How ‘Undercover’ Sanitation Agents Will Sniff Out People Who Don’t Pick Up Dog Poop

By Lisa Kava

Pooper-trators look out! An undercover Sanitation Department agent may be watching you.

In order to fine someone for not picking up after their dog, an enforcement agent has to catch them in the act, and that often means staking out a block that’s a suspected “dumping ground.” Any offender who is caught not removing dog waste will be issued a $250 summons for violation of the pooper-scooper law.

Failure to scoop poop is a frequently heard complaint on the Upper West Side — complaints to 311 about it spiked 180% during a six-month period that was tracked last year — and the issue came up at a “quality of life” meeting last month in Manhattan Valley. A Sanitation Department rep explained how they send out “undercover enforcement agents on the prowl for dog owners who do not clean-up after their dogs,” a meeting attendee said.

Here’s how it works, according to a spokesperson for the Department of Sanitation. Any resident may call 311 to file a complaint and report a dog owner failing to pick up waste. Once the Enforcement Division of the Sanitation Department receives a complaint from 311, a Sanitation Enforcement Agent is sent to the location of the complaint during the times specified in the complaint to investigate the situation.

In addition to looking for the person who was reported, the agents also investigate other dog owners who may be violating the K-09 law. “Most of the investigations are done for three days on different shifts,” the spokesperson said. “Sanitation will also send its enforcement agents to [the block] as a main concentration but the agents also patrol the immediate area. Sanitation has found that most 311 complaints for failure to remove canine waste occur before and after people go to work. Unless there is a specific time frame in the 311 complaint, enforcement agents generally spend up to two hours in the morning and 2 hours in the evening patrolling.”

In fiscal 2016, the Sanitation Department wrote 21 summons in Manhattan for violation of the K-09 Pooper Scooper Law, according to the spokesperson. She did not provide information as to how many of these were issued on the Upper West Side or how many have been written in 2017.

In fact, she didn’t want to release many details at all. “I prefer not to comment on the Department of Sanitation’s undercover enforcement agents who patrol for dog owners breaking the law.”

So pick up after your dog! You never know who may be watching!

ABSURDITY, NEWS | 83 comments | permalink
    1. Maryann says:

      YES! Best news I’ve read all day.

    2. Roger S. says:

      As an UWS dog owner, I really have a problem with others who use those long retractable leashes and give their dogs 12′ of leash, blocking even the widest sidewalks!

      • Oliva Bluss says:

        I totally agree! My children cannot ride their bicycles safely on the sidewalks due to those long retractable leashes! That and the old people walking slowly in the way.

        • Ellie says:

          Really? Old people walking too slowly annoy you? Blocking the side walk? Have you no shame? Move to the suburbs. No one is on the sidewalks there.

        • Younger Than Springtime says:

          Re “That and the old people walking slowly in the way.”

          Well! The ‘noive’ of them “old people” for getting in the way of your chilluns!

          Them “alta-kokkas” should all be taken off the streets and returned to their assisted-living hovels so that the public sidewalks can serve as a Tour de France for your kids on training bikes.

        • Toni Stanley says:

          Really? Well I hate to tell you that it is ILLEGAL for your children to ride their bikes or skateboards on the sidewalks!

        • EricaC says:

          Surely Olivia is being sarcastic. Kids riding tricycles on the street are at LEAST as much of an impediment as the leashes (and old people).

          But I do agree. I believe I read that leases are not allowed to exceed 6’ in length; those leases frequently exceed that length. And some owners so frequently do not pay attention that I worry that their dogs and mine will get into conflict.

          • Independent says:

            “I believe I read that leases are not allowed to exceed 6’ in length”

            Must be a really old law from back in the days of parchment…

      • geoff says:

        i have even seen customers in Fairway with dogs on retractable leashes extended to at least 6′. when i see any dog i go to the manager. are dogs allowed inside stores that sell food?

        • B.B. says:

          That is something which bothers me no end.

