The Ultimate Dog Doo FAQ
Is dog poop bad for the environment?
Yes. Unbeknownst to many, dog poop is more than just a gross an unsightly mess with a penchant for ruining your day (and shoes) – it is an environmental pollutant and a human health hazard.
In 1991, dog waste was labeled a non-point source pollutant by the Environmental Protection Agency, placing it in the same category as herbicides and insecticides; oil, grease and toxic chemicals; and acid drainage from abandoned mines.
Unlike other common residential pollutants such as fertilizer and rinse water from driveways, dog waste often contains bacteria, worms and parasites that can make you and your pets sick.
Giardia, ringworm, roundworm, tapeworm, whipworm, parvovirus, salmonella and E. coli are examples of such inhabitants, all of which are commonly found in dog feces and are easily transferable upon contact. These waste-borne pathogens thrive in the poop until it is cleaned up or washed into the water supply.
Why is dog poop bad for local waterways?
From an environmental perspective, unscooped dog poop has the biggest impact on our waterways. In areas with large dog populations, pathogens from dog poop account for much of the pollutants found in stormwater runoff.
In Maryland, it is estimated that dog waste accounts for 24 percent of the bacteria that pollutes the state’s urban and suburban waterways, according to a recent report by the Maryland Department of the Environment.
In addition, the US Environmental Protection Agency estimates that 2-3 days worth of droppings from a population of about 100 dogs can contribute enough bacteria to temporarily close a bay and all watershed areas within 20 miles to swimming and shell fishing.
Many of the pathogens commonly found in dog waste can survive in water. Roundworm, for example, is one of the most common parasites found in dog waste and it can remain infectious in contaminated soil and water for years.
When enough waste enters local waterways, plant and animal life can start to falter. This is in part because dog poop adds nitrogen and phosphorus to the water, which – in high enough concentrations – depletes oxygen levels necessary to sustain plant life, fish and other wildlife.
How much dog poop is out there?
According to the EPA, the average dog discards approximately three quarters of a pound of waste per day. Over the course of one year, it adds up to 275 pounds per dog.
When you take the entire US dog population into account, the numbers are staggering. By recent estimates, there are currently upwards of 84 million dogs taking up residence in America today. Collectively, these pooches deposit nearly 62.7 million lbs of waste every day and 22.9 trillion lbs of waste every year – the vast majority of which is left sitting in backyards across America.
For perspective, this is the equivalent of 286,344 tractor trailers fully loaded with dog doo. If those 18-wheelers were lined up bumper to bumper, the caravan would stretch 4,067 miles. Put another way, this unbroken line of big rigs filled to the brim with doody could stretch from New York City all the way to Los Angeles, with enough trucks left over to circle back around and cover the distance from LA to Austin, Texas. That is A LOT of waste.
Why don’t people pick up after their pets?
Many times, unattended dog waste is the result of circumstance rather than bad intentions.
For dog walkers, forgetting to bring a bag for the waste or running out of bags during the walk are the most common reasons why waste is left on the ground.
For homeowners, a lack of time is the most common reason dog poop is left sitting in the backyard unscooped. Simply put: time is a precious commodity, and of all of the things on the average homeowner’s to-do list, picking up after the pooch is typically down there towards the bottom.
But as unpleasant and time consuming as scooping poop may be, keeping this waste off the ground is an important responsibility held by all dog owners. For those who prefer to wash their hands clean of the cleanup business, local pet waste removal services like DoodyCalls will gladly handle all of the messy work for you.
What is the best way to dispose of dog poop?
Pet waste pickup is an important tenet of responsible dog ownership. The first step is picking up what your pet leaves behind. The second is making sure it is disposed of properly.
DoodyCalls recommends scooping waste into a trash bag, then double-wrapping it with another bag and placing in the garbage to be collected and taken to the landfill. However, you should check to make sure this method of disposal is in accordance with local laws and regulations.
If you do follow the bag and garbage method, be sure to double bag the waste and tie knots at the top of both bags to ensure the waste is properly sealed. This is to protect garbage collectors from coming into contact with the waste upon pickup.
Does dog waste attract rodents?
Oh yes. For rats and other rodents, dog waste is the breakfast of champions. In developed areas, doggie deposits left on the ground often serve as a steady, abundant food source for rats and their cousins.
An unwanted neighbor in any community, the presence of rodents can decrease the property values of all nearby homes and presents a host of additional health concerns to residents and their pets. Rats, for instance, as well as their urine or feces, have been linked to a number of diseases that can easily be passed to humans, including leptospirosis, typhus, rat-bite fever and salmonellosis.
While rats are typically associated with big cities, they can also live prosperous lives in the suburbs as well.
Once these rodents have taken up residence, they can be remarkably difficult to evict. This is because rats have an uncanny ability to survive (and even thrive) in inhospitable environments. Rats will eat nearly any type of food; they can climb brick or stucco; swim as far as half a mile; gnaw through wood, metal, plastic and cinderblock; and they can squeeze themselves through holes as small as a quarter. Rats are also successful colonists, reproducing four to seven times per year, with the average litter containing eight to twelve offspring that can reach maturity in as little as eight weeks.
In particular, rats only need three things to survive: Food, water and shelter, all of which they are experts at finding. In neighborhoods without restaurants or commercial dumpsters, and where uncovered trash is not a widespread problem, dog waste often becomes their primary food source.
Is dog waste a good fertilizer?
