A Dog's Life: Scoop the Poop Act of 1978

A San Francisco dog's life can be messy, but luckily, dogs' human companions are here to help tidy up. In 1978, following the lead of a similar law recently passed in New York City, Supervisor Harvey Milk sponsored the city's first pooper scooper law.

Milk's ordinance required not only that dog owners clean up after their dogs but also that they carry a "suitable container or other suitable instrument" for picking it up and taking it away.

Of these we have several examples in a fat manila folder in the Supervisor Issue Files of the Harvey Milk Archives-Scott Smith Collection (GLC 35). The folder, euphemistically labeled "dog litter,"  is stuffed with clippings and letters to Milk from residents, businesses, neighborhood associations, community organizations, and others weighing in on the controversy; and all sorts of containers and instruments are described, pictured, or enclosed as samples. One of them is the Scoop Te Doodle shown above.
Others include the Dogmatic, a Poochie Bag and shovel, the Dog-Gone Bag  ("being tried in Chicago" and labeled as being made from recycled materials), a Pet Pouch (a local product from Pier 38-40 San Francisco), a Pet-D-Posit unit (apparently, a kind of septic or composting device that uses enzymes and a plastic bucket), and a plain white plastic bag. One woman wrote in to suggest that a piece of newspaper might suffice.

For more documentation of the ordinance or to to look at these devices in person, visit the San Francisco History Center during open hours and request GLC 35 Box 7. For more amusements featuring dogs, come to the 6th floor Skylight Gallery to see A Dog's Life (With a Special Appearance by Cats): Selections from the Schmulowitz Collection of Wit & Humor. The exhibit is showing through the end of May.

All images from Harvey Milk Archives-Scott Smith Collection GLC 35, The James C. Hormel Gay & Lesbian Center, San Francisco Public Library.


  1. Greetings, The pooper scooper green bag that came from Chicago, I gave Harvey, I received 2 letters from Harvey... I attended several of his City Hall meetings. One was typed written... and the other was hand written note on his stationary... sadly, that one was stolen from me... it was a classic
    Jerry, Thanks for helping me on the dog shit problem! There is a great web-site about the Castro, from when it was a changing S.F. neighborhood, into America's gay Mecca. Unlike the Milk movie... it is not a recreation, but real images and stories from that era.

  2. Thanks for sharing these historical tidbits. I enjoyed your post. I happen to have a deep interest in this topic, and recently started a blog. Aus Dog Doo Rants Blog - http://dogdoorants.blogspot.com/


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