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Dear PoP – Is it Legal for Dogs to poop on Sidewalks?

by Prince Of Petworth April 13, 2011 at 10:04 pm 101 Comments

Photo by PoPville flickr user fromcaliw/love

“Dear PoP,

I have a public health / pet question for the blog: Is it legal to let your dog go to the bathroom in the middle of the sidewalk? I saw a woman letting her pup poop on the sidewalk on 15th St NW, as if that were perfectly normal. There were plenty of available tree boxes nearby. If it’s not illegal, it’s certainly disgusting and unsanitary… it’s bad enough to track dirt back into your home, but that?! Just wondering whether there were something I could say to her (e.g. “You know, that’s illegal”) to discourage her from allowing it again.”

I guess we’re looking at two issues here – first is it legal? I gotta think as long as the owner cleans it up it is legal, right? Second – if it is legal, should it be legal?

  • anonymous

    I walk my dogs by there almost every day!! They’ve never pooped there because the signs are pretty scary. Legal or not, the pertinent question is did she pick up the poop? If so, give her the benefit of the doubt that the dog just really had to go. You gotta go when you gotta go.

  • Enos

    I would be SOOO happy if people would just pick up after their dogs. They could crap everywhere for all I care. Owners should just pick up afterwards. Some of the most selfish people in this city.

  • Pup Owner

    On a similar note, a dog owner in my building apparently thought it was good idea to throw away their dog’s poop bag in our lobby trash can. This is the kind of stuff that people move to suburbs to get away from.

    • Anonymous

      I think it would be even more likely to happen in a suburban apartment building because there are no public trashcans outside.

  • Beyene

    Most dog owners seek grass or tree box or “curb” their dog.After all, they too walk on th sidewalks. The main issue is to scoop the poop. I live in one of the most high per capita dog owning areas, and almost never see any on the sidewalk.

    • Anonymous

      Capitol Hill?

  • Anonymous

    this is stupid

    • NE Groover

      +1 Completely.

  • rooty tooty
    • Tom

      I was going to be disappointed if this was a link to anything other than what it, in fact, was.

  • JT

    This seems like going to a new level. If it is picked up, it is picked up. Sidewalks are generally dirty, the “smear” should not cause people consternation. Many of the tree boxes (a) have plantings that people have spent time tending to and (b) have fences around them–so they don’t seem like options. I would think people would rather their dog go on the sidewalk than in a tree box (assuming it is picked up). And have you ever tried to stop a dog mid-poop? Good luck.

    • anon

      I disagree about the “smear”. every morning when I walk to work I pass at least 4 or 5 new smudges of sh!t where it’s clear some poor guy has already stepped in it because there are then diminishing prints of said smudge down the sidewalk. I think that dogs should only be allowed to go in boxes that the city takes care of or in dog parks.

      I happen to like to look around and enjoy these spring mornings and it’s a bit annoying to constantly have to make sure I’m not stepping in the “picked up” poop

      • anon

        Here here. I’m also tired of dodging dog piss in the middle of the sidewalk. You’d think it wasn’t that big a deal, until you’ve stepped in it and had it splash on your legs when you continued to walk.

        • houseintherear

          That painted quite a visual. ick.

        • That Ain’t Dog Pee

          From what I’ve witnessed, many times its not dog pee, its hobo or drunken frat boy pee.

        • Trixie

          Um, exactly how big of a puddle would this be that it “splashed?” Srsly. My dog can pee quite epically – like nothing I’ve ever seen before – but it generally doesn’t turn into a puddle that could splash.

          • anon

            it doesn’t necessarily have to be a puddle. all it takes is enough to coat the bottom of your shoe and when you lift your heel up, there it goes on the back of your leg or your other ankle. when I used to wear flip flops, that was especially treacherous… but then if you wear flip flops you sort of deserve it.

          • Trixie

            Treacherous dog pee. That makes me laugh.

    • KenyonDweller

      The smear is disgusting.

  • dctreehugger

    I left the city a year ago to move to the burbs and an almost identical debate is going on this week on my neighborhood email list. I don’t think people move to the burbs because of the filth. they move because they want more space so they have room for their kids toys, access to better school, and a backyard so they can let their dog out without having to take it for a walk….

  • Andy(2)

    OP did she pick it up? If so then this is a non-issue.
    For those that don’t scoop – there is a special place in hell for people like you.

  • BF

    My dog almost always goes in the grass. But every once in a while, we’re walking down the sidewalk and I look down to see her pooping right in the middle of the sidewalk. What are you gonna do?! I let her poop and then I pick it up. No big deal.

