The Scoop on Poop: The Domino Effect of Not Picking Up Your Dog's Waste
If you have a dog, there's about an 100% chance that you've encountered dog poop.
While it's not the most enjoyable part of pet ownership, picking up poop is a non-avoidable part of owning a dog, and is as basic and as necessary as filling up your dog's water dish.
Unfortunately, a study done on picking up pet waste found that 35-45% of dog owners didn't believe they should pick up their dog's poop if located in rural areas (such as in the countryside or on farmland).
Here's why you should always pick up your dog's waste, no matter where the location!
For some dog owners, the argument stands: "I don't mind leaving it in the woods because it's natural, you know?"
But is dog poop really that natural?
Unfortunately, the answer is no. Due to the use of commercial pet foods, pet waste is dense in nutrients that can have harmful effects on our environment. In fact, the rise in nitrogen and phosphorus in local watersheds (rivers, lakes, and streams for example) have been attributed to pet ownership (second to commercial lawn fertilizers), and more specifically, the pet waste that comes along with it. So much so, that the USDA (United States Department of Agriculture) has even created Pet Waste Disposal Systems to help protect water quality.
Science Writer Susan Freinkel notes that just a few days of waste produced by 100 dogs can accumulate enough bacteria to close 20 miles of a bay-watershed to swimming and shellfishing, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
“This runoff, which can contain unnaturally high nitrogen and phosphorus, leads to nutrient-loading, or eutrophication, and can wreak long-term havoc on aquatic ecosystems” Linroth, 2008.
As a result, if you like your waterfronts and want them to stay open - scoop that poop!
FAQ: Why can the wildlife poop in the woods, but my dog can’t?
The answer to this question is largely a result of two things: Commercialized diets (as discussed above), and the increase in pet ownership. With the rise in dog ownership, it's estimated that there are about 83 million pet dogs in the US alone. With dogs, comes poop - A LOT of poop. Scientists approximate that pet dogs create 10.6 million tons of poop a year! As a result, many ecosystems become overwhelmed with waste that they weren't built to support.
Wildlife poop on the other hand is an important part of nature for a plethora of reasons. From spreading native plant seeds, fertilizing the land (great example here, with moose!), and dispersing nutrients around different locations (also referred to by scientists as the nutrient cycle) - wildlife poop plays it's own critical role in maintaining the balance of nature.
"Wild animals are consuming resources and nutrients from the ecosystem, and then promptly returning those same resources and nutrients. Essentially, the system is a closed loop with no net gain or loss in nutrients or resources." (Leave No Trace, 2017)
This differs from our dog's waste, which can cause an imbalance in your local ecosystems if left unchecked. While wildlife spreads nitrogen and phosphorus into the land, dog poop contains a much higher amount due to the commercial balancing of diets. This leads to ripple effects in the ecosystem.
Parasites & Disease
Apart from the ecological detriment, dog poop can also have an effect on the health of people, pets, and other wildlife. Believe it or not, it's estimated that over 30 diseases (bacterial, viral, parasitic and fungal) transmitted to humans are pet-associated. One of the biggest vehicles for parasites and diseases? You guessed it, POOP!
Another argument given as to why pet parents leave their dog's poop behind in the pet waste survey, was that people believed poop would "break down" and not cause an issue to their surrounding community. However, leaving poop behind can actually heighten the risk of parasite exposure.
“Animal owners may mistakenly believe that only fresh, odiferous feces present a health risk. In fact, many parasite eggs found in feces do not reach the infectious stage until days or weeks after the animal defecated. Allowing feces to dry out and disintegrate contaminates the soil and creates an elevated risk for exposure to parasites.” (Beeler et Al, 2008).
While our dogs may not necessarily show symptoms of having a parasite, that doesn't mean that they aren't present. A study in done in Serbia sampled 282 samples of dog feces from different public areas (kindergartens, public squares and parks). Of these samples, 221 (78.%) were positive with some form of intestinal parasites.
While this percentile may range dependent on where you're located in the world, it's important that we do our part and act as if our dogs may be carrying something harmful. When in doubt, pack it out.
Another big reason to pick up dog poop, is for your community. Not only can public parks, dog parks, and beaches be closed due to the abundance of dog feces, but it can also cause a major communal divide and a loss of dog friendly businesses.
A local example: The dog waste problem was so bad in Toronto, Ontario that for a time the city considered tracking down inconsiderate owners through DNA Testing. In the past, some communities have launched "Dog Fouling" campaigns on FixMyStreet to address the dog poo-pocalypse.
A simple solution to avoid all of the above?
Do your DOO-ty, and pick up after your pups!
Hike Where There Are No Bins? Try the Kurgo Tailgate Dumpster.
This little innovation is small but mighty! It attaches to the back of your tailgate with magnets, so that you don't have to carry poop filled bags in your car. Our video on how it works, here.
Sometimes holding a bag can feel like a drag - try some Leash Poop Holders!
Earth-Rated's new Leash Dispenser 2.0 has a clip on the back to hold knotted poop bags (pictured here). This way, you can keep you hands free while you hike your waste to the nearest garbage can.
Go Plastic Free with Compostable Poop Bags
While we always want to pick up our dog's waste, let's do it with the environment in mind. Skip single-use plastic and opt for Compostable options, like Pawsitive Solutions compostable poop bags.
Check Your City Guidelines
When it comes to where to toss that poop, check with your city guidelines to find out whether dog waste is considered compostable or Green-Bin worthy in your area. In the Niagara Region, pet waste is encouraged to be placed in green bins (just ensure it's in a compostable poop bag, or wrapped in newspaper!).
Sources & Further Readings:
Contrasting nitrogen and phosphorus budgets in urban watersheds and implications for managing urban water pollution
The Planet: Neglected Nuggets Dog poop pollutes Whatcom Waterways
Wildlife Poop Versus Dog Poop: Explained
The Poop Problem: What To Do With 10 Million Tons of Dog Waste
Canine intestinal parasites as a potential source of soil contamination in the public areas of Kruševac, Serbia
Toronto company offers DNA dog waste testing to track negligent owners
Environmental and social impacts of domestic dog waste in the UK: investigating barriers to behavioural change in dog walkers
Intestinal Parasites in Dogs - Symptoms, Causes, Diagnosis, Treatment, Recovery, Management, Cost
The Role of Animal Poop in the Earth's Nutrient Cycle
Nutrient Cycling by Animals in Freshwater Ecosystems
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