While there aren’t any federal laws concerning dogs, each state and locality can issue their own laws and penalties. Dogs may be “man’s best friend” and a delightful sight, but if owners are negligent, dogs can also be quite a public nuisance. For instance, owners who fail to pick up after their pets contribute to the spread of disease and create an undesirable walking environment. Dog poop can carry tapeworm, salmonella, and E. coli, diseases that might not be a direct harm to humans, but that can easily spread to other animals. Not to mention that rainwater washes the waste into drains, therefore requiring more sanitation efforts and potentially lowering the quality of water. Therefore, it is crucial that dog owners heed dog poop and leash laws.
Protect sanitary areas like hospitals and restaurants with this “No Dogs Allowed Sign”
In New York City, for example, estimates show that there are about 2 million dogs. With just over 8 million human inhabitants, this would mean that roughly 25% are dog owners (assuming of course that no one owns more than one dog). Consider, then, that according to Citizens Committee for NYC, these dogs produce around 275,000 tons of feces per year. That’s 275 pounds per dog. Consequently, NYC streets are like a minefield littered with dog poop. Many a careless pedestrian will notice a funky smell emanating from their feet and only realize they’ve stepped in poop once they tread across the living room carpet. After receiving many complaints, NYC officials took action and passed a statute in 1978 called the Canine Waste Law, threatening a fine for up to $250 for each violation. The code also prohibits dog owners from allowing their pets to poop “on a sidewalk of any public place, on a floor, wall, stairway or roof of any public or private premises used by the public, or on a fence, wall or stairway of a building abutting a public place.” Violators failing to scoop their dog’s poop can be ticketed by authorized employees of NYC’s Departments of Health, Sanitation, or Parks and Recreation.
Deter negligent pet owners by threatening a hefty fine if they fail to pick up pet waste.
In most European cities, there are no laws or penalties for pet owners who do not pick up after their dogs. Instead, the responsibility to clean up dog poop is left to city-employed street sweepers. To some dog owners, picking up dog poop is anathema. Despite the invention of convenient “pooper scoopers” in the late 1960’s by Brooke Miller, which distanced the owner from the poop, owners are still reluctant. Just recently, the internet company Terra, tried to incentivize pet owners at public parks in Mexico City, by putting waste into a special container that measures the weight of the poop. The reward: the container doubles as a Wi-Fi router and emits a certain number of free minutes for every pound of feces collected.
Early pooper scooper model circa 1983.
Cities and private property owners have also erected dog poop signs such as “no dogs allowed” or “pick up after your pet.” Parks and private clubs can erect so-called designer dog poop signs that are a bit classier and attractive than the plain municipal ones.
Private property owners can post these classy signs to maintain cleanliness.
Since not all dogs are gentle creatures, some states mandate that owners leash or muzzle pets that are known to be dangerous. This is especially important in cases of rabid dogs. In Michigan, it is unlawful for an owner to allow a dog “to stray unless held properly in leash” and female dogs in heat must be kept either at home or restrained on a leash. In Pennsylvania, any person can kill a dog in the act of pursuing or hurting any domestic animal or human being and not be liable for damages. Any person that has been attacked by a dog can file a complaint to have the dog registered as “dangerous.” In fact, owners of a dangerous dog must not only leash and muzzle their dog, but also take out a $50,000 insurance policy for damages. Many states therefore require leashes in parks and other protected areas, such as wildlife reserves or public places.
Alert pet owners to leash their pets in public areas
A hybrid sign warning owners to both leash and pick up after their pets.
Maintaining a clean and healthy environment, whether public or private, is important to maintaining general well-being and commercial traffic. Improving the way dog owners handle their pets and pet waste is a significant step in the right direction.