Back in my cigarette butt clean-up days, I came across endless amounts of dog crap. I didn’t touch it, even double-gloved, but I obsessed about it. As I read up about the problem, I learned way more than I ever wanted to. The facts are enough to make you sick. Dog excrement isn’t just a nuisance, it’s a factory for E coli, among other unwelcome bacteria. And all that un-picked-up-poop eventually washes away down the drain to the nearest stream, river, lake, or ocean, to spread its toxins wherever the current takes it. Since storm drains often aren’t attached to treatment facilities, that’s a whole lot of untreated offal we’re talking about.
A friend of mine had a date with a man who didn’t pick up after his dog, to her horror. She made it clear that was a deal-breaker. I appreciate her willingness to go Lysistrata on his sorry hide. But it’s also shocking to me to see daily evidence of how many perfectly nice dog owners don’t think it’s a big deal. Or who forget to do it every now and then, when it’s inconvenient. Since one gram of waste contains 23 million fecal coliform bacteria, one neglected scoop can do massive damage. Multiplied by all the dogs in the world (at least 78 million in the US alone, according to the Humane Society) and we’re pretty much swimming in muck.
According to Stormwater Manager’s Resource Center (SMRC), “For watersheds of up to twenty-square miles draining to small coastal bays, two to three days of droppings from a population of about 100 dogs would contribute enough bacteria and nutrients to temporarily close a bay to swimming and shellfishing (US EPA, 1993).”
But wait, there’s more! Puppy poo – I’m running dangerously low on synonyms – is not just a beach closer, it’s a lake killer. SMRC continues: “Pet waste can also be a factor in eutrophication of lakes. The release of nutrients from the decay of pet waste promotes weed and algae growth, limiting light penetration and the growth of aquatic vegetation. This in turn can reduce oxygen levels in the water, affecting fish and other aquatic organisms.” In other less highfalutin’ words, doggie doo can choke the life out of a beautiful body of water.
The Jefferson County, Colorado, Sheriff’s Office had an even greater idea. “In response to a growing number of poop piles” they launched a catchy campaign that Rachel Maddow recently honored with “Best New Thing in the World” status: There is no poop fairy.
Seriously people, what’s it going to take? Can you imagine if people just poured paint and motor oil down storm drains in front of their neighbors, without shame? What is this, the ‘70s?
Someone, somewhere – and apologies for not recalling who or where – had a great idea that everyone who picks up after their dog can also pick up one piece of trash on their walk as well. Just one. Think of it as an amends for all those poops you left behind!
I know the compostable bags are more expensive than plastic, but if you can afford it, make the switch.
For people who just can’t bare touching the products of their dog’s bowels, they can let their pet go for it in the backyard and shovel the results into a Doggie Dooley, a waste receptacle buried in the earth that lets the poop decay into an innocuous muck. The added benefit is that it creates compost, rather than using a painful number of plastic bags for discarding the doo.
Another good method to reduce dog dookie: spay and neuter your babies, so they don’t make babies that make big messes.
Now here’s a delightful coda after all this grossitude: I told my niece about this column, in all the dirty details. She was duly (dooley?) horrified, then confessed that she’s never cleaned up after her dog before, but effective immediately, she’s going to do so from now on. One small scoop for a Cavalier King Charles, one large scoop for puppykind!
The Straight Poop:
More disturbing facts are provided by New England’s Blue Ocean Society for Marine Preservation.
Here are sources for the other facts I cited, along with more nauseating information. Good times.
USA Today – Dog waste poses threat to water
EPA – Pest Waste Management
Storm Water Manager’s Resource Center – Pollution Prevention: Animal Waste Collection