The Scoop on Dog Poop

– Posted in: Miscellaneous

sassey-molly-and-jacob-resizedI’m a sucker for practically any dog. I just love these four legged creatures. And being the owner of three dogs, I know the responsibility that goes along with ownership. Consequently, when I see owners (including my neighbors) allowing their dogs to  poop wherever they choose, I’m amazed at the rudeness of these folks. After all, how about some basic manners?

It has only been in the last couple of years that I’ve become aware that not picking up after our dogs is actually bad for the environment. It’s a well known practice and benefit for gardeners and farmers to use  animal manure to enrich soil. Because of this practice, perhaps it’s intuitive to think that dog waste is actually good for the environment.  So, let’s set the record straight now!First, dog waste contains the same bacteria as human waste. We have toilets and sewage systems to protect drinking water and the environment.  When we don’t pick up after our dogs, we’re leaving sewage on our lawns, sidewalks, beaches and places where we walk .  As importantly, dog poop left on the ground runs off into streams and rivers effecting the quality of water.

Here’s the killer. It’s estimated that dog waste causes between 20-30% of stream pollution.

Another problem: when left on the ground, dog waste adds an excessive amount of nitrogen fertilizer to the soil which increases the spread of nitrogen loving weeds, often at the expense of native plants.

There are also plenty of diseases in dog waste: tapeworm, ecoli, roundworm plus a slew of others. These are all diseases that humans contract. FYI, if a child touches an object that has been in contact with feces and then puts her hand to her mouth, she can contract the disease that is in the feces.  If all of us would take the time to think of children playing in a park or just on neighborhood lawns, and how our negligence and lack of consciousness is unintentionally harming them, perhaps that would motivate alot of us to change our behaviors.

recyclable-poop-bags-resizedIn the past couple of years since I’ve tried to do away with plastic grocery bags, I’ve found another way of disposing of dog waste, thanks to a product that I discovered at my pet store. It’s scented, recyclable bags. They’re easy to use and not terribly expensive. Using them to pick up after your dog will make you feel good because you’re being a respectful neighbor and citizen, you’re taking action to help sustain the environment, you’re not harming children and polluting rivers and streams and you’re helping to minimize weeds that are harmful to native plants.

This is a simple, thoughtful action that can make a significant difference in the world!!  How to educate the public? I don’t know. Even though certain cities and municipalities have laws against not picking up after dogs, I’m not sure how often these laws are actually enforced. Any suggestions?

Fran Sorin

Fran is the author of the highly-acclaimed book, Digging Deep: Unearthing Your Creative Roots Through Gardening, which Andrew Weil, M.D., recommends as "a profound and inspiring book."  

A graduate of the University of Chicago with Honors in Psychology, she is also a gardening and creativity expert, coach, inspirational speaker, CBS radio news gardening correspondent, and Huffington Post Contributor.

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Fran Sorin
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carolyngail January 14, 2009, 11:06 am

Good post, Fran. I’m beginning to see dog waste disposal systems in public parks and community garden areas and the system is being sold at the Garden center where I work.

It’s a $500 fine for not picking up after your dog here and if I see someone violating the law I remind them in a polite way. I doubt anyone’s every received a fine since you have to catch them in the act.

I think we should add the hazards of dog poop under the warning signs posted to make people more aware of the importance of cleaning up after their dogs.

Your idea certainly couldn’t hurt. As far as city violations, I do know of one person in Tel Aviv who was fined a hefty sum for not picking up. Not only would enforcing the law help prevent folks from doing it but what a great way for a city to make money (rather than spending time giving parking tickets….ugh!). Fran

Gail January 14, 2009, 11:35 am

This is button pusher issue with me…No really helpful suggestions for enforcement here. Our city gov’t is in the red, so I doubt they have the resources to begin any education campaigns. They do have signs posted in the parks and free doggie clean up bags. Still people don’t pick up after their dogs. It’s also very difficult to monitor in suburban neighborhoods. Perhaps neighborhood associations should tackle it. Many associations have listservs or newsletters. gail

Couldn’t agree more about neighborhood associations. In Philadelphia, I live in a community that has as association with a Chairman who is a Professor at Wharton School at U.of P. He really doesn’t want to take the issue of picking up after one’s dog on except as a reminder. And you know what’s amazing? Even the neighbors who I kindly remind to pick up act embarrassed when I mention it to them. But then they go ahead and continue doing what they’ve always done before. How about that? Fran

Jim/ January 14, 2009, 5:06 pm

In addition, I might add, that in urban neighborhoods, rats can be a problem when there is available dog waste. In our area there was a three-point education campaign concerning rats when we went to a “blue bin” program for our garbage program – tightly sealed garbage bins provided by the city. That was the #1 way to get rid of our rat problem.

