My Pet Peeve About Pet Poop

Warning: The contents of this blog post might be disturbing, if you don’t like thinking about, or looking at, s**t.

Imagine hiking along a pristine trail in the Pacific Northwest with your dog. It’s a perfect spot with majestic trees, spring birds singing their first songs of spring. But your eye is caught by not one, but four or five little wads of plastic bags, placed carefully along the trail, loaded with a hiker’s canine crap. The numbers of plastic bags filled these days with dog waste on the trail can be quite shocking. Are pet owners intending to leave these plastic methane bombs there for me to pick up? Or, are they planning to come back one day to gather up the not-so-hermetically-sealed pathogen-filled goodies?  I believe they think they’re doing the environment a favor by just bagging them up in plastic, assuming they’ve done their service to the planet, thinking, “No methane escaping today!”

IMG_1425

Which is worse? This plastic bag or what’s inside? Well, now both are there to stay, on the trail. And the methane’s out of the bag. Sailor doesn’t know what to make of it.

I’m not going to get into the reasons why dog owners are bagging Fido’s fecal stuff. Suffice it to say, tail-wagger’s turds are one of the biggest contributors to water pollution in urban and suburban settings. We live on an island where we’re surrounded by Puget Sound. Everything ends up in our waters, given our torrential rains. So, doggie’s doodoo left in the rain can be considered the next nutrient to enter the Sound. But there’s definitely nothing nutritious about the stuff.

IMG_1441

This isn’t Sailor’s poop. Just another example of what’s found trailside on our island paths. Trowel anyone? This might be the most environmentally-sound means of pet waste disposal.

We use a Bokashi Pet Waste Composter for our cat’s waste, and since our dog mostly poops in one spot on our property, we’re doing our best to bring it inside and flush it down the toilet. He eats no meat, mostly our veggie meals, and a few bites of the cat’s dry food each day. The EPA says flushing is the most environmentally-sound thing we can do with Rover’s #2, considering we live just feet from Puget Sound. But putting your dog’s fecal matter into a plastic bag and leaving it on the trail to stay forever is, by my calculations, two counts of littering.

IMG_1416

One of my favorite authors, Susan Freikel, who wrote Plastic: A Toxic Love Story, summarizes the situation perfectly in a recent article for LiveScience:

Dogs can harbor lots of viruses, bacteria and parasites — including harmful pathogens like e coli, giardia and salmonella. (A single gram contains an estimated 23 million bacteria.) Studies have traced 20 to 30 percent of the bacteria in water samples from urban watersheds to dog waste. Just two to three days of waste from 100 dogs can contribute enough bacteria, nitrogenand phosphorous to close 20 miles of a bay-watershed to swimmingand shellfishing, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.It also can get into the air we breathe: a recent study of air samples in Cleveland, Ohio, and Detroit, Mich., found that 10 to 50 percent of the bacteria came from dog poop.

I understand the reasoning behind bagging your pet’s waste. But (wait for it) I’ve seen hundreds of pet waste bags, still filled with said waste, washed up on beaches along our shorelines. These floaters stay extra-buoyant in their plastic packaging. It’s one kind of plastic waste we’ve had to leave out there on the beaches as we can’t bring ourselves to pick it up. I have visions of whales and sea lions ingesting the knotted bags of eco-dog-love left behind by doo-gooders of Puget Sound.

Is there a more environmentally friendly way to dispose of our pet’s waste? According to this Huffington Post article, Paul Canella’s Poop Bags are biodegradable. But, those presumably will just go into the landfill, with the same toxins and microbes deemed unhealthy to humans leaching into our watersheds. Some scientists suggest that burying your dog’s waste, as you would your own, might be the best method for disposal along the trail. One foot deep, below the runoff zone, is safe. Are you willing to start digging in your public park? Probably not.