          Despite signs clearly posted at doors of every supermarket, shop that sells food, convenience store, etc… that per DOH regulations dogs are *NOT allowed (except things like seeing eye or certain service), people in great numbers ignore and waltz right in with Fido.

          This sense of self entitlement by dog owners must be brought to heel. I’m sorry but they are not their owner’s “baby” or “child”. If someone cannot handle being separated from their dog even to go grocery shopping, then there is a wealth of online choices.

      • JA, UWS says:

        Amen Roger. Those extender leashes are not just inconsiderate but dangerous. I keep my dogs on 4-ft. leashes and reel them in on crowded sidewalks. I hope the leash law is enforced along with the pickup law.

      • Laura says:

        Agreed. I once had a woman scream at me when I almost ran into her dog’s retractable leash on the bike path. She felt I was at fault even though she was on her cell phone and paying no attention to her dog, who had walked away from her across the bike path, blocking everyone’s way.

    3. OriginalMark says:

      As a dog owner, I’m kind of annoyed at the last sentence. We should be picking up poop not because someone might be watching, but because it’s simply the right thing to do.

    4. K. Hohllenbach says:

      This is a fine incentive which should improve our quality of life. Even more than this, though, I’d like to see stepped up enforcement of the provision that all dogs must be leashed. On RSD we encounter owners with off-leash dogs about three times per week, and even when approached politely, these people are rarely gracious. We are sensitized to this issue since having been attacked by an off-leash dog several months ago.

    5. GG says:

      My dreams have been answered!!! Not a minute too soon.

      I was about to start citizens arresting people for leaving their messes all over the UWS. I still might so be careful out there all of you inconsiderate dog owners. And seriously, you don’t need a dog in the city and they don’t want to be here.

      Next time, get a cat!:)

      • JA, UWS says:

        GG, while you are entitled to your opinion, how do you know where dogs want to live. My dog has a great life in the city. She romps in Central Park before 9AM and after 9PM, has access to several dog runs, meets countless people and other dogs each day, gets tons of attention, and is arguably healthier than suburban and rural dogs — I am with her all but a few hours a week. I know what she eats and how it comes out the other end. The last time I asked her she told me she loves living in the city.

        • GG says:

          Wow, you sound like a really awesome dog owner….and person in general. Your dog is very lucky to have you.

          I wish you were the rule as opposed to the exception. Keep up the good work though.

          Oh and by the way, will you adopt me?:)

    6. JWL says:

      21 summonses (note the correct spelling of the plural) in one year? That is less than 1/week for all of Manhattan. I wonder how many agents we’re paying to write those $5,250 (assuming they all stick at $250 each) worth of tickets. Imagine how much time and cost goes into the 311 complaints and add that on too. I bet it costs $15/call. I have been simmering about the seeming increase is poop on the sidewalk over the past several years. Now, it makes sense. This is truly pathetic. Ed Koch (under whose administration the pooper scooper law was enacted – and vigorously enforced) has got to be rolling in his grave, which will likely be covered soon with you-know-what. Oy. Veh.

      • JWL says:

        Correction: That’s less than one summons every _two_ weeks. Holy S___! That is some weak, weak, weak enforcement.

    7. Juan says:

      I admire the spirit of this plan, but I’m not sure if this is the best use of my tax dollars. I often find that if you see someone who seems to be avoiding cleaning up, they will often clean up if you give them a dirty look – I think most violators primarily do so if there is no one around. So I’m not sure if these enforcement agents will catch many people, but perhaps their presence will get more people to clean up.

      One suggestion is to perhaps authorize others like traffic cops, garbage men, etc. to hand out these tickets, since they are often the eyes and ears of neighborhoods.

    8. Wendy says:

      If they devoted 1/4 as many agents to this as there are parking brownies, the problem would go away. 21 citations in a year across the city? It is absurd.

      • EricaC says:

        I wonder why, at least during the day, the parking enforcers couldn’t also enforce this. They’re out, on the street, walking around – they would actually be well suited to the purpose.

