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Here’s the Scoop on Poop

Dogs are the leaders of the planet. If you see two life forms, one of them’s making a poop, the other one’s carrying it for him, who would you assume is in charge.” – Jerry Seinfeld.

Photo Courtesy of Stuart Miles

Photo courtesy of Stuart Miles

Dog waste disposal is an important task. But some owners don’t see it as a problem – and they just leave it lying where it was deposited. According to a 1996 survey, their reasons included:

  • it decomposes anyway
  • they didn’t have the means to pick it up
  • it’s too much work
  • it isn’t in their yard, so why bother?

But the remaining 56% stated they would pick up the waste for environmental reasons, hygiene and health concerns, and out of courtesy to their neighbors.

Picking up poo is the polite thing to do. And it’s the healthy thing to do.

Dog feces can carry parasitic diseases that can affect other animals as well as humans. The immature larvae of the dog roundworm (Toxocara canis) can be transmitted through feces. And the eggs can hang out in your soil until something – or someone – comes in contact with them. Children are at risk, as they play and dig in the dirt, walk barefoot in the grass, and may put twigs or grasses in their mouths that have been in contact with dog waste.

Here are some other parasitic organisms that can be carried to others through dog waste:

  • Cryptosporidium
  • hookworms,
  • tapeworms,
  • Giardia
  • coli
  • Salmonella

With more than 70 million dogs in the United States, dog doo is an environmental concern. The United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) points out that pet waste material can be picked up by storm and rainwater runoff and carried into storm drains, streams or lakes. The decaying waste uses large amounts of oxygen and releases ammonia, which can be damaging to fish and other aquatic animals. The waste also aids in the growth of eutrophic water, making it unhealthy for swimming and other forms of recreation.


Photo courtesy of James Barker

That same 1996 survey found that 44% of participating dog owners said they would not pick up their dog’s waste even if threatened with fines. In fact, Pima County law requires dog owners to scoop and dispose of their dog’s waste in a proper manner, or risk being charged with a Class 3 misdemeanor. If found guilty of the charge, owners could face fines of up to $500, up to a year in jail, and a year of probation.

Some apartment complexes and homeowners associations have become so frustrated over the growing piles of poo that they require dog owners to submit a fecal sample of their pet for DNA testing and registration. If a mess is found, it is tested and matched to the offending pooch, and the owner will face fines and possible eviction.

But once you have scooped the poo, what do you do with it?

  • Bag and trash it. Most dog owners put their pet’s poo in plastic bags and toss the bag in the trash.
  • Pick it up with a rag or recycled paper towel.
  • Biodegradable bags. Using old plastic grocery bags can add to the problem in landfills, and not bagging poo could create methane gas. Biodegradable bags are seen at many dog parks and rest stops, and are made from plant materials.
  • Flush it. Believe it or not, many municipalities suggest flushing the feces down the toilet. The mess will be sent to the wastewater treatment plant where bacteria is killed and the water is prepared for reuse.
  • Bury it. Burying the poop is a good option – but not in your compost pile. The compost does not heat up well enough to kill certain pathogens in the feces, so don’t spread it around in your garden. Instead, plant the poo in a waste digester. You can find information on how they work here.

Poo happens with pooches. Although no method of disposal is perfect, they are all better options than leaving it where it lands. Be a good steward of the land, and a good neighbor. Pick it up, please.

Contact the staff at Encanto Pet Clinic for information on fecal testing, suggestions for waste disposal, or other issues concerning your dog or cat.