We have a bit of a merde mess in our over-poopulated urban settings, but in a few places, like Portland and Boulder, enterprising people have developed pet waste processing companies that compost your four-legged friend’s feces. It turns out hot commercial composters could actually use Fido’s fuel. One dog-friendly park, in Gilbert, AZ, lets you toss your turds into a bin that turns it into a flame for a lantern in the park while you let your dog have some off-leash fun.

IMG_1782

Yet another plastic-encapsulated trailside turd.

The plastic bagging of dog droppings just isn’t cutting it. We’re making a bigger mess of things in our wild places, watersheds, and maritime environments. There are now flushable bags made for caca collection, and this might be one of the easiest and eco-aware options out there.

IMG_1445

Vegetarian waste left behind by horses is of no concern.

Until we have anaerobic pet waste composters in each city, we’ll have to settle for the lesser evils available to us for disposing of it. And the next time I come across plastic-sealed scat, I have a pocketful of hand-written notes that I plan to leave behind, scribbled on paper, to accompany the abandoned excrement: “Did you forget this? This PPOO (plastic poo) needs a PPU (prompt pickup) by you.”

 

25 thoughts on “My Pet Peeve About Pet Poop

  1. Ok…. This is where I get on my soap box…

    I utterly DESPISE people that pick up dog poop and put it in a bag then throw the bag somewhere. Or, as many do over here, hang it on a bush… I shit you not…. *rage!*
    It may seen daft but they are worse than the people that don’t bother to pick it up at all. At least those that don’t pick it up are being honest!

    When I worked for the council as a gardener we came across LOADS of discarded dog poop bags. And they reek by the time we get to them and we HAVE to pick them up. We can’t be seen to just go past them. *sigh*

    One of the best things you can do is bury it. This is what we did in the parks at least. When we cut the grass there is usually somewhere that we tip the grass cuttings and green waste (prunings). The crap goes in there or in by the trees.

    Dog walkers should be made to carry poop bags or a hand shovel. And we should fine their arses off if they don’t take care of their mutts droppings.

    Ok… I’m done… I’ll get off my soapbox now.

    Like

    • Thank you, Kalamain. This is important information, from your perspective. I’ll be carrying a trowel with me from now on when we’re out in the wilds. And, as evidenced by my article above, I too am disturbed by the plastic bagged poop lining our trails and our shorelines. It’s an environmental mess and we need to be a part of the solution. I long for a day when we are the smart species and use this resource as biofuel to power our many needs.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Not going to hold my breath on that one. We need to raise the next generation to be better and hope they do a better job than we did. In the end we should get there.
        I don’t think there will be an overnight fix.

        Like

  2. I’m with Kalamain. Even worse than the mere droppers of plastic bags are the types that hang their pets’ offerings from trees and bushes. What are they thinking? A useful and thoughtful post. Thank you. And green with envy that you live on Puget Sound. One of my unforgettable travel memories is the beautiful and peaceful boat trip from Vancouver Island to Seattle, many years ago now.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Hear, hear! We have special council-provided dog waste bins near dog-walking areas but I must confess I have no idea how it is disposed of from there. Now, anyone have a tried-and-tested means of preventing a neighbour’s cat from leaving several presents a day on our lawns? Scaring it off has no effect whatsoever, and now the other cats are beginning to view it as a public facility! We have young children visiting and ot is a real problem.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Oh my, that sounds like a real problem. I know there are some things that cats just don’t like. Buy some coyote pee (yes, you can purchase it at garden stores) and spray it around your lawn. That ought to do the trick. Other things cat deterrents are to spray with an orange and lemon peel concentrate (you can make it at home) or just shred the stuff and sprinkle it about. They hate citrus peels. They also don’t like rue or pennyroyal. So you can plant it nearby and shred it too. Failing that, spray the cats with water when you see them there. They hate water!

