The Eco-Scoop On Dog Poop

According to the American Veterinary Medical Association, the current U.S. dog population tops out somewhere near 80 million. When you consider that a musher with an average-sized kennel of 20 sled dogs generates more than 2 tons of dog feces annually*, the waste generated by 80 million dogs must equal a Mount Everest-sized pile of manure. Doggie dung is harmless, even useful, if disposed of properly. If not, it creates health-related risks for humans and problems for the environment.

How Doggie Doo Can be Bad for You (and the Planet, too)

The Risks to Human Health

Most dog lovers are in denial about their dog's poo. They tend to think of it as just another natural fertilizer. It's not. Dog feces contain the same bacteria as human waste, as well as any number of disease causing organisms like:

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  • roundworm
  • giardia
  • campylobacter
  • leptospira
  • tapeworm
  • cryptosporidium
  • E. Coli
  • fecal coliforms

These pathogens are directly transferable to humans (especially children) when we touch an object that has been contaminated with feces (like touching contaminated chew toys, or when cleaning poo off of our shoes) and then we inadvertently touch our mouths with our hands.

How Waste Affects Water Quality

The U.S. Geological Survey conducted a study of Kansas City area streams and creeks recently, and found that bacteria associated with pet waste was the source of approximately 25% of the bacteria in samples collected from local waterways. Eeek!

When it rains, thousands of pounds of pet waste (and the bacteria and pathogens they contain) wash down storm drains and into city sewer systems. The water in these sewer systems don't go through a wastewater treatment plant, instead, it runs directly into local waterways. Once in the waterway, fecal matter decomposes, using up oxygen and releasing pollutants. Ammonia levels can kill off fish and other aquatic organisms. The nitrogen and phosphorus released causes excessive growth of aquatic weeds and algae, which turns the water a murky green color and blocks out light to the plants below.

What to do with Fido's Poo

Bag It

Bags are the easiest and most obvious solution to cleaning up your dog's waste. Keep a stash of bags in your car, your coat pocket, and clip a small coin purse full of them to your dog's collar. Out for a walk and forget your bags? No problem. You can find pet valets stocked full of plastic bags in nearly every park and trail head in the world. Using biodegradable plastic bags is best, because they are designed to break down from prolonged exposure to oxygen or water once they reach the landfill. Once there they may still take months to deteriorate, but public health, and the health of local streams and waterways are still better off.

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Flush It

Dog feces can be collected and flushed down the toilet. The problem used to be that dumping doggie doo doo into the toilet from plastic bags was messy. Now there are flushable bags made of polyvinyl alcohol film designed to dissolve in water, leaving only the contents of the bag (your dog's poo) behind.

Digest It

Let waste break down using a pet waste composting system like the "Doggie Dooley". These systems work just like miniature septic systems, using enzymes full of live organisms to break down waste. Once the system is dug into the ground, a foot-operated lid makes it easy to drop in pet waste. Add water and digester powder and before you know it, your dog's waste is reduced to a harmless, ground absorbing liquid. There's no need to spend big bucks on a store-bought system. Follow this link for photo instruction on how to make your own. Add chopped yard waste (green and brown) to speed up the process. The finished compost can then be used on ornamentals, just not on food crops.

Hire a Poo Crew

Believe it or not, some folks are willing to pick up where your dog "left off." For a small fee, poo crews will come to your home once a week and pick up your dog's doody (some offer litter box services, too). With names like Poopfairies, DoodyCalls, and Dr. Poolittle, who can resist? To find a service in your area, call local breeders, veterinarians, or animal shelters. The Association of Professional Animal Waste Specialists also has a website where you can search by state, but the results may not list all of the service providers available in your area. http://www.apaws.org/

Turn It Into Fuel?

If you live in the San Francisco Bay area, you may be able to turn your poochie's poo into power. San Francisco is home to more than 120,000 dogs (more dogs live there than children) and a lot of dog poo. Known for being a leader in green innovation, the city decided not to let its dog waste go to waste. Instead, it launched a test program to study the feasibility of turning the city's dog poop into biofuel. So far, the program is limited to collecting waste from doggie daycare facilities around the city. The program hopes to expand to city parks in the near future. For more information contact Norcal Waste System, Inc., at http://www.norcalwaste.com/

*USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service and Fairbanks Soil and Water Conservation District, Fairbanks, Alaska.

About The Author: Ellen Brown is an environmental writer and photographer and the owner of Sustainable Media, an environmental media company that specializes in helping businesses and organizations promote eco-friendly products and services. Contact her on the web at http://www.sustainable-media.com

April 25, 20080 found this helpful

Thanks for this info. I'm tempted to print it out and post it in my yard next to the street, where I find the occasional doggie present from unthinking neighbors.

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April 25, 20080 found this helpful

I have three dogs and we are always wondering what is the best way to dispose of their "stuff"! I compost all of our plant matter, etc., so, making one of the do-it-yourself doggie doo composters is perfect for us! Thanks for the tip!

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April 29, 20080 found this helpful

I have a problem with flush it. It has been found that there is a lot of residue from medications that are flushed either because they are on good any more or are from body waste. These are showing up in our drinking water because they can't be filtered out. Will the disease causing organisms be filtered out?

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May 7, 20080 found this helpful

So where do you get those polyvinyl film bags? It's not effective if we need items that aren't readily available. I did a few online searches and didn't find bags -- just film.

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May 10, 20080 found this helpful

Blueayez,

Here's some links to the flushable bags.

http://www.handicappedpets.com/acc/flush/

http://www.wisconsinpetproducts.com/site/464285/product/PH3

Here's a link to several types of biodegradable bags.

http://www.shopwiki.com/search/q=Flushable+dog+poop+Bags/

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May 25, 20080 found this helpful

We have a company here in Kansas City called Stinkies Pet Waste Removal. They come every week and pickup the poop for us and take it away. We've used them for over four years and couldn't be happier.

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October 15, 20080 found this helpful

We use Flush Doggy flushable dog poop bags. www.flushdoggy.com

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April 22, 20090 found this helpful

Contrary to what many small dog and cat owners want to believe; that poop is toxic too! It doesn't disappear or whatever they want to believe justifies them being slobs. It ALL needs to be recycled and handled in a safe and clean manner.

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April 23, 20090 found this helpful

Fascinating, great ideas. Thank you!

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