    Here’s a question – why is it that whenever I see a dog pooping and the owner not pick up the poop, the owner is a GUY? What is up with that!? Pick up the poop little boys!

  • Yawn.

  • Reggie

    I used to have a dog that would like to poop on the concrete without warning. My girl called him a “New York City Dog”. Most dogs will only poop on grass or dirt.

    Bottom line your supposed to pick up after your dog in the city. If you don’t you can be fined. I don’t think you could be fined for you dog pooping on the concrete if you picked it up.

    I’ve written poop 4 time now.

  • Really?

    OP get some business. Dogs poop when and where they poop! All that matters is if the owner scoops.

    First world problems indeed.

    • bloom



      You see what we put up with? I tell you it’s a ghetto!

      I tell you Boca, the Hills, 15th Street — they’re all going to hell. Thanks to these little shih-tzus.

  • 619

    Dog owners can be fined if they don’t pick up after their pets, but there is no prohibition on public property such as sidewalks or tree boxes. As was stated above, most dogs prefer grass to cement.

  • jellyroll

    there is so much other crap on the sidewalk as it is…i can’t believe the OP really has time to worry about this!!
    what is the difference between dog poop on a sidewalk that someone cleans up, and someone’s dirty diaper or condom that is left on the sidewalk…
    get a grip!!

    on another note…i was yelled at by someone b/c my dog was eating a woman’s three inch high weeds in her yard! meanwhile, there was a ton of trash in her yard too.

    • anon

      wow. you sound kind of sound horrible. I have never seen a dirty diaper on the sidewalk and probably only see a condom 2x year. dog poop, on the other hand, I see multiple times every time I leave the house.

      • jellyroll

        i sound horrible?
        not quite sure how I sound horrible.

        come walk through columbia heights with me on a daily basis.

        fwiw…i clean up after my dog every day, but still have accidentally stepped in another dog’s poo several times near the sidewalk.

        • anon

          yes, you sound horrible because you think your dog is entitled to do whatever it wants in somebody else’s lawn just because you think it’s a crappy lawn anyway. and then you not-so-subtly passed judgment on the woman because of her heels. weird.

          • jellyroll

            a woman’s heels? i said nothing about heels.

            also, is it really that horrible for my dog to eat someone’s grass? wow.

          • Anonymous

            Umm…I think the person was commenting on three-inch-high weeds, not heels. At least, that’s what the letters spell out, but hey, maybe there’s some subtext I’m missing.

      • jellyroll

        and the comment was because there is so much other crap on the street that is just as bad or dirty and people seem to ignore how unsanitary all of those things are. it’s not just dogs IMO!

        • Agreed.

          How about we close down all the night clubs, I am a little sick and tired of dodging all the vomit on the sidewalks, how about we close down all the chicken joints cause them bones are driving me crazy…

          Nothing to discuss here unless the person didn’t scoop it.

      • Styglan1

        2x a year?

        I counted five the other day. And that was NOTHING.

        And on Sunday during MHNA cleanup day I cleaned up one that was dry and had been “glued” to the ground outside of one of the apartment buildings for damn near four months.

        • Anonymous

          man, you must live in some gross hood.

  • Kalorini

    I was wondering this exact same thing —

    Two weeks ago, I was standing, waiting for the light to turn, next to a guy with a tiny dog at 18th and P Street. His little dog decided it needed to poop right there, right then. He looked at the dog, saw the poop and kept on walking. I asked him if he was just going to leave that there for people to step in and he said yes! What a jackwagon.

    Honestly, in that situation with no police officers around, who’s going to give him a citation? People who don’t pick up after their dogs are terrible self-centered people, but how do you actually get a fine if a cop isn’t there to see the shit-incident?

    • Andy (2)

      That is when you sacrifice your hand (you can always wash it later) pick it up and throw it at him.

      • joker


      • Keepin’ it real

        Or rub his face it in.

      • Dog Owner


    • EMM

      jackwagon! that word is the most valuable thing i got out of this post. i’m gonna be calling people jackwagons left and right today. thanks, kalorini.

      • katesmash

        +1. I’m going to use it whenever possible.

  • anon

    as long as you clean up, i don’t see why not? and even if dogs didn’t poop on sidewalks, are they still sanitary?

    • LCM

      Well, considering birds, squirrels, and rats poop on DC’s sidewalks- no. Sidewalks are never sanitary.

      Good thing we have shoes!

