It’s that wonderful time of year again; the birds are chirping, the weather is warming, and the winter dog poop is thawing – yay!
As our yards begin the annual spring thaw, so commences the ritual of removing countless doggy ‘landmines’ that have been accumulating in the snow all winter long. While this particular chore is an unpleasant task for many dog owners, it is necessary to recognize the harm dog waste can do to our fragile local water systems, among other things. Proper disposal of pet waste is critical for reducing harm to our environment.
Canine feces are host to a deluge of toxic pathogenic microorganisms. In fact, one gram of dog waste averages 23 million coliform bacteria, which is twice what is found in human waste. When left unattended, these pathogens wash into storm drains or sink below ground and quickly make their way into our waterways.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) labels pet waste as a non-point source pollutant (NPS), meaning it is categorized the same as toxic substances from pesticides, motor vehicles, and more. NPS contamination is caused by melting snow and rainfall moving over and through the ground. As this runoff travels, it carries away both natural and human-made pollutants. Finally, these pollutants are deposited into rivers, lakes, wetlands, coastal waters, and ground waters. The EPA also reports that non-point source pollutants are the leading cause of water quality problems in urban watershed areas, as they have detrimental impacts on drinking water, fisheries, wildlife, and more.
How much dog poop is needed to contaminate a body of water, you ask? The EPA estimates that 100 dogs over the course of three days could create enough pathogenic-rich fecal matter to temporarily close a water body with an astounding 32 kilometre radius!
Similar to another non-point source pollutant, agricultural runoff, dog waste also contains a surplus of nutrients. Once these nutrients wash their way into water sources, they can lead to dangerous bacteria and algae blooms, poisoning our delicate water tables. These algal blooms deplete oxygen in the water, compromising the survival of fish and other aquatic life. Algal blooms are also responsible for the closure of many publicly enjoyed spaces, like beaches.
Pathogens in dog waste can also create a number of problems for wildlife, pets, and humans. Salmonella, roundworm, giardia, e-coli, and more can linger in soil for up to four years, even after the waste has been removed. Something to think about the next time you roll around in the grass with your pooch on those beautiful summer days.
How can dog owners help reduce the harmful environmental effects from their dog’s waste?
- Scooping up that poop before it has a chance to thaw is the best way to prevent the spread of harmful bacteria, and to reduce pressure on municipal water services this time of year.
- Pick up your dog’s waste as often as you can. The less time dog poop spends on the ground, the better.
- Always carry pickup bags with you.
- Properly dispose of pet waste in the garbage.
- Never put dog waste in the compost.
As dog owners, we are responsible for our dogs at all times. As members of this fragile planet, we share an obligation to do the least harm to Mother Nature as possible. Properly taking care of your dog’s waste is one simple task that can have a serious positive impact on local ecosystems, and all creatures who call those spaces home.
Brandon Forder, known as The Pet Expert, is vice-president of Canadian Pet Connection, an industry leader in healthy pet lifestyles. Brandon is certified in pet nutrition, and has more than twenty-five years’ experience specializing in pet health and behaviour. He has written hundreds of informative pet-related articles for newspapers, magazines, radio, and the popular Ask the Pet Expert Blog. Brandon is highly skilled in pet problem solving, and enjoys teaching others about smart and responsible pet ownership. To learn more, visit www.CanadianPetConnection.ca.