      Liked by 1 person

      • Thank you for your suggestions – I think coyote pee might be a stretch in the UK but apparently you can buy lion dung pellets! The problem is we can’t scatter anything on the grass as when it’s cut with a mower the person cutting it then inhales all the dust from them plus we have the problem of the children playing in the gardens. Water doesn’t bother them, they just wait until you’re not around. The main perpitrator runs away when he sees my husband but is bold as brass with me! Up intil now I the local cats and I have been good friends, but this new one has broken the unspoken agreement – ie you can poop in the soil and dig it in but never on the grass!

        Like

    • If you are really having issues you could get a screecher?
      It’s a device that emits a very high pitched noise whenever something trips the sensor. It won’t harm the animal but it will leave because they don’t like it at all. After a while they will tend avoid your garden.

      The only issue is that if you have other visitors about the same size, foxes, badgers and the like, it will screech at them too.

      Something like this.
      http://www.amazon.co.uk/PestBye-Advanced-Cat-Scarer-Ultrasonic/dp/B0037LM6VA

      Good luck!

      Liked by 1 person

      • Thank you! This might be the way to go, we do have foxes occasionally and I a, a little worried about how sensitive babies, children and I might be to them. I have very sensitive hearing. Also, is there any possibility they might affect human health like electromagnetic fields around electricity sub-stations, pylons etc. I can hear everyone laughing at my naivety but I want to be sure I am not creating durther problems in trying to solve another.

        Liked by 1 person

        • No… It’s supersonic sounds. Cats and dogs hear in a much higher registry than we do. Us humans are all but deaf in comparison to dogs and cats.

          I understand what you mean. But it’s perfectly safe to use. It’s simply the audio equivalent of you have a light that switches on when someone walks out into your garden.
          They trip the sensor and the light (Sound in this case) gets switched on. After a set period of time (usually a few seconds) it switches off. So it’s a “shock” but not painful or anything like that… Just annoying and not something you want to be near… So they go elsewhere.
          The problem is that the fox is going to be affected by it as it’s close enough in size to a cat and a dog.
          It’s an option. If the cat crap is that big a problem then it may be one of the few ways to fix it.

          Liked by 1 person

          • Thank you so much for taking the time to explain all this. I think we’ll try the plants first and if that doesn’t work we’ll give the sensor a try. It really is beyond a joke having to face it every day before anything else can be done and in summer it really puts you off sitting outside, the smell is awful.

            Liked by 1 person

            • No worries.
              This option is not for everyone, I get that.

              You can also get sprinklers that run on the same system. If a cat/dog trips the sensor it turns on water sprinklers. As already stated, cats don’t generally like to get wet! B-)

              Like

  4. Ok I own a dog. Just putting that out there from the start. I always pick up after my dog, bag it, and put it in the special bins like @thejuicenut said. However….these bins are not everywhere (terrorist threat, I was told….!) so I have been known to bin it in an ordinary bin. I know, bad me. BUT….I do not leave it, far less do I bag it up THEN leave it – ugh. Plenty of people are lazy enough to want to believe that dog dirt is good for the soil, hence not picking it up…..I have no words for them. So bad is the problem round my way, that I actually tried to set up a business as a resident pooper scooper (true fact – I have the American Pooper Scooper handbook to prove it – even though I am in the UK). Needless to say, nobody was interested in paying for me to clean up after their dog, and the rules that apply to removal of toxic waste was more than my budget could stand anyway. But yeah….dog dirt is disgusting and I believe that some sort of DNA testing should be in force so that owners are forced to clean up or face fines. P.S. Sorry for the long post. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • Not a long post at all. This is an important discussion. As a dog owner, too, I face the same issues. We travel in wild places with our dog, so I think the trowel will be my new favorite tool, because I just can’t fathom using plastic (which lasts forever) to pick up the poop. Mostly because we see these baggies everywhere in our environment. It’s why I’m posing the question here and am grateful for the responses offered. If we lived in a more urban setting, I can see how a city-droppings-box would be a great solution. Sadly, there just aren’t any that I know of here.