        • Independent says:

          I suspect the unions might object to such streamlining of labor.

        • B.B. says:

          Parking enforcement agents are just that; they have no powers beyond issuing standing violations, directing traffic and so forth.

          Years ago “meter maids” also known as “Brownies” because of their uniform were separate from NYPD. However despite their merger into the police force, they have no authority to issue moving violation tickets, issue summons or whatever. Indeed if such an officer gets into “trouble” they have to call NYPD for back-up. They don’t even carry handcuffs IIRC.

          Sanitation police OTOH are another matter.

    9. Roger Bilco says:

      The city makes over $500M a year on $80’ish parking tickets, but somehow, charging 3x that for not picking up after your dog is only worth 21 tickets in a year? Given how many poop-a-trators there are on the UWS giving us lawful dog owners a bad name, seems a bit too lucrative to pass up.

    10. uwsmom says:

      What’s the fine for having your dog urinate on a kids playground? I saw this the other day in Riverside Park. The dog owner did not have any kids with him yet decided to walk his dog through the playground and then the dog urinated against one of the trees on the playground. I was too far away to say something right away and when I walked over he left quickly. I love dogs but I am always amazed by what some dog owners think is acceptable.

      • DIANA says:

        I guess you want birds and squirrels that urinate (and poop) banned from the playground too. Seriously, you’re upset about urine on a tree? How many men and young boys have I seen urinate on a tree? …or on a wall?
        btw, I ALWAYS pick up after my dog. It’s the right thing to do.

    11. MH says:

      Amazing. Hope they put people in the park too for the dogs who run off leash past the signs that say “Dogs on leash at all times”

      • Hudson says:

        The off leash dog issue is the biggest problem I think if we’re talking about anything dog related on the UWS. I’m going to start bringing pepper spray with me after the number of times my dog and I have been attacked by off leash untrained horrible dogs.

    12. Lois Rooks says:

      The block on 84th St. Between 1st and York and the block between
      York and East End on 72nd St. are major offenders.

    13. Jason says:

      Well done DOS!! It’s about time. It’s hardly the crime of the century but these few bad ones (hardly even close to the majority of dog owners) need to learn a lesson.

    14. JP says:

      seriously, they need to be fined!! i live on 85th street near central park west and there is always poop everywhere!! It must be a big dog because this poop is huge! I’m going to find you and make you pick it up next time…

    15. Smithe says:

      Once again we have to mold society and law enforcement to accommodate behavior that defies even the most basic rules of civility.

    16. Hudson says:

      honestly I don’t think it’s the poop that’s the issue in the city with dog owners. I’m a dog owner on the UWS and encounter off leashed untrained dogs daily that are a complete nuisance. I don’t understand why people have dogs if they aren’t going to train them let alone insist upon breaking the law by having them off leash.

      I have a young dog who I’m in the middle of training to be a certified service dog and number of people who sabotage our training by letting their untrained off leashed dogs assault us or even the owners try to touch him is out of control.

      What is the deal??? Why do so many people let their idiotic untrained wrecks of dogs off leash???

      • Halalthatjazz says:

        I’m sorry to hear this!

        It sounds like you’re being unfairly subjected to the problems that occur when you share a tiny slice of land with 8.5 million other people. And since the rest of us never run into these issues, more sympathetic I could not be.

        I hope you’re able to find a secluded space to train your dog one day. Honestly, the best trained dog is a dog who is never trained around distractions!

      • Kundalini Gal says:

        Yesterday morning in the park, I saw an unleashed dog run over to a bench,and steal a homeless person’s breakfast! The clueless owner is yelling, “bad dog!” to no avail. Ridiculous.

