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The Scoop on Poop

Pet waste is a problem for the Puget Sound, quietly contaminating one of our most precious resources.
Written by Nicki Walters
You may have noticed a few campaigns out there such as Puget Sound Starts here and Snohomish County’s Waste Water Division spending over half a million dollars on spreading a simple message, “Scoop the Poop, bag it and throw it in the trash.”  

The act itself seems basic and we all assume that most responsible dog owners do just that, so why the need for such reminders? In reality only 40% of dog owners pick up after their pets. In Puget Sound alone there is an estimated 1.1 million dogs that produce over 400,000 pounds of waste per day. Most of this waste is deposited in back yards and the numbers increase daily. What’s staggering is that this means 44 million tons of waste is not picked up every year. So where does it go?

In the last 10 years, studies have shown (through isolating the bacteria in waterways) that 60% of wastewater runoff is contaminated with dog waste. Studies have also shown, that a single gram of dog waste can contain up to 23 million fecal coli form bacteria. This bacterium not only endangers the health of marine life, it also creates oxygen in waterways that increases the growth of waterweeds destroying salmon spawning habitats.

What most people don’t realize is that no matter the breed or health of a dog, canines naturally harbor bacteria in their digestive tracks. These bacteria include e-coli, salmonella and giardia, all of which can be spread through feces and transferred into the ground, living in the soil for up to four years. With that, the simple task of gardening or playing fetch in the yard can result in a very nasty illness.

Recent studies have also shown that contrary to widespread belief, dog waste cannot be composted. Particularly in the Northwest, a compost pile does not generate enough heat to kill dangerous pathogens that reside within dog waste. Even if composted, bacteria still live and can contaminate vegetation. The proper place for pet waste is in garbage cans and you can be fined if it is found in your yard waste bin. Reason being, dog waste could contaminate an entire lot of compost created from yard waste and more importantly, its bacteria poses a very real health risk.

Not to mention, if you are putting that bacteria back on the ground as fertilizer you are just continuing the process of wastewater run off pollution. The most important thing is for the dog waste to be picked up and kept away from the ground. Burying the waste by digging a hole or using an in-ground doggy septic system will just add harmful chemicals to these water pollutants. Composting or burying this much waste is little different than a city of broken septic systems.

Herein lies the question: Is there a better way to dispose of dog waste than throwing it out with the garbage? Why should we add it to already over flowing landfills? Couldn’t we just flush it down the toilet? Unfortunately, our septic and sewer systems just aren’t built to handle it. There are currently no other green alternatives in Washington like those offered in San Francisco, which turn dog waste combined with cow manure into propane gas. Therefore, the best option is to ensure it goes to a place where it can be treated, maintained and kept away from water sources.

Luckily, there are alternatives to scooping it yourself if you are too busy, traveling, pregnant, sick, injured or simply do not want to do it yourself, with pet waste management services to scoop it for you on a regular basis at a reasonable price. Serving the Seattle area is Pooper Trooper (1.888.DOG.WASTE; and serving the south sound, is Les Scoops (1.888.364.DOGY.DOO;

Dog waste is not only unsightly, smelly and a health hazard, it has also become a threat to our environment. We live in one of the most beautiful, dog friendly places on earth, which is surrounded by our most precious natural resource, the Puget Sound. Let’s do our part to keep it clean, to save our fish and shellfish populations and to keep each other healthy. Scoop the poop, bag it and throw it in the trash. It’s your green option for dog waste disposal in the Emerald City!

FACT 87% of dog poop in Puget Sound lands in our own backyards.

ACTION TIP Scoop the poop, bag it and throw it in the trash.

Remember Dog poop is garbage, not yard waste.

No more hand-carrying your dog’s dirty “duty” bags...Now your pooch can PACK **IT OUT.
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