2009-04-08 / Editorials

'Pooper-trators' Are Ultimate Party Poopers


Spring is finally here, and once again nature is painting our streets and parks with bright brushstrokes of green, red, yellow and pink hues. Even tough New Yorkers, used to getting around on foot regardless of the season, are welcoming the arrival of spring. City streets are once again overflowing with couples walking hand in hand, mothers pushing baby strollers and seniors enjoying milder temperatures.

But when contemplating the innocent joys and pleasures of a stroll around town, there's a threat that strikes fear into the heart of the most seasoned New Yorker: the Pooper-trator! For those unfamiliar with the term, "Pooper-trator" refers to that inconsiderate breed that doesn't bother to clean up after their dogs.

We all know their M.O. They walk their dog, and when the pooch gets the "call of nature", they stand by, trying to look casual- all the while carefully looking left and right, checking for possible witnesses. Even before their dog has finished its business, it's apparent they've decided not to bother to clean up, not caring if they turn streets, sidewalks and parkland into minefields where every step carries a potentially unpleasant surprise.

Pooper-trators are the city's ultimate party poopers, who can ruin a perfectly fine day…and a pair of shoes!

I'm proud to say we've made New York City the cleanest it's been in over three decades. However, no matter how much our dedicated Sanitation workers clean or merchants and residents sweep their sidewalks and pedestrians comply with Sanitation regulations, inconsiderate dog walkers can spoil a clean block by their blatant disregard for the law, turning their fellow New Yorkers' daily walks into an obstacle course.

With that in mind, last year the Sanitation Department redoubled its efforts and launched an extensive citywide campaign to encourage New Yorkers to comply with the "pooper scooper" law and pick up after their dogs. This year, we are teaming up with the Parks and Recreation Department in launching a coordinated "spring offensive'"aimed at catching pooper-trators and giving them $250 violations for their dirty deeds.

The "Pooper Scooper" law- officially known as Section 1310 of the New York State Public Health Code- became law in New York City on Aug. 1, 1978. With its enactment, the Big Apple became the first major American city requiring dog walkers to be responsible for picking up and disposing of their dogs' waste. Many other cities across the country- and around the globe- have followed suit with similar "pooper scooper" laws.

Here, enforcement agents for the Departments of Sanitation and Parks and Recreation are authorized to issue canine waste violations. With an increase in the size and scope of our specifically trained Canine Enforcement Task Force, in Fiscal Year 2008 our agents issued more than 900 notices of violation.

In addition, our ongoing outreach program urges New Yorkers to pick up after their dogs and educates them about the fact that canine waste is not only an unsightly nuisance, but can also pose health hazards when it's not cleaned up.

The bottom line is that- whether scofflaws choose to acknowledge it or not- failure to clean up after your dog is a violation of a state law and carries a newly increased fine of $250.

To report issues of canine waste in your area, call 311. We'll send our Canine Enforcement Agents there to try to catch these careless pooper-trators in the act!

It's time for all responsible dog walkers to clean up after their pets, and for all New Yorkers to reclaim their streets, sidewalks and parkland and the simple pleasure of long walks with no unpleasant surprises along the way, and most particularly, under foot!

John J. Doherty is Commissioner of the New York City Department of Sanitation.

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