The scoop on scooping poop is that your pet’s free-range doo-dooing is a big no-no, on trails, city parks, yards and sidewalks.
Don’t poo-poo this idea. Besides the fact that it’s just plain gross to step in a steamy pile of dog poo, most states have rules and regulations governing distribution of, um, meadow muffins by any dog, cat, ferret, gerbil, goldfish — or any other pet. In other words, you have to pick up what they put down.
What’s the problem with dog poop?
Don't think a stray pile of poo makes a difference? Think again.
Like human poop, pet poop is raw sewage that contains pathogens such as bacteria, viruses, and parasites which can transmit disease to people. Some of these pathogens can last for years in the environment or your backyard. Children who play outside are at the greatest risk for infection. When high levels of fecal-related bacteria are found in a body of water, wading, swimming, and shellfish harvesting are restricted because of the health risk posed to people’s health.
Pet poop contains nutrients, which cause weeds and algae in waterbodies to grow more rapidly and in larger quantities than normal. Excess weeds and algal growth in water changes the balance of the ecosystem. Decaying plant material, from the excess weed and algal growth, uses up oxygen dissolved in water. This can reduce the amount of dissolved oxygen available in creeks and lakes to support fish and other aquatic life.
What if I don’t live or walk my dog near the water? It may be hard to imagine, especially if you don’t live next to a body of water, but your pet’s poop left on the ground affects the water quality of lakes, streams, rivers and marine waters. To better understand the environmental impact, it’s helpful to understand how stormwater runoff works. Curbs, storm drains, and ditches on or near your property collect water runoff and direct it to the closest body of water. Typically, stormwater never passes through a sanitary sewer treatment facility. In other words, anything on the ground no matter how far away from the stormwater drainage can eventually end up in a nearby waterway. Think of that oil slick that you see moving along the pavement and into a stormdrain when it rains. While bacteria and pathogens are not as visible, they travel the same way through the storm system to our creeks, lakes, and bays.
At home, scoop it, bag it, and trash it at least weekly, ideally daily, and especially before it rains.
Pathogens you can’t see can be tracked indoors on paws and shoes.
Some pathogens can survive in your yard for weeks or years.
Think your pet has kicked a parasite? Be careful. Your pets can become re-infected with parasites contained in dog poop from your own yard.
On walks, bag it every time and carry it to the trash.
Plan Ahead. Always keep extra bags and a flashlight on your leash.
Watch closely when dogs are off leash. Scoop even in tall brush.
Just skimming through or more of a visual person? Not a problem. If you're curious to know the environmental impact of NOT removing feces, you can look here. Suffice it to say, dog poop spreads germs and disease if it’s not disposed of properly.
Most states have laws that require pet owners to pick up their dog’s poop. Washington state doesn’t play games when it comes to dog poop. Their motto appears to be: ABC. Always Be Carrying (poop bags) or you can fined up to $160.
What you can ‘doo’
ALWAYS carry poop bags with you whenever you are out and about with your dog. Take more than you think you will need…you never know.
PICK IT UP! Every. Single. Time.
Use a biodegradable bag, tie and toss it in the garbage. Dog poop CANNOT go in compost or yard waste bins. I repeat, DO NOT compost dog poop!
Pick up poop piles in your yard every couple of days (more often is better and definitely before a big rain).
Hire a dog poop collection service. Yes, this is real, and they exist in many cities and counties. They do it so you don’t have to.
Dog poop doesn’t magically disappear. It might not be there the next time you walk by, but that's because either a ‘poo fairy’ picked it up for you (i.e., a responsible individual), or it, and all of the bacteria and pathogens, washed into the closest waterbody. So, if you think picking up dog poop is unpleasant, think about swimming by a floater. You’re welcome.
With a can-doo(doo) spirit, you can help keep our community's waterways clean and healthy. If you're already picking up after your pet and tossing it into the trash, thank you and keep up the good work!