    17. BillyNYC says:

      This is excellent! I am a dog owner and live in the neighborhood since 1968 and this is the best thing I’ve ever seen to happen. I love to be the spy and take pictures and Follow the dog owner to their home! I’ll be more than happy to turn over this information and evidence to the 311 agent and for them to proceed the ticketing of this rude neighbor.
      I have seen many people not pick up after their dogs and unleash their dogs in the Roosevelt Park and side streets leading to the park especially In the winter time.
      I do recommend 311 to do as I seen in other cities I travel with my dog and to give the benefit of the doubt to have courtesy doggy bags dispensers ready available at the entrance of the park.
      I myself found that I did not bring my dog baggies with me one day.
      Fortunately I found a kind person who was walking their dog that had extra baggies to give me.

      • Halalthatjazz says:

        That’s psychotic.

        If I miss a poop, be a good neighbor and tell me. If you follow me to my home while taking my picture, don’t be surprised if you get pepper sprayed and spend the afternoon speaking with nypd.

    18. Sean says:

      They need to go to the Bronx.

    19. Mia says:

      Glad they will be on the lookout for offenders. It is quite disgusting that a person walking a dog would not clean up after the animal. Too bad it takes threats to make it happen. I love dogs and have one but it really is a stomach turner to see the street, and often the sidewalk, littered with dog poop!

    20. UWS Dad says:

      21 in a year??! Based on my morning school run, they could get that many in about two days on a single street from CPW to RSD.

    21. Teacupsugarqueen says:

      Sorry to say but our handicapped in scooter wheel chairs or motorized wheel chairs walking dogs NEVER get out of their chairs or carry a pooper scooper. I have offered to clean up if they can’t but it is a problem when they star straight ahead and move on as if their dog didn’t just make a huge mess.

    22. Dan says:

      How wonderful! Picking up feces is also a health issue. What about a citizen leaving human urine and food containers on the streets?

    23. jessica says:

      I am interested in why we allow dogs to defecate on the sidewalks at all? Is there some historical or biological explanation? To my mind, having the dog owner pick up the mess does not actually *clean* the sidewalk, just removes the visual. Not to mention the kind of mess that, to put it politely, does not easily go in a bag.

      Why can we not create some sort of dog toilet/sewer grate solution to avoid the whole unattractive, unhealthy, unpoliceable system?

    24. Carol Weinshenker says:

      I suggest that they put up the “pooper scooper” signs that they had posted in several pages on all city blocks.
      Carol Weinshenker

    25. drg says:

      NYC law ALREADY requires a dog license.
      Why not include mandatory DNA testing, as well as a credit card on file.
      Thus, any random poop collections can be traced to the culprit, and fines assessed.

    26. HadToCleanMyShoesTooOften says:

      I read about a European city (possibly in Italy) that registers the DNA of every dog and is able to use that information to identify the source of any unpicked-up poop and track down the owner. Would love to see that done in NYC

    27. UpperWestSider says:

      good! people are becoming way too lax when it comes to cleaning up after their dogs

    28. nycityny says:

      How does such a summons actually work? I mean, people walking dogs are anonymous so how is a written summons identified with them? Nobody knows the name of the dogwalker and they are not likely to provide it to someone from the Department of Sanitation. Of the 21 summonses written I suspect none resulted in anybody showing up in court or paying a fine.

      That said, I’m for any effective means of getting dog poop off the sidewalks.

    29. purple dragon says:

      Good news spiced with high level punning – great work, Lisa Kava!
      I really really wish we New Yorkers had embraced the real meaning of “curb your dog,” as well as we have recycling laws. Yes, “curb” actually means all the poop and pee is supposed to go on the STREET side of the curb, so that whatever you can’t scoop (and even the best scoopers can’t always get it all) is still NOT ON THE SIDEWALK. Yes, dogs can be trained to do this – I have met quite a few of them – but training the people is a different matter.

    30. Karen H says:

      To all you dog parents who do pick up poop: What can be done about the smears of excrement left on the sidewalk? It’s disgusting. Also, what happened to “curb your dog?” Why are there rivulets of urine and smears of excrement all over the sidewalk? I can’t believe that even a dog owner wants to step over–or into–this crap.

