Sunday, February 21, 2010

Fran Lee: ahead of her time

This week’s news included the death of Fran Lee – the woman credited with passage of the pooper-scooper law in NYC. Would you believe that happened in August, 1978?

These days, we see people walking dogs and carrying either pooper-scooper tools or plastic bags everywhere; we expect the clean-up to happen. But that wasn’t the case before 1978, or even for some time afterwards. It took awhile for this public health courtesy to spread from the big city to the ’burbs.

As described in an admiring obit in the NYTimes, Ms. Lee was “a gleeful thorn in the side of public officials and makers of consumer products.” (She had begun her career as an actor, then became a highly visible and audible consumer advocate before taking on public health and safety issues.)

In the 1970s she founded Children before Dogs, an organization aimed at eliminating all dog effluence/waste/dirt from city streets. Her argument: toxocara canis, a tiny roundworm found in dog feces, posed health risks to children in particular; at its most severe, it could cause blindness.

The obit mentions the “pitched battle over dog excrement that raged in the city for much of the 70s,” finally culminating with passage of the Canine Waste Law, which requires owners to clean up after their dogs.

Thanks, Ms. Lee!


1 comment:

tomatogal said...

The squeaky wheel gets the grease. I can remember clearly that many people dismissed Fran, laughed her off in the 1970's, as some kind of eccentric crank. She was proven right - and the law changed because of her years long advocacy and agitating about this critical issue. Part of my income is derived from pet-care; I cannot leave the house and walk my 'kids' without my supplies: paper towels, scooper, plastic bag. Hard to imagine there was ever a time when New Yorkers did NOT do this. Bless her, Miss Lee was ok!