Cocker spaniel sleeping with beware of dog sign

The Dog Poop Problem

Man’s best friend has a dirty little secret, and the EPA is concerned. The agency estimates that just 2 to 3 days’ worth waste from only 100 dogs can contribute enough bacteria to temporarily close a bay and all watershed areas to swimming or shell fishing within 20 miles.

Consider this: There are now more than 76 million dogs living in the US, and the average dog deposits about ¾ pounds of waste each day. What first appears as a small amount quickly adds up. That’s 10 million tons each year.

The option most highly recommended by the EPA for disposing of dog waste is flushing your dog’s waste down the toilet.

Does A Bear Poop In The Woods?

Family with dog walking in the forest

Even responsible pet owners do it all the time. They’ll take their dog for a walk in the woods and won’t bother picking up his feces, an oversight they’d never consider on a walk around the neighborhood.

Maybe they think, “Hey, it’s the woods, nobody’s going to step in it.” Or, “Hey, it’ll decompose and help fertilize the ground.” Or, “Hey, bears go in the woods and nobody picks up their poop. What’s the difference?”

The difference is their diet!

Bears don’t eat commercial dog food (unless they’ve stumbled upon a campsite where campers with a dog failed to secure their food stuffs). Dogs do, and if they poop in the woods and owners don’t pick up after them, it has a huge environmental impact.

Most dogs eat pet food rich in nutrients designed to provide them with a complete and healthy diet. And those pet foods lead to excess nutrients like nitrogen and phosphorus in the environment when dog poop isn’t picked up. A buildup of those nutrients can create unstable conditions in many ecosystems.

Those unstable conditions can lead to algae blooms in rivers, lakes, and streams, which creates an inviting habitat for invasive weeds that slowly kill off the local plant and fish life.

How Is Pet Poop Harmful?

Pet waste carries a number of bacteria, parasites and other diseases that can be transmitted to humans, according to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC). Pet waste can transmit different worms that can affect us, especially children.

Roundworms, for example, are common in dogs, and can remain alive in the soil for years. According to the CDC, 14 percent of Americans test positive for these worms.

Another hazard is campylobacter bacteria. Although infection can cause transient gastrointestinal problems in healthy adults, they can cause life-threatening infections in infants, older persons, and people with weakened immune systems.

Dog waste can also carry E.coli, parvovirus, and salmonella.

How To Discard Pet Waste

Man picking up dog waste

First of all, dog waste should not be left on the ground. Wrap the dog waste in a biodegradable bag.

  Pets N Bags Poop Bags
  Pogi's Poop Bags with Easy-Tie Handles
  Greener Walker Poop Bags for Dog Waste
  Earth Rated Dog Poop Bags

But, There Are Still Concerns

Switching to a compostable bag and throwing the dog waste into the trash still is eventually bound for a landfill, so you’re really not achieving much. Biodegradable bags are meant to degrade under composting conditions, which are largely absent from most landfills. This leads to the breakdown of both the poop and the bag, which can produce the potent greenhouse gas methane.

Flushing Dog Waste

The option most highly recommended by the EPA is flushing your dog’s waste down the toilet. That may seem surprising during drought times, but accommodating pets does have significant environmental impacts no matter how you cut it. Municipal sewage treatment plants are designed to remove both excess nutrients and potential pathogens from waste, your dog’s as well as your own, before returning clean water to the ecosystem.

Further Reading:

 Beavers — Nature's Hydrologist, Part 2
 Garter Snakes — The Gardener's Friend
 Wisconsin Native Salamanders
 Goundhog or Woochuck: All The Facts
 Voles, Both The Good and The Bad

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