He might be human, but Robert Newman played a dog at the last meeting of Community Board 14.
“When you squat and poop, tell your men and women to bend and scoop! Woof!” he growled at the board’s April general meeting.
Newman, a dog owner and the chair of the board’s Community Environment Committee, said his character acting was an attempt to raise awareness to the city’s raising the fine for violating the pooper−scooper law to $250.
The hope now, said Newman, is that the city actually enforces the law.
“In south Midwood we have always been upset with the lack of enforcement of the pooper−scoop law, and the way irresponsible dog walkers can get away with looking the other way as their dogs soil the grass and in some cases the sidewalk,” said Newman.
Newman said the new fine would have teeth if it were mandatory for first−time offenders. “It’s a potential fine,” he said.
A defense attorney by trade, Newman said he’s not typically in favor of the city enforcing “every ordinance in the book.”
“But the pooper−scooper law has been in effect for a long time, and I think it’s a good thing,” he said.
Kathy Dawkins, a spokesperson for the city’s Department of Sanitation, said the larger fine “shows we mean business.”
“Picking up after your dog is something you should do whether or not someone is watching,” she continued. “It’s civic−minded, and promotes sanitary conditions on the street.“
The agency’s dedicated Canine Task Force can’t be in all places at once, she said. If residents spy an ongoing condition on a particular street or park, they should call 311, Dawkins said. In order to slap an owner with a fine, she noted, investigators must witness the dog in the act.
“It’s hard, that’s why it’s incumbent on people, if they have a dog, to pick up after it. If you don’t, it’s a selfish act against your neighbors,” Dawkins said.
The larger fine took effect in the fall. The previous fine was $100, which remained stagnant since the pooper−scooper law was passed in 1978. During the last fiscal year, the agency handed out 763 violations, a jump of 30 percent from the previous year, according to a report. This fiscal year, which ends in July, the agency has already handed out 900 pooper−scooper violations, Newman said.
“If there was enforcement with what is already on the books, you wouldn’t have the kind of problems you have,” said Maria Pagano, president of the Carroll Gardens Neighborhood Association. Her group takes issue with canine scofflaws and their owners who occasionally use Carroll Park as their personal latrine.
“If people got hit with $100 and actually have to pay, that’s an aggravation. But I never see much in the way of enforcement.” she said.