No – quite the opposite, in fact. Leaving dog waste on the ground or concentrating it in one specific area of the yard can seriously harm soil quality and also presents a number of potential human health hazards to families and their pets.
The idea that Fido or Fluffy’s waste is a natural fertilizer is a commonly held misconception stemming from the use of cow or horse manure as a soil enhancer. But not all waste is made equal and whether a specific animal’s waste is beneficial to the ground it lays on depends primarily upon the animal’s diet. As a rule of thumb, in order for waste to be used as an effective fertilizer it must consist mainly of digested plant matter.
Cows and horses are herbivores, which makes their waste ideal for use as fertilizer. In contrast, a dog’s diet is made up of mostly animal products, making their waste unsuitable for soil enrichment.
Can dog poop be composted?
Composting is an alternative and fairly uncommon method for dog waste disposal where pet owners collect discarded dog waste into one large compost heap with the hope that the waste will decompose over time.
While it is possible to compost dog waste, the heap must exceed 165 degrees Fahrenheit for approximately five days to safely sterilize the manure. Unfortunately, most backyard compost systems rarely reach this temperature, and even if they did, it would still be inadvisable to use the waste as fertilizer. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, dog waste – composted or otherwise – should never be used on crops grown for human consumption.
In addition, before pursuing such a system, it is important to understand that dog waste typically piles up much faster than it decomposes and concentrating this waste into a specific area can seriously damage nearby soil and water quality. Similarly, this practice also presents a number of potential health hazards to families and their pets.
Allowing weeks, months, or even years worth of waste to accumulate in your yard creates a ripe breeding ground for disease and infection. Needless to say, this should be avoided, especially if young children have access to the designated compost area and could potentially come into contact with the waste.
The best action pet owners and communities can take for waste disposal is to make sure dog poop is always picked up off the ground and properly disposed of in accordance with local laws and regulations.
What are in-ground waste digesters?
Some homeowners and communities choose to use in-ground waste digesters to dispose of dog waste. Waste digesters generally consist of a hole in the ground with a lid on top. Waste is put into the hole along with special enzymes and water, and over time the waste is supposed to break down and drain into the ground. Provided below are some things to consider before using a pet waste digester:
Non-biodegradable material will not break down in the digester. You will need to remove trash or any non-biodegradable material found in the waste from the digester.
If you have a large volume of waste, your digester will require a very deep hole and you may need to dig new holes each year.
Waste will not digest when the temperature falls below 40°F.
Heavy clay soils often prevent digesters from draining properly.
What’s the scoop on dog waste DNA analysis?
Dog waste DNA analysis is a relatively new approach to curbing dog waste that has received a mixed bag of reactions from community managers, dog owners and the public since making its debut in 2011. To be effective, the program requires a community that is governed as a single entity (ex: association) with by-laws, declarations and/or covenants that allow for mandated programs to be implemented and enforced, with or without voluntary participation from residents.
The system works as follows: All new and existing dog-owning residents are required to submit a mouth swab DNA sample from their pet. A database is then created and when wayward dog waste is found on community grounds, the community manager collects a sample in a plastic vial and sends it to the dog waste DNA testing facility. Waste samples are then crosschecked with DNA records to identify the offender. Once a match is made, the community levies an assessment fee against the offending owner; typically $100 for the first offence. In many communities using this system, repeat offenders risk escalating fines and possible loss of pet ownership privileges in the community.
Dog poop DNA testing is a new, high-tech approach to curbing community dog waste problems and, as with most new technology entering a market, it can be expensive. To properly introduce the program, every dog in the community must have their DNA collected with a cheek swab and added to a database. A fee is charged for each dog added to the DNA database. In addition, there is also typically a fee for each waste sample collection kit and an additional fee to analyze each fecal sample.
The ultimate goal of community dog waste management is to keep residents happy while keeping dog waste off the ground. Dog poop DNA testing may be appropriate in certain applications, such as in apartment buildings where dogs are relieving themselves in hallways and elevators. In most cases, however, we believe the most effective dog waste management programs focus on education and prevention rather than punitive actions.
Requiring every dog owner to have their pet submit to DNA testing often creates animosity and conflict between residents and their community managers. In addition, the logistics of such a program are challenging: enrollment, collection, processing, documentation, notification, tracking, pursuit and assessment of fees.
Above all else, a community exists to serve its residents, make their lives better and protect property values. To prevent dog waste issues, pet owners should be educated on the positive impact picking up after their pets has on the community and amenities such as pet waste stations should be provided to help them do just that. Likewise, most communities are best served by adopting a proactive strategy that encourages responsible behavior and communicates their stance on dog waste in a positive way.
In our experience, the best long term solutions to managing dog waste are achieved when a community’s message to its residents is “We are in this together. We are here to help.”
Have a question we didn’t answer?
Send us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org! The team here at the Doody-Free Water Project and DoodyCalls have been managing pet waste for more than a decade and we’re always happy to share the knowledge we’ve scooped up over the years.
Become an Expert, Make a Difference
Curbing pet waste takes an entire community. Help increase awareness by sharing our Doody-Free Downloads with friends, family and neighbors on your social networks, and in real life by printing at home and posting around your community. Every scoop makes a difference.
The Doody-Free Water Project is brought to you by DoodyCalls
Scooping over 10 million doggy deposits every year, DoodyCalls is the nation’s leading pet waste management service for homeowners and their communities. For every scooping service purchased, DoodyCalls donates 25 pet waste bags to your community.