      Like

  5. With some of the trails I’ve hiked in the Pacific Northwest I sometimes don’t understand why someone would even want to bring their dog with them. There are so many parks that are designed in such a way with trash cans along the paths. One of the reasons I don’t own a dog right now is that I don’t have a large yard for him to run around in and I believe that leaving a dog alone all day while I work does not bring about joy in a dogs heart. I understand the love we share with our canine friends, but some hikes are best suited for us two legged animals.

    Like

    • Our island trails are well marked and the dog-friendly ones are obvious. We’re lucky to live near some lovely trails and they are open to dogs. I can’t fathom being there without my dog, a rescue dog from Craigslist, who stays on the trail and loves to sniff everything along the way. But I hear you and understand your point of view. Certainly in the nearby National Forest and National Park, I can see why there are restrictions against dogs in those protected areas. I’ve always had a dog, and have loved to share the dog-friendly trails with my friend, as humans have done for millennia. But, now that we’re so overpopulated, I understand why the regulations do exist in limiting dog access to some of our wildest places.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Sadly, the problem you so aptly describe is not limited to forest trails. As a downtown resident who walks everywhere, I see both bagged and unbagged piles of dog poop left everywhere — right on the sidewalk, next to the road, in people’s yards. At least if it is bagged, I’m less apt to step in it like the crap left on the sidewalk. Just as we have overpopulated the planet with people, now we are seeming to feel the need to each have a dog. One place to begin to reduce the impacts of these animals is to limit voluntarily the number of dogs in each household. People who consider themselves environmentalist wouldn’t think of having three children, but they are willing to have more than one dog? That clearly belies any claim to caring for our environment, regardless of how you treat the poop.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I got to be honest – as I read the post and felt more and more horrified about the effects of dog poop to the environment, the thought ‘why not nip the problem in the bud, by raising awareness to voluntarily reduce the number of dogs?’ kept crossing my mind. I’m a dog owner, but I’ve had my dog since before I ever even knew that one day I would feel passionate about the environment. However, I’ve already made the decision that when my dog passes I will not be looking to get a new dog. I couldn’t do that with a clear conscience.
      With the enormous industry that dog owning is (buying plastic toys, and synthetic collars, grooming and other expenses), I don’t see this idea going through. There’s just too much money involved. But I hope I can be proven wrong…
      And to be clear, I don’t mean so much the people with a dog that’s practically a family member (as well as there being utilitarian dogs like seeing eye dogs or sniffing dogs). I mean people who have several dogs just for the heck of it, home alone all day every day and bored our of their mind. Often found wandering the streets, alone.

      Like

  7. Down the street from me the homeowners rake their dog poop and leave it in the street! I hate going past this house. Rarely do I see the bagged droppings as people here prefer to ignore their pets leavings and walk on by for another to stumble across. The plastic bags are just another plastic I don’t want to purchase, there has to be a better way.

    When my children were growing up we always had a dog, we took him every where with us and yes cleaned up after him. When my boys left home I wanted one less job and didn’t want to clean up after a dog any more. Today, I miss having a dog but until I can find an environmentally safe way to dispose of his droppings I won’t get one. Burying it is my first choice but that can’t be done for half the year here as the ground is frozen solid.

    Like

  8. I have to add that a few years ago dog excrement really was a problem on pavements and grass verges. Not just the smell and the general health hazard but people slipping on it amd injuring themselves. Since the law was introduced that dog-owners had to clean up after their pets and even more so when bins were provided, this is hardly a problem at all on the streets and pavements now.. There are still the occasional ones that turn a blind eye to what their pet is doing but for the most part the system works. It is also against the law to have dogs roaming the streets, they have to be under control at all times, so you don’t have owners letting their dogs out when they go to work and leaving them to wander around until they return. The worst problem however is that most dog-owners in our rural town walk their dogs on the sports field so the poor young footballers have to go around clearing it up before they can start their game!
    When I began blogging I never imagined I would have so much to say on the subject of animal waste!!

    Like

  9. Pingback: Müll: In meinem Wohnzimmer! | THE GREEN TRANSITION

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s