such a good idea I may start lobbying for it. Thanks for the inspiration!

  • Ann B Chapin

    In addition, another problem is where the dog poop is disposed of after it has been picked up by those “responsible” dog owners? I live on a dead end street which is a haven for dog walking! I have witnessed many times that the poop is placed in the nearest garbage can, all privately owned, leaving the owner of that can to “deal with it”!
    Also they all seem to love to have the dogs sniffing and also peeing in front of our homes. Talk about stepping in urine as you leave your front door.
    Responsible behavior?

  • BrooklynLifer

    Those moments when things are about to go 180 are fascinating. Some behaviors – smoking in restaurants, dogs pooping without owner clean-up, seat belts – have historically been ok – or tolerated. Then the tide turns – the funniest people are the ones pathetically defending the indefensible (today the NRA). Change is hard!

  • Heights Observer

    Obviously, dog poop is more common than syringes, but you’re a jerk if you advocate diapers for dogs because of wee. Most dog owners do clean up after their dog. Get a better cause than dog diapers because it is obvious that you simply hate dogs.

    You started this whole thing wondering why dogs can pee on the street and people can’t. Is that something you seek to do? Perhaps that is the thing you can advocate and, if it fails, maybe YOU can wear the diaper!

  • Heights Observer

    That’s an intelligent response. Again, a cop is empowered to give a ticket for that kind of offense.

  • Rocky Raccoon

    Let’s ask the Willowtown Cop poster. Can/do cops write tickets for dogs soiling the sidewalks?