When you imagined adding a dog to your family, you probably pictured long walks, couch snuggles, games of tug, and sloppy kisses. Your dog’s poop probably didn’t factor too much into those daydreams about your future pup.
However, your dog poops. Probably two or three times a day.
And dog poop contributes to an enormous environmental problem. It’s such a big problem partly because the scope is so significantly underestimated by most people. In fact, most pet owners probably don’t even consider how their dog’s daily bathroom habits impact the global ecosystem, but it sure does, and in some big ways.
The Quantity Issue
Some argue that dog poop isn’t a big deal because the earth can filter and process animal poop. Animals have been going outdoors forever, the argument goes, and our groundwater isn’t the worse for it. That argument falls apart, though, when you look at the numbers: According to the 2017-2018 American Veterinary Medical Association pet ownership survey, there are nearly 80 million pet dogs in the United States. Every one of those dogs poops, and most go several times a day. That adds up to a lot of poop.
City and county ordinances require pet owners to pick up poop, but we all know that not everyone does. In fact, USAToday.com reported that as many as 40 percent of pet owners don’t pick up their dog’s poop. Plus, many of those owners don’t keep their yards picked up or they let their pups run in rural areas and just leave the poop behind. Even setting aside the environmental impact, all that poop causes big problems for human and animal health. According to the Keep It Clean partnership, this has a significant impact: “Pets and urban wildlife are major sources of water contamination because pet waste contains harmful bacteria and parasites. Dog feces can contain fecal coliform bacteria, which can spread diseases like Giardia, Salmonella, and Campylobacter, causing serious illness in humans.”
The Water Problem
Reporting in New York Daily News claims: “Left on the ground, droppings from about 100 canines over the course of two or three days can generate enough bacteria to close bays and other bodies of water in a 20-mile radius.”
Livescience reports that between 20 and 30 percent of bacteria in urban watersheds comes from dog waste. How does it get there? When it rains or when snow melts, all that poop gets washed into the waterways through curbside storm drains or into streams and rivers. All that crud mentioned above then contaminates our water supply. Yuck.
So, what can you do about it?
If you have access to a commercial composting facility, use it. If your city picks up compost and allows pet waste to be included, sign up for the service. Those options are unfortunately rare, though, so here are a few other options for dealing with your pet’s waste:
Technically, dog waste is compostable. However, you need to maintain a compost pile that reaches and maintains temperatures hot enough to kill pathogens--a difficult feat for the average backyard composter. It is possible, though, if you can do it! Similarly, installing a digesting system like the Doggie Dooley works incredibly well--if you have the space for the system.
Another option is to flush your pup’s poop. Scoop it and dump it in your toilet (without the bag, obviously). This is feasible for backyard deposits but becomes a bit challenging when you’re on the go.
Finally, the easiest option is to use a plant-based pickup bag. All those tied-off plastic bags serve to preserve the dog poop in the landfill for eons to come. Switching to a plant-based bag and tossing in the garbage ensures the bag itself will decompose, allowing the poop to eventually compost.
Ultimately, any pickup option is better than leaving it behind, so do your “doo duty” and scoop that poop!