    31. J says:

      Baffling to see the dog poop and urine in the middle of the sidewalk – owners did not even try to curb their dogs…

      Folks allow dogs to urinate on schools, churches, synagogues, residential buildings (but not the building they live in!)
      Ironic that as the UWS becomes more affluent, more people letting dogs poop and pee everywhere….

    32. Sophie says:

      Can we start a Community Watch Group?

    33. jezbel says:

      Yay! Finally.

    34. Phoebe says:

      I have seen people let their dogs go next to trees that have a sign saying that it’s a new tree, so take good care of it. My neighbors. And I would not shoot a dirty look at someone, because in my opinion, these creeps are as into claiming their territory as are the dogs I feel sorry for their dogs since their owners are pigs.

      • B.B. says:

        Oh it’s worse than that.

        All those new tree beds and or pedestrian crossing plant beds have become de facto romping ground for dogs. Time and time again have seen owners pull, coax, shove or whatever their dog into tree/planting beds. Especially when new and or they aren’t fenced in.

        Even fences or those brick walled beds are no deterrent. Owners simply pick up their dog and place it into the bed.

        Dog urine is corrosive to tree bark and plantings. Their constant trodding upon ground compacts the soil. Large amounts of dog urine and other waste kills the soil so nothing will grow and slowly poisons the tree as well.

        You look at these paragons of dog ownership and ask “why”; and you’ll hear “he’s used to the country, he won’t *go* in the city/on concrete”.

        Curious thing is that offenders often take their dog down the street, around the block or wherever to go in tree beds *NOT* in front of their own building/home. This seems especially true where you have high end/luxury apartment housing on a block with tenements and or other “lower end” stock.

        One building know of got so fed up after doing their spring plantings put up a chicken wire mesh to keep birds and dogs out. A few nights later someone came with wire cutters and that was that….

    35. Denise Mattia says:

      I watched as a mature man walking his dog allowed the animal to poop as it walked. I reminded him that he was supposed to pick up after it, to which he responded, “Mind your M___er-F___ing business.” I continued to walk in the opposite direction.

    36. NYYgirl says:

      I’m always amazed at the people texting while their dog is on a 10 foot flexi-leash thingy (what a horrendous invention) which is acting as a trip wire across the sidewalk.

    37. 9d8b7988045e4953a882 says:

      The dog population on the UWS has exploded in recent years, and the sidewalks are filthier than ever as a result. I actually tend to avoid walking down some blocks due to the amount of dog waste on the sidewalks.

      We need vigorous enforcement of this K-09 law. I wish the city would also:
      – fine people who allow their dogs to urinate on the sidewalks
      – fine people who pick up the poop but leave a lot of residue on the sidewalk
      – fine people who let their dogs of the leash in areas where it is not allowed
      – dramatically increase the dog license fee and use the proceeds to hire people to clean the sidewalks on a regular basis

      • B.B. says:

        Two things are likely driving this increase in dogs.

        One is the inordinate number of single and or childless persons who live in NYC, in particular Manhattan. Dogs fill in where a spouse or child would in terms of companionship.

        Other reason is the increasing suburbanization of Manhattan. People who would have moved to the “country” years ago are either remaining in the city and or moving here; bringing with them their suburban lifestyle. This includes children, a car and a dog or two.

    38. Jessica says:

      I learned recently that the area around West 181st Street cleaned up considerably when the Hudson Heights Owners Coalition bought plastic bag dispensers for about $1.99 apiece that could be attached to light posts and then filled with extra grocery bags: so there is no excuse that someone forgot a bag.

      And as someone who has always had dogs in Manhattan, I’m happy to point out that someone out walking their dog at any hour of the day and night and in all weather, is a neighborhood’s best, um, watchdog. There are lots of ways to refine the interaction, but dog owners know their neighbors, and know what’s going on around them.

      • Kindly Dr. Dave says:

        Hear! Hear! Just think of how many news stories you’ve read/hear/seen that begin, “A person walking their dog observed…..”