      In other news- all dog owners should have this clipped to their leash at all times. I got caught outside without a bag once and felt horrible about not cleaning up my dog’s poo (no, not on the sidewalk). Now, wherever, whenever my dog decides to poo, I have a bag!


      • Anonymous

        I got one of those at the Dollar Store! But I find the bags annoying because they’re hard to tear at the perforations, especially when you have a leash or two to hold while you’re doing it.

        Nowadays I have a small bag that’s filled with separated doggy clean up bags (also available at Dollar Tree), as well as a little bottle of hand sanitizer and a spare house key.

  • EckingtonChick

    Here’s the regulation:

    No person owning, keeping, or having custody of a dog, except a seeing eye dog, shall allow or permit the dog to defecate or urinate on public parking or any sidewalk or in any and each such person shall immediately remove dog excrement from any curb, gutter, alley or street.
    (24 DCMR 900.7)

    In other words, yes the dog can crap on the sidewalk but it must be immediately removed. The regs don’t define “immediately” or “remove”.

    • anon

      actually, sounds to me like your dog isn’t allowed to go on the sidewalk at all, but only in “curbs, gutters, alleys or streets”.

    • No, the dog may not be permitted to “crap on the sidewalk”. The text of the law is clear:

      900.7 No person owning, keeping, or having custody of a dog, except a seeing eye dog, shall allow or permit the dog to defecate or urinate on public parking or any sidewalk or in any and each such person shall immediately remove dog excrement from any curb, gutter, alley or street.

      Yes, it’s got to be picked up, but it’s not to be allowed in the first place.

      Sure, dogs can’t be totally controlled. The dog owners I see make them use the treebox, which is a heck of a lot better than using the sidewalk.

      • EckingtonChick

        Actually, that’s my point. The text of the law isn’t clear, hence the dog can crap. Sutherland’s Statutory Construction can enlighten us on this issue, but the modifying part of the sentence clearly undermines the initial phrase.

        • Tres

          I’d say it reinforces the first point: 1) that the act of pooping is illegal, but also 2) the continued presence of the poop is illegal. Two separate acts, each of them illegal.

          Then again, I’m not a lawyer so WTF do I know.

      • Anonymous

        Why is the treebox better? Usually (at least in my neighborhood) someone has gone to a lot of trouble to have some beautiful flowers growing in there. I think they’d be pretty upset to look out their window see a dog in there trampling all over their perfectly maincured treebox, and I wouldn’t blame them.

      • djdc

        I don’t really get legalese, but isn’t there a word missing in this?

        >… shall allow or permit the dog to defecate or urinate on public parking or any sidewalk or in any _______ and each such person shall immediately remove …

        • EckingtonChick

          Actually, no. That is exactly as it is written in the DCMR in print and online. I realize it makes no sense the way it is written, but that’s how it is.

  • EchoWhiskey

    Hasn’t this shit (ha) been rehashed a million times here? How is a dog pooping on the sidewalk, if the owner cleans it up, a health hazard? Dogs, they poops where they wants.

    • quit yer poopin, dog!

      • Styglan1

        o i gonna beatcha!

  • Anonymous

    If the dog can crap on the sidewalk as long as it’s immediately picked up, can I crap on the sidewalk as long as my dog agrees to pick it up?

    We’ve wandered into the inane with this topic.

    Terrorists: 1, DC Citizens: 0

  • Anonymous

    Apparently there are problems in the suburbs too.

    This morning in Petworth, worse than dog poop, very young kids on the way to school decimated our tulip bed, is that legal? Should I have called the cops for destruction of property? Would they laugh?

  • CadeTyler

    Why do they always put those signs at dog height? Dogs can’t read, silly.

    • Anonymous

      + woof.

  • anon

    “I saw a woman letting her pup poop on the sidewalk on 15th St NW, as if that were perfectly normal. There were plenty of available tree boxes nearby.”

    What did you want her to do wave her arms and scream “don’t poop here! No not here” or pick up her dog while it was pooping and move it into a tree box (which is fenced in and likely had a sign that says “no pets”)?

    • Anonymous

      easy, train your damn dog to do it in a box.

      • Anonymous

        Always find it humorous when non-dog owners think you can magically get a dog to understand exactly what you want it to do.

  • snob

    Actually as I read it the regulation is pretty clear: you can’t allow your dog to do its business on the sidewalk AT ALL, and where you CAN legally allow your dog to do its business — the “curb, gutter, alley, or street” — you need to pick it up.

