We all know that we should be picking up after our pets. It’s the considerate, neighborly thing to do. After all, we certainly don’t like being the recipient of a surprise after a misplaced step while walking in our neighborhood parks or enjoying our own yards. But in addition to being neighborly, considerate and the right thing to do, there are two other main reasons to pick up and properly dispose of your pet’s waste. Pet waste creates both environmental and health problems when left unattended.
Research has shown that the 78 million dogs in the US pile up 20 billion pounds of waste annually. Of that, only 60% of pet owners pick up after their pets, leaving 8 billion pounds of waste to wash away into waterways and reservoirs, polluting drinking water, endangering wildlife and creating potential health hazards for plants, animals, and humans.
When pet waste is left behind, it gets washed into storm drains and creeks by the rain. From there, unlike the separate sanitary sewer system that collects wastewater in your home from your sink, toilet and other appliances, water and other substances deposited in storm drains head straight to local rivers, lakes and bays with no filtering or cleaning. As pet waste goes through the chemical process of decomposition, it uses up large amounts of oxygen in the water. This oxygen reduction is harmful and sometimes fatal to many aquatic species. in addition, the process by which the pet waste is broken down produces by-products that encourage weed and algae growth, which also can be detrimental to aquatic and marine life. Stories of fish kills from algae blooms come to mind.
One gram of dog waste can contain 23 million fecal coliform bacteria. The average dog excretes 340 grams of waste per day—or 124,100 grams of waste per year. As you can see, dog waste is a very significant host of bacteria, and those bacteria can be harmful to human health if the waste is not disposed of appropriately. Some of the more common diseases caused by pet waste are Campylobacteriosis, Crytosporidium, Toxicariasis, Toxoplasmosis and Salmonellosis. And it’s not just bacteria—dog waste sometimes contains parasites, too, which can include hookworms, roundworms, whipworms, tapeworms and giardiasis. Oh, by the way, dog waste is a major food source for rats, which brings the health concern to a whole other level. It should be no surprise now that pet waste can create serious health concerns!
What to do with Pet Waste
We can pretty much gather by now that simply leaving pet waste where it lies is not an acceptable solution. The best way to deal with pet waste is to collect it and flush it down your toilet so that it undergoes the same treatment as human waste from your home. The next best option is to collect the waste and dispose of it in biodegradable bags along with your other garbage. If no biodegradable bags are available, collect it in a plastic bag and dispose of it in the same manner.
What not to do with Pet Waste
Under no circumstances should pet waste be dumped into storm sewers as that only hastens its trip to the waterways and oceans. Because of all the bacteria that can be contained in pet waste, it should never be used in compost piles or for fertilizer on gardens. It takes chemicals or extreme heat to kill the bacteria and parasites found in dog waste and composting generally doesn’t generate enough heat.
So, let’s not only be health and environmentally conscious neighbors, let’s be considerate, respectful neighbors and pick up after our pets. After all, it’s the right thing to do.