Although best known as the first openly gay man elected to a significant office in America, San Francisco Supervisor Harvey Milk also staked his political career on cleaning up dog poop. A month after winning his landmark election in 1977, Milk went about establishing his first city ordinance, a law requiring dog owners to pick up their dog poop. It was dubbed the "pooper scooper law," and earned Milk some early political cred and helped build his national reputation as an effective politician.
The law was passed almost simultaneously as a similar law in New York City; an effort pushed by Mayor Ed Koch. Although, according to a well-written article in the New Yorker about the pooper scooper law there, some residents rolled their eyes at the time that the matter was trivial. In fact, the problem of dog poop was nearly epidemic, with some 125 tons of dog poop landing on New York City's sidewalks daily, and was considered a primary livability issue—as much as a mounting problem with wayward garbage pickup and a crime spree. In retrospect, the passage of the pooper scooper law in New York City was an important turning point as that city began to leave behind a gritty and chaotic chapter in the '70s and move toward the cleaner, more livable city that it has become in the 21st century.
But, Bend, oh, don't fence me in, Bend, you seem above the law with dog laws—and we worry that will come back and bite you in the ass. And, before you get your hackles up, dog lovers (and believe me, we run with your pack), consider what we are saying: Pick up, or deal with regulations.
Apparently, quite a few dog owners in Bend do not feel as if picking up dog poop is part of the package of taking care of a dog. That reality is on full display as winter snows have completely receded and temperatures warmed; specifically, parkways and parks are filled with piles of dog poop. On a recent walk from our offices to a nearby coffeeshop, we started to count the number of abandoned number-two piles. After just a half-block, and a number exceeding 20, we gave up, summarizing, "it's a lot!"
This week we give the Boot to dog owners who don't pick up their dog's poop. In part, we give out this condemnation, because it is disgusting and, yes, festers diseases. But, what's more, it is completely irresponsible and is likely to trigger stricter ordinances and controls on dogs and pets in Bend if this irresponsibility is not curbed (so to speak).
Such crackdowns are not unprecedented. Just last month, a Wallowa County commissioner suggested that Oregon jurisdiction should limit households to only two dogs, and ban all pets from city and county parks. And, ten years ago, friction between dog owners and, well, other people was so heated in Portland that 11 dogs ended up dead and the city enacted strict leash laws. At that time, many of the city's parks were laissez-faire dogs-run-free zones. Popular parks, like the Olmsted-designed Laurelhurst Park and Mt. Tabor Park on the city's southeast side, had packs of dozens of dogs in the evenings and weekends. The dogs-first attitude, though, was creating tensions between neighbors and dog owners, who felt as if they did not need to be regulated. Eventually, someone took matters into his or her own hands, and left poisoned meat in bushes around those two parks; 11 dogs died and, soon after, City Council established strict zones for where dogs were allowed off-leash, and city and county officials started handing out high-priced tickets to anyone violating the leash laws. To this day, the mood in Portland's dog parks is far more controlled.
All we ask is: Pick up your poop. Being responsible is simply part of having a dog—and, by not being responsible, you will make the rest of us, dog-owners and non-dog-owners alike, deal with regulations to make you behave responsibly.