Dog poop laws

Updated April 17, 2017

If you've ever noticed an unpleasant odour and realised too late you'd been walking in the wrong place, you've probably been the victim of a dog poop assault. Canine faeces is difficult to clean off the bottom of shoes, spreads disease, and contributes to an undesirable walking environment. Although the U.S. has no federal law on the books, many states and local officials have created their own statutes. Remember to always pick up after your dog, and to research your particular state or city for local laws.

Local: NYC and Iowa City

New York City is home to many furry four-legged friends. However, the city has enacted city laws that prevent dogs from pooping wherever they please. The New York City Health Code Section 161.03 decrees that a pet owner must not allow his animal to defecate on a sidewalk, floor, wall, stairway or roof of any public or private place used by public. If your dog does poop and you don't scoop up the evidence immediately, you may be ticketed by a New York City Health, Parks and Recreation or sanitation department employee. Although large urban cities like NYC lead the way in dog poop laws, smaller cities have also followed suit. For example, Iowa City, Iowa, is a thriving college town with similar dog poop ordinances. An owner must immediately clean up after her animal or she's subject to a reprimand and fine. Many cities and towns, whether small or large, have enacted dog poop laws.

Statewide: Virginia and New Jersey

Many states have written dog-poop disposal laws into their constitutions. For example, Virginia's Consolidated Dog Laws decree that no animal is allowed to defecate in any part of public property without the owner of the animal immediately and sufficiently cleaning up the waste. Local governments in Virginia can look to this law and implement it in their own areas. Like many other states, New Jersey's laws cover similar territory. Its state Department of Health estimates that over 500,000 dogs reside in New Jersey, and that unmanaged pet waste contributes to pollution and can transmit disease. Therefore, New Jersey's consolidated dog laws require that an owner must immediately remove pet waste or be subject to a ticket and a fine.

Global: Why Clean Up?

Most European cities, such as Paris, France, don't have dog poop laws. Parisian pet owners aren't held responsible for cleaning up after their dogs, but instead, city employees frequently sweep the streets and scoop the poop.

The concept of individual pet owner responsibility—or lack thereof—can apparently carry a national slant. In his essay collection "Me Talk Pretty One Day," writer David Sedaris recalled a Parisian friend being utterly astounded by a photo of actress Jodie Foster carrying a bag of dog poop while on a walk with her pooch. However, if you live in a city that does not offer municipal dog-poop disposal services, common decency demands that you pick up after your animal. Although it may seem like a bother, properly managing your pet's waste contributes to a healthier and cleaner community—and it'll keep you and Fido on the right side of the law.

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About the Author

Katie Brennan is an award-winning freelance writer in Denver. She realized her passion for prose at age 12, when she published a non-fiction essay in a national book. Brennan has a Bachelor of Arts degree in journalism and English from the University of Iowa.