    I have to say that as a dog owner I didn’t know this was the law. Most dogs, including mine, prefer grass to sidewalk, but I thought they could still go on the sidewalk so long as you cleaned it up. And I’ve always assumed that it was actually preferable that they pee on the sidewalk rather than on grass because pee kills grass.

    • Newish2CH

      I agree. I think the law is pretty clear, though it presents an interesting quandary: if a dog pooping on the sidewalk is already illegal, then what incentive does the dog owner have to clean it up? Could they be be fined twice, once for the initial lawless pooping and then again for failing to pick up the poop?

      Related: I want to work the phrase “lawless pooping” into more conversations. Suggestions?

      • yatrakarna

        To be honest, I’d be hardpressed to convince my dog to poo only in the street, curb, gutter, or alley. She definitely prefers the grass and also prefers not to step into on-coming traffic to poo. As for gutter, having watched her try, she can’t quite seem to get her aim right to make it into the six inch gutter space. An the curb, its a fine balancing act to keep it on the curb and not have it accidentally fall onto the nearby grass.

        I think abiding by this law is simply not achievable so I will encourage my dog’s civil disobedience (and then pick up after her). Down with repressive, unachievable dog laws!! Let them poop on grass!!

  • Newish2CH

    Legality of the scooping of poop on the sidewalk aside, it’s still a sidewalk in a major metropolitan area. Frankly, if one is walking around without looking at what they might be stepping in on a sidewalk in this town (condoms, dog poo, gum, dead animals, etc.) they deserve to step in it. Does it suck? Yes. That’s the price one pays for living near the bright lights in the big city.

    • anonymous

      c’mon buddy. it’s springtime. I love to wander these streets looking at all the beautiful trees and flowers. don’t punish me. I do use my peripheral vision, but I shouldn’t have to be that diligent.

  • Anonymous

    In a perfect world there would be car lanes, a bike lane, parking, a dog lane, grass, and sidewalk. problem solved.

    • Anonymous

      Stroller lane. Don’t forget the stroller lane.

      Double wide in each direction.

      The light should always be green for them, because you know, everything stops for a mom with kids.

  • greentdc

    I too own a pup, and she prefers to do her business on grass. I figured it was not legal to poo on the sidewalks, but I’ll be damned before I risk my dogs life by being in a street, alley or gutter to have to go. And I always pick it up, and search around me for other poo to pick up before tying the bag.

    People that don’t pick up poo = jackwagons indeed.

    • Anonymous

      I pick up other dogs poo, too. And nearby trash if it can fit in the bag.

      What I could never understand is do these owners not think poo everythwere is disgusting? Do they not care if they or their dogs step in it?

      • Anonymous

        oh man, how are you ever sure it’s not human poo?

  • Trixie

    I really question why some of you have so much time on your hands.

    FWIW, has anyone tried to stop a dog mid-poop? Because it doesn’t work so well.

    • BrennaLM

      haha +1. and the birds! my gosh the birds, just pooping wherever they feel like it! I think we should set up canopies over all sidewalks so that I don’t accidentally step in bird poop. and maybe guardrails so that rats and squirrels (squirrels!) can’t poop on the sidewalk either.

      • anonymous

        don’t be an idiot.

        • Anon

          Bird poop is actually far more unsanitary and dangerous than dog poop.

          • anon

            uh huh. back that up.

    • I’ve tried. It doesn’t work so well.

      No! Seriously dude, No! Aw, fugg it.

  • KenyonDweller

    Dogs aren’t the problem, dog owners are. This woman was totally irresponsible. Kind of like the jerk who occasionally leaves a big pile of dog crap in the middle of my fenced front yard.

  • RockyK

    Thank you PoP for addressing another one of the District’s greatest nuisances.

    OP- despite what the “law” may be, I would inform this careless thug that you will in fact call the police department if you catch her dog in the act again. This is fair warning. If it happens again, report it to both the police and your city council member and insist that he/she look at revising any relevant legislation to criminalize this abhorrent, anti-social, and blatantly disrespectful behavior.

    We must work together to take our city back from these thugs who feel the laws and rules of decent society do not apply to them our their four-legged companions.

    • Newish2CH

      While I agree that this is a nuisance, don’t you think you’re engaging in a bit of Thursday morning hyperbole?

      Thugs? Really?

      Also, unless a cop sees this happen personally and decides to issue a citation, good luck getting them to care by calling in the issue. I mean really, are they goign to send out some doggy forensic team to analyze the poop and tie it to some nefarious mutt in the neighborhood? There are much bigger fish to fry in this town.

      Mmmm, fish fry.