    39. BJK says:

      I always pick up after my dog but, when walking her, am almost hit at least once a week by a cyclist going through a red light or riding on the sidewalk. Which issue is an annoyance and which is injurious or deadly? Answer that and then tell me where the undercover agent dollars would be better spent.

      • Ellie Steinman says:

        I definitely agree with you about the cyclists who do not obey traffic rules. I find that to be dangerous and very often scary!

      • Sandra Gleich says:

        YES, what you said!

      • Bill says:

        Totally agree. Bikes are totally out of control, absolutely no enforcement. I always pick up after my dog and everyone else should as well. Only a matter of time until somone gets killed or injured by a bike.

    40. Erica says:

      Broadway in the 80s is disgusting. So happy to hear this. Feels like dog owners are in their own world. And dogs should have to pee & poop in the gutter. Full stop

    41. Fedup says:

      Dogs should be banned. The streets are full of urine. We live in a sewer. Owners let them pee on the sidewalks, on the sides of buildings, on trash bags, anywhere that is convenient for them. Pity the sanitation workers splashed with runoff for little precious’s convenience. What about curb your dog don’t you understand? Plus, the little breeds everybody likes these days are monsters barking their heads off. They are all disgusting and a GD nuisance.

    42. Mark says:

      Wow. Since when did New Yorkers become so delicate and fragile?

    43. Robin says:

      About the sidewalk issue- doesn’t curb your dog mean have it poop ny the curb, not on the middle of the sidewalk?as many have mentioned the remnants in the middle of the sidewalk are almost as revolting as the full business. Can’t pet owners be responsible? as a dog lover I find the entitled behavior of such owners unacceptable. Perhaps in addition to a fine they should be given a brush and bucket. Ps I think some buildings are doing the DNA testing.

    44. GG says:

      OK, I had another great idea about how to deal with all this dog waste in the streets.

      How about if you let your dog go to the bathroom on the sidewalk and don’t clean it up…and someone sees it you get tazed with one of those tazer things that the cops carry.

      Think about how great that would be. “Excuse me, Sir, I think you forgot to pick after your dog.”

      “Mind your own f&%$ing business!” and then ZZZZAAAAPPPP!!!!! and the guy is flailing around on the ground like a fish. I love it! Think of it as tough love. I could probably get elected Mayor with that as my single issue.:)

    45. Jim says:

      Curb & Clean should be the goal. Many dog owners seem to allow their pets to do their business right in the middle of the sidewalk, and there is always some kind of mess left behind. Yes you can tell when your dog is about to “go” and taking him to the curb shouldn’t be a big deal. I grew up here in the 1960s and 1970s and the sidewalks were truly disgusting. Things got better for a while, but seem to have gone downhill again in the last 5-10 years. Please curb your dogs and then clean up after them.

    46. Sean says:

      How about if building owners power wash their properties once in a while?

      • B.B. says:

        Many large buildings do “power wash” the concrete pavement in front/along their property. With a rather large/powerful scrubbing machine (looks like a carpet cleaner on steroids), and detergent/disinfectant.

        Thing is no sooner than sidewalk is dry, if that, out comes Fido and *christens* the newly cleaned pavement.

        People need to curb their dogs, but that seems to be another relic of bygone New York City.

        • Mark says:

          Good thing many of you don’t live in the country. There are animals there too and they aren’t curbed.

          • B.B. says:

            If you cannot comprehend the difference between an animal doing its business “in the woods” so to speak versus concrete, asphalt, against buildings, etc… then there is nothing we here can do to help.

            That stench which increasingly pervades NYC/Manhattan streets in warmer/moist weather is *NOT* always from human urine; but rather from dogs peeing on sidewalks, against buildings and so forth.

            Look at the base of most lampposts, mail boxes, and anything else placed on NYC streets. Most are corroded and or rotting away from the constant deluge of dog urine.

            Solid waste if not cleaned up properly (or at all) attracts flies.

            • Mark says:

              BB – it’s too early in the year for snowflakes.
              You clearly haven’t spent much time out of the city.