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Pooches and School Kids Help Wage Campaign Against Dog Doo in Sunnyside

SUNNYSIDE — Jeannette Remak and her beloved pet Pekingese Shanghai know first-hand about the dangers posed by dog owners who don't pick up after their pooches.

After the two took a stroll around their Sunnyside neighborhood one summer, Shanghai fell ill, ending up at the vet with a serious case of E. Coli — contracted, Remak thinks, from another dog's doo left behind on the sidewalk.

"I've had back operations," Remak said, explaining that her ailment doesn't stop her from bending down to clean up after Shanghai. "If I can do it, anyone can do it."

On Friday, City Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer announced the start of a public "Curb Your Dog" campaign in Sunnyside, rounding up local dog owners, their pets and a group of school children from nearby P.S. 150 to help him draw attention to the neighborhood's messy plight.

"It's aimed at trying to get those few — the minority of dog owners, I believe — who do not pick up after their dogs, who do not care about and respect their neighbors," Van Bramer said, saying a public awareness campaign is the only really effective way to get the regular offenders to shape up.

"Irresponsible dog owners are hard to catch. This is a really hard law to enforce," he said. "It's not really realistic that our police and our sanitation workers can stand around on corners and wait for a dog to do its business."

Instead, students at P.S. 150, which received complaints about excrement around the school, created hundreds of posters urging pet owners to do good, with a reminder that neglecting to clean up warrants a $250 fine.

"It's your duty to clean up your dog's doody," one kid's sign read.

Van Bramer chose five of the best posters and is asking the public to go the councilman's website and vote for their favorite, and the winning poster will be re-produced and posted inside neighborhood shops.

Dog owners Debbie Hafner and Mark Barberi, who live on 44th Street, brought their Chihuahua Chico and English bulldog Spike to Friday's press conference.

Barberi said it's just a small group of irresponsible pet owners who ruin it for the rest of them, but that even one or two rule-breakers can cause a big mess.

"It's the same few people," he said. "But if one person doesn't pick up their poop every day, that's 14 poops a week."