      • Anonymous

        You should read up on sarcasm. A whole world will open up to you.

        • Newish2CH

          I can’t read. Are there services that will do this for me?

    • Trixie

      The problem with this is that someone will take you seriously and DEAR LORD, CALL THE POLICE THERE IS A POOPING DOG OMGOMGOG!!!!!!!!111111

      For the love of Christ.

    • Anonymous

      I can’t tell if this is an intentional joke or an unintentional one. Thugs? Criminalization? Pooooooop. Heeheee!

  • TKPK

    It’s times like these that you have to ask yourself one question: “What would Molly do?”

  • Anonymous

    Dogs will go to the bathroom where they are trained to go the bathroom. Unfortunately, if you adopt a large, adult dog that hasn’t been trained to go on the grass (or is a NYC dog like the one above that didn’t have grassy spots to be trained on), it’s very difficult to break that cycle. If you have a puppy or a small dog you can carry it to a grassy spot to train it.

    I have a dog and I try to be as respectful as possible. I drives me crazy to see pee stains on planters and poop all over the sidewalks, too. I was once eating outside at a restaurant and a woman let her dog pee right next to where we were eating. My dog will sometimes try to mark and I tell her no and keep moving. That’s not a matter of having to go when you have to go, that’s marking territory and it isn’t necessary.

    • anon


  • BF

    My little dogs like to poop right on top of the new plants I just planted in my back yard garden. And of course they have to do the circle dance first. Love it.

  • Marcus Aurelius

    I remember growing up in NYC that there were big green and white signs that said “Curb Your Dog” – make your dog go to the bathroom in the curb. Seems like DC law is similarly clear that dogs are not supposed to go on sidewalks.
    Agree with those who note that the more important issue is not where a dog goes but that the owner cleans up after it. Still surprises me that there are people who don’t clean up after their dogs. More surprising still is that most of the time it’s not some teenager but an adult that walks away from their dog’s poop on the ground.

    • Anonymous

      That’s not what “curb your dog” means.

      • anon

        ha ha. there’s a sign on 15th street that says “please do not curb your dog in the bushes” in the bushes.

        – I don’t think that word means what you think it means. –

  • textdoc

    I agree with Snob from 9:55 a.m. It looks from the text of the regulation as though “public parking” and “sidewalk” are completely off-limits, and that “curb, gutter, alley or street” are OK, but the poop has to be removed immediately.

    What I don’t get about the regulation, though, is the “… or any sidewalk OR IN ANY and each…” Or in any WHAT? There seems to be a word missing.


    900.7 No person owning, keeping, or having custody of a dog, except a seeing eye dog, shall allow or permit the dog to defecate or urinate on public parking or any sidewalk or in any and each such person shall immediately remove dog excrement from any curb, gutter, alley or street.

  • Anonymous

    Having just got a dog not that long ago (not a puppy), she is quite well trained to go outside, and 99.9% of the time poops and pees in the grass between the sidewalk and the curb, and we always pick it up (those who don’t really are jackwagons). However, every now and again I’ll be walking, feel her stop, and she’s already mid-pee/poop. This has very very rarely been on the sidewalk, but sometimes it just happens.

    Also agree that poop on the sidewalk is really only one small issue. I’ve taken a garbage bag and filled it up on a walk once with the dog just by picking up trash in the neighborhood in about 15 min.

    And don’t even get me started on the chicken bones…the dog loves them and finds 2-3 almost every walk (did I mention how harmful they can be to dogs?). The dog is not the one littering the bones…

  • snob

    Interesting observation, anonymous at 2:58. We’re very good dog owners who always clean up after their pets, but I gotta say . . . there’s a lot of litter on our fair streets that ain’t coming from dogs. I spend most of my time when I’m walking my dogs trying to keep them from eating other people’s trash. This city is chock full of inconsiderate slobs.

  • mbm

    I’m going to pick up my dogs shit, throw it in a receptacle and subsequently throw the wrapper from my freshly eaten sandwich on the ground or leave beer bottles and pizza boxes in my front treebox (thanks suburban dudes on weekends!).

    For the record, I pick up my dogs shit and get miffed when dog owners don’t. The littering part, never… but people do it all the time and it’s illegal. Pick up your dogs shit and don’t litter, assholes.

  • Anonymous

    Man, you people live in some disgusting neighborhoods. Mine probably has the biggest dog population of them all, and I very rarely see dog shit.

  • Anonymous

    If it’s Ernie, it’s legal. After all, he only poops sunshine and rainbows.


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