From Publishers Weekly
With the "largest canine population known in history," New York City in the early 1970s was drowning in 500,000 pounds of feces every day. In this overlong, occasionally entertaining account, Brandow details the situation with painstaking rigor, as the messy problem turned into a boondoggle of bizarre schemes, red tape and, eventually, 1978's State Health Law 1310, which requires dog owners to clean up after their pets. Proposed solutions included forcing dogs to use their owners' bathrooms, and City Controller Abraham Beame's suggested corps of "Envirmaids," female inspectors who would police the city "night and day." (Why women? Not only are they neater than men, they cost less.) Brandow gives plenty of time to these and other characters, including TV reporter Fran Lee, whose "what about the children" campaign pushed the theory (later debunked) that dog feces exposure would cause blindness in kids, and the work of more level-headed, well-intentioned neighborhood groups. Unfortunately, constant digressions drag the narrative, exploding the text to encyclopedic length. Even dog-owning Manhattan natives will have their patience tested plodding through the bill's inevitable ratification and aftermath; though occasionally engaging, this narrative is best suited for public policy students.
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Michael Brandow wittily dissects the anatomy and enforcement of the law, and explores his premise that any issue as emotionally charged as this one just has to be about something more than the obvious. If the book has a hero, it s former Mayor Ed Koch, who pithily summed up his credo, at least on this issue, by saying: I don t care if it s good luck to step in it. I don t want to. --New York Times July 28, 2008
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There was the usual bureaucratic gridlock: Koch inherited the problem from Beame, who inherited it from Lindsay, a waffler on canine concerns, according to Brandow, whose known pet affiliations were minimal. Tin-eared functionaries, too: You got five cats? And a dog? one city official asked a woman at a hearing. Christ. What you need is a good man. Then you had your community activists Max Schnapp, of POPA (Pet Owners Protective Association), a labor organizer and the owner of two Great Danes (Tiger and Sampson), a pet crow (Mitzvah), three rabbits (Pinkie, Dutchie, unnamed), a white mouse (Piggy), a baby squirrel (Elmer Wiggley), a gerbil, and half a dozen alley cats (Mau Mau, Nebisch, Sister, Freddy the Freeloader, Monty Wooley), vs. Fran Lee, the founder of Children Before Dogs grinding out their small-bore issues on the grand stage. It was an amazing time, Beck, who was the director of the Bureau of Animal Affairs for the city from 1975 to 1980, recalled. I was actually caught in the crossfire when dog feces were being thrown back and forth. (Gross but true: Lee, at a public debate, got smacked in the head by a loaded baggie.) --New Yorker "Talk of the Town" July 28, 2008