Pet Owners: Clean Up After Your Dog

Danger on the sidewalks of Philadelphia

Former zoning board chairman David Auspitz once told me that one of his favorite things to do in Philadelphia was to stroll the city streets and soak up the architecture, beyond eye level. “Everyone walks around with their heads down,” he said. “No one looks up!” What I’ve come to learn in more than a decade of living downtown is that keeping eyes on the ground isn’t really the product of urban hustle and bustle, or a reflection of our demure Quaker roots. If you’re not paying more attention to the sidewalk than the sky, chances are you’ll end up with a shoe full of dog poop.

I am not a pet owner. I’m also not a pet hater. I like dogs, but not enough to plan my daily schedule around their defecations. In Center City, sometimes it seems like I’m the only person without one. Labradoodles in the park. Bulldogs on the sidewalk. The crazy lady who walks six yippy little pups through my alley every day. Except for the people who think it’s adorable when their mutts lick your leg or try to sniff the crotch of a complete stranger, I’m cool with pet people. But then there are the lowest forms of life, human or animal—the degenerates who don’t clean up after their dogs.

Granted, this issue probably isn’t even on Occupy Philadelphia’s radar (if there is anything that someone in those tents doesn’t oppose). But the white-hot rage I feel while scraping dog turds from the treads of my sneakers with a Q-Tip is unparalleled. Dog shit is everywhere these days, it seems. Yet for all the canine landmines I’ve seen (or stepped in), I’ve never actually witnessed someone who’s walked away after his or her pooch popped a squat. It makes me think there is really only a handful of people in the entire city who behave like this; they just do it intentionally and very well. Maybe these dog-shit saboteurs have a schedule, rotating from neighborhood to neighborhood and block to block to avoid capture. I’m not a gun owner or a member of the NRA, but I’d endorse a law allowing anyone caught leaving a pile in public to be shot on sight. Not in a vital area, of course. A thigh shot would send the perfect message: “I’m not trying to kill you, but I am rather upset about your lack of responsibility for your Pomeranian’s feces.”

Neighbors of mine have even resorted to posting signs clarifying that their flower beds and gardens are not moonlighting as doggie toilets. Maybe that’s why I saw an actual load of crap just a few feet from the front door of my apartment building; these delinquent dog owners seem to be running out of grassy patches to unload their stinkpiles. Then there’s the occasional baggie of poop left to collect flies on the sidewalk. That logic confounds me. You just scraped excrement off the pavement, but couldn’t bear to carry it to a trash can? I doubt I’ll get the chance to ask one of these derelict dog-walkers to explain themselves, given their elusive nature. But thanks to them, I’d rather miss out on the wonders of the city skyline and keep my head down—and my shoes clean.