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Madison Square Park

The Daily Plant : Monday, June 7, 2004


It’s probably the least fun part about owning a pooch, but it’s got to be done. Cleaning up after man’s best friend is absolutely necessary to ensuring that New York City stays clean. And while it may seem like second nature today, just 25 years ago hardly anyone—not even the New York City Mayor—thought people would ever obey a law requiring dog owners to pick up after their pets. On Wednesday, June 2, 2004, former New York City Mayor Edward I. Koch, Department of Sanitation Commissioner John Doherty, Parks & Recreation Commissioner Adrian Benepe, New York State Supreme Court Justice Edward H. Lehner and members of the Friends of Jemmy’s Dog Run joined in Madison Square Park to recognize the 25th year of the Canine Waste Law, commonly referred to as the "pooper-scooper law."

"If you’ve ever stepped in dog doo, you know how important it is to enforce the canine waste law," said Mr. Koch. "New Yorkers overwhelmingly do their duty and self-enforce. Those who don’t are not fit to call friend."

The legislation, first introduced by then-Assembly Member Lehner and former State Senator Franz Leichter, went into effect in August 1978. The Canine Waste Law, (Section 1310 of the New York State Public Health Code), in effect across New York State and calls for the "Removal of canine wastes in cities with a population of four hundred thousand or more persons." Lehner, who now serves as a Supreme Court Judge for New York State, explained that when community members approached him in the mid-seventies regarding such legislation, he thought it was a job for the City Council. But, he explained, the council wasn’t interested in passing such a bill. So, he and Senator Leichter co-sponsored the bill in Albany. Although it wasn’t easy to convince their colleagues, they managed to pass the legislation.

"In the twenty-five years since we passed that law, I have never stepped in it," said Justice Lehner. "It has become a law, not only in large cities, but in many smaller cities worldwide."

"I’m happy the law has worked as well as it has," said Mr. Leichter (who couldn’t attend the ceremony) but phoned in from travels abroad. "New York City is a lot cleaner because of it."

"The Sanitation Department enforcement unit has carefully trained officers out on the streets every day looking for violators of the city’s very successful ‘pooper-scooper law,’" said Commissioner Doherty. "The officers are on duty to make sure that New Yorkers and visitors can enjoy the city’s streets, which are now the cleanest they’ve been in the last 30 years." In the past year, the Department of Sanitation’s enforcement wrote 644 summonses for those in violation of the canine waste law.

"The ‘pooper-scooper law’ is as important in our parks and public spaces today as it was twenty-five years ago," said Commissioner Benepe. "From the over three dozen dog runs in parks across the city to park paths to sidewalks, it’s important that New Yorkers make it their business to take care of their dogs’ business."

It’s true: the City is a lot cleaner—and better smelling—because of the law, and New York was the first major American city to have such a law. Since then, of course, the rest of the world has followed. San Francisco, Boston, Dallas, Houston, Palm Springs, Stamford, and other cities across the country—and abroad—have adopted similar legislation.

Asked at the event if he’d ever tried picking up after a dog, Koch explained that he’d never gotten a dog for that reason. But, he said, he’s been thinking lately about getting a dog. "A small dog," he added.

Written by Eric Adolfsen



"The essential is to excite the spectators. If that means playing Hamlet on a flying trapeze or in an aquarium, you do it."

Orson Welles


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