An illustration of a dog is pictured.
Madison McVeigh/CityLab

This blogger has the inside scoop on cities’ cheekiest signs.

Poop is never not funny, but it may be at its most humorous when it’s illustrated, and, says Mary-Alice Pomputius, “tinged with desperation.” Pomputius, who blogs about traveling with her Cavalier King Charles spaniel, Chloe, on her site DogJaunt, collects photos of scoop-law signs in cities around the world. Her site has dozens of examples of signs anxiously encouraging citizens to pick up after their pets—or, occasionally and implausibly, urging the dogs to pick up after themselves.

“European signs are more likely to feature the dog by itself—holding its own poop bag or leash in way you don’t see in the U.S.,” she says of some of the broader differences she sees from one place to another. Europe—Paris in particular—is where she picked up the sign collecting habit. On Chloe’s first trip there, Pomputius came across a sign that especially charmed her. She describes the illustration of a person tugged by leash behind a dog, tiny trowel in hand, under the caption, “I love my neighborhood.” Elegant, understated, and, Pomputius marvels, “so French.”

One sign, painted onto the sidewalk, encourages owners to direct their dogs to do their business in the Parisian gutter. “A little worn, a little faded—and oh, the melancholy of the fallen leaves,” Pomputius wrote on her blog. “If this isn’t a moment for a cigarette and an absinthe, nothing is.”

From left: A sign painted on French pavement, a reader-submitted image from Istanbul of a dog brandishing his own waste, and a bilingual one from New Brunswick, Canada. (Courtesy of DogJaunt)

“European signs are quirky,” Pomputius says, as they try different things to catch eyeballs. Signs in Paris, she says, rarely talk about poop—they’re more about character. “It’s more ‘I love my dog, I’m responsible for her,’” accompanied by a cartoon dog with an Eiffel Tower on its head. Signs like this one—along with text-based signs—also tiptoe around her favorite challenge: illustrating dog poop (or, as one sign from Avignon, France puts it, “déjections canines”).

On a sign from Vancouver, it’s shown perfectly round—like a tennis ball—behind the dog.  A reader from Japan sent her a photo showing a dog with its own poop in a bag in one hand, flashing a peace sign with another paw. “In Japan, poop is always drawn in a soft-serve ice cream shape,” the reader adds. Other times, it’s the “Hershey’s Kiss,” or the more realistic “already in a shovel” strategy. Some are more active, showing poop actually falling out of the dog.

This sign from Vancouver features a pet owner scooping the mess into...a skillet? (Googly eyes optional.) If you’re walking your dog in Seattle, don’t forget to bring a bucket. (Courtesy of DogJaunt)

“It must be a nightmare for graphic designers,” Pomputius says. A favorite of hers, though, is from Dijon: “It’s like a drawing, the owner and the dog staring down at the poop with a corona of light, like they’re so proud of it.”

Beyond illustrations, though, most signs convey their message through text. A number of the European signs on her site are less focused on the removal of the poop than on where it should and shouldn’t be: “Not on the sidewalk,” says a sign from the Netherlands,” while Kansas reads, “Do the green thing, pick up after your pet.” Sorrento, Italy, simply reminds people that “this is an eco-friendly dog island,” and accompanying illustrated canine adding, “I do my business here.”

A reader submitted this dog-poop bag from Japan, showing “poop in that bag, hovering like a goldfish in a sack of water.” At right is Chicago’s elusive poop fairy, with a clothespin plugging up her nose. (Courtesy of DogJaunt)

Chicago tries to keep it light, but gets to the point: “There is no poop fairy here, please clean up after your dog.” Brooklyn takes a hard-line stance: “It’s the law, clean up after your dog, maximum fine $1,000.” But as far as text-only signs go, one from Bellevue, Washington, sticks out as a favorite to Pomputius, addressing first the owner, then the dogs: “Attention dog guardians: please pick up after your dogs. Thank you. Attention dogs: Grr, bark, woof. Good dog.”

But of course, all of this brings up the most important question: what makes an effective scoop law sign? “It’s a hard message” to get across, Pomputius admits, and a new one—something cities have been communicating only since the 1970s. Sadly, the most effective signs aren’t necessarily the ones with the most entertaining depiction of feces. “The most amusing ones aren’t related to what we do in real life,” she says. So, while Pomputius is a huge fan of one from Tacoma, Washington, where the owner appears about to poke the dog in the butt with a hoe, it might not get the job done. “I think the ones that work best are three to four steps describing how to do it, and have bags attached.”

The bottom line? Any sign that catches your attention at least stands a chance.

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