#2 was birdseed feeder droppings.

#3 was dog waste. Yes, rats will get their nutrition anywhere they can get it.

Since the totes & other awareness programs started, we’ve not had a rat problem in years. Although the older near-suburbs do. Seems we’ve pushed the rat population out toward them!

Very interesting and a great concept. Can you send us a link to the program’s website (if they have one)? Thanks for sharing. Fran

Lisa at Greenbow January 14, 2009, 8:47 pm

All I can say is the only thing worse than stepping in your dogs poop is stepping in someone elses dogs poop. PICK IT UP.

There are convenient little holders to attach to your leash that holds a roll of bags for pick up. If you can afford a dog, with shots and all the care they need you can afford to get the bags and pick up after them.

I don’t know how to make people understand that they should do this. After all many of these same people let their cats run wild too. I bet there are more cats running wild than dogs. You know what the result would be.

Thanks for that tip about holders attached to dog leashes. Will need to look for it the next time I’m at the store. On the subject of cats, several of my neighbors let their cats roam free. A couple of years ago, one that happened to be running through my backyard was decapitated by a fox. You think that changed the behavior of the owners? Nope. They still let their cats (and dogs) run free. And to boot, they are absolutely lovely folks with three beautiful, well raised children. So, go figure! Fran

Nancy Bond January 14, 2009, 9:49 pm

I echo everyone else’s sentiments — take responsibility for your pet!
Wouldn’t it be wonderful if we all followed the golden rule? All it takes is awareness, willingness and in certain cases, education! Fran

Cindy, MCOK January 15, 2009, 5:52 am

Fran, are those Yorkies? Whatever they are, your threesome is absolutely adorable! On the subject of dog poop, I’m right there with you. I own a small terrier mix and I always pick up after her. I am appalled by how many folks do not do the same, though. Living on a corner lot, I offer double the opportunity for doggie deposits. A German Shepherd down the street gifts me regularly. I think I’ll print out your post and put it in the owner’s mailbox.

No, my dogs are Australian terriers….close in your guess. They’re about 2 sizes up from the Yorkies….between 14-18 lbs. The silky terrier is in between them. We got our first one about 17 years ago (now deceased) and have been addicted to them ever since. What can I say? I love their incorrigible nature.

You know, it might not be a bad idea to make copies or in your own words have a print out with some information on this issue. And then when you see offenders, just place it in their mailbox.

One other trick I’ve been using since coming to Israel is to carry extra bags with me. When I see someone without a bag letting their dog wander about ready to do her/his thing, I approach and with a smile ask them if they’d like a bag. This always gets a response….sometimes even positive.

Thanks for joining the discussion!! Fran

Jim/ January 15, 2009, 10:49 am

The link for some info on rta population control can be found here:

It’s not much. The program was implemented in Buffalo years ago and a bit more intensively than this county program I’ve linked to.

You’re in Israel? My wife just got in from Tel Aviv last night. She goes back Monday.

Hey Jim-
Thanks for sending me that link. Will get on to read it when I have more time.
What a coincidence! What is your wife doing in Israel that she is flying home and then back again? I’m here for 3 months this winter spending time with my adult children and other family….plus I love the country! Fran

Mr. McGregor's Daughter January 15, 2009, 3:52 pm

I’ve never thought about picking up my own dogs’ poop from my own yard. It never occurred to me that it could cause environmental problems. At one point I thought about getting a dog poop disposal system, which consisted of a small plastic thing sunk in the ground. The dog poop gets placed inside where enzymes break it down. I am currently dogless, but I’ve decided I must get one of these systems when I get my next dog.

Hey, I never knew that it was bad for the environment either until recently. Thanks for sharing the info. on the dog poop disposal system. Perhaps someone else has tried it out already. Fran

Eleanor at OutOfDoors February 2, 2009, 3:45 pm

Hi Fran-
Could you tell me where you found the statistic on dog waste and stream pollution? Off-leash dog parks and attendant poo problems have been in contention at recent city council meetings, and I think that the environmental factor is an important topic. Thanks,

Hi Eleanor-
There are plenty of sources if you click on google and then write in “dog waste and the environment. But here is one that I thought might be helpful to you:
Good luck in getting your city council onto this issue. Let me know if you have any success! Fran

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