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.