It's a nice day, you're walking along and all of a sudden--squish. You don't even have to look because you know you've really stepped in it. There's nothing quite like an encounter with a pile of poop to put the kibosh on a good day. We love pets as much as the next person (Andrea has a Golden-Poo--that's a golden retriever-standard poodle cross), but pet-owners aren't always as responsible or as green as they should be. Being a responsible, eco-friendly pet-owner means picking up after your dog when they do their business--after all, it helps protect human and animal health and the environment.
Environmental and Health Impact
There are also some pretty important environmental reasons for proper pet waste disposal. If left on the ground, your dog's excrement--including bacteria, viruses and other microbes--will usually end up in the water table. A heavy rainstorm and spring run-off can easily carries dog waste into streams and rivers, and any waste that ends up in storm sewers usually flows directly into a body of water without being treated. Your pet's waste can also cause illness in other animals and in people. Dog excrement contains a long list of bad bugs, including adenovirus, parvovirus, giardia, coccidian, roundworm, and tapeworm. Other dogs can easily become infected, as can local wildlife; if illness spreads among wildlife, this can have a serious impact on the health of the ecosystem. As with most ailments, kids are more susceptible, and that's a problem because kids spend a lot of time playing close to the ground and they touch their eyes and mouths without a thought to whether their hands are clean.
Improve Bag Programs in Parks and Communities
One way we can help keep sidewalks and parks dog-waste-free is to increase the number of bag programs in public spaces. Some dog parks already have a bag dispenser so that pet owners can clean up if they've forgotten a bag. These sorts of programs also help reduce the number of "Oh, I forgot a bag..." excuses for people who simply don't want to clean up after their pet. Increasing the number of bag dispensers in dog parks will help with the problem, but communities might also consider dispensers in busy areas where there is a dense population. Another consideration: biodegradable bags. Some dog parks already provide biodegradable bags, and that's great, but all communities should be doing this.
Take it Home and Flush It
Once you have the poop in the bag, it's just a matter of swinging by a garbage can, right? Well, that's not really the best idea. Pet waste really adds up: The City of Toronto determined that 23 to 27% of the waste in parks in 2006 was dog waste. While disposing your dog's waste in a garbage can is easier, the most eco-friendly way to deal with it is to take it home and flush it (just don't flush the bag). Rather than ending up in a landfill, the dog waste will instead be treated along with human sewage. This also helps divert considerable amounts of waste from landfills, so it's a real win-win.