I think we can all agree that cleaning up dog waste is not a fun task. In fact, nearly 40% of Americans do not pick up their dogs’ waste at all. However, this task is one of the most important jobs in bettering our environment and keeping us healthy. Pet waste can wreak havoc on the environment in several ways because it flows directly into our lakes and streams if not disposed of properly.
Dog waste contains two types of pollutants, pathogens and nutrients. A single gram of dog waste contains around 23 million bacteria; this includes pathogens like salmonella, cryptosporidium, roundworms, and E. coli that are all dangerous to humans. These pathogens can live in the soil for years or run off into our waterways as a major cause of bacterial contamination. The nutrients that are released from dog waste kills grass and causes algal blooms that consume oxygen and release toxins into our water. Algal blooms lead to the death of aquatic life, making ponds and lakes unsafe.
Although you may think that your own dogs waste can’t do much harm to our environment, it is important to remember that there are likely hundreds of dogs in your area. According to iHeartDogs, the ecosystem can generally handle two dogs per square mile, but in urban areas there are an average of 125 dogs per square mile which will largely overwhelm the ecosystem with their waste if not properly disposed of.
Picking up after your pets can be as simple as using a disposable bag to pick up waste, securing it, and tossing it in a trash can. Some more environmentally friendly ways would be to use toilet paper and flush the waste down the toilet, use biodegradable baggies or get a reusable rake and scooping pan. If you bury your pet waste, make sure to bury it at least 12 inches deep, in several locations and away from any vegetable gardens. Thoroughly wash your hands with soap and water if there’s a chance that you came into contact with your pets’ feces.
It might be unpleasant but getting into the habit of picking up after your pets will not only keep your neighbors happy and potentially keep you from getting a hefty fine as this is commonly the law in public areas, it will also better our environment and water supply.
For more information on the importance of cleaning up after your pets, contact the Delaware Soil and Water Conservation District. Please visit our website at soilandwater.co.delaware.oh.us or call us at 740-368-1921.
Sarah Kidd is the communications & outreach coordinator at the Delaware Soil & Water Conservation District. For information, go to https://soilandwater.co.delaware.oh.us/.