By Mary Reid Barrow
© March 2, 2011
Whether the poop is in your garden, on your neighbor's lawn or on city medians, its bacteria is washed by rain into storm drains that flow into our waterways. You don't have to live on a river for dog waste to pollute the water.
Poop not only pollutes rivers and lakes, it also pollutes your own yard, neighborhoods, parks, schoolyards, beaches and friendships. Dog waste spreads illnesses, such as stomach bugs and worse.
I am an advocate for scooping the poop because of my association as a volunteer with Lynnhaven River Now and the Virginia Beach Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. We found years ago that up to one-third of the fecal pollution in the Lynnhaven River at the Beach can be caused by dog waste. And there's indication that some beach closures along the Chesapeake Bay and Oceanfront could be due in part to dog poop, said Susan French, Virginia Beach horticulture extension agent.
The Environmental Protection Agency estimates that two to three days of dog waste from 100 dogs in a small bay watershed can contribute enough bacteria to temporarily close the area to swimming, French said.
The SPCA estimates that 40,000 dogs are in Virginia Beach alone. You do the math.
It is bad enough to think about children swimming or playing in your garden among poop bacteria, no matter how limited it is, especially when the answer is simple. Scoop the poop.
No matter what you hear or think, dog poop does not fertilize the trees along the sidewalks, the sea oats at the beach nor the flowers in your garden.
Dog waste can have twice as much nitrogen than, say, cattle manure.
"It may have too much nitrogen for plants," French said. "It can be detrimental for plants."
French said that when deposited on the surface of the ground, poop would probably be susceptible to run-off before it breaks down into the soil anyway.
In addition, dog poop does not belong in a compost heap. It belongs in the trash, in the toilet or in a specially designed pet waste composter.
"Your compost pile will not get hot enough to kill the bacteria in dog (or cat) waste," French said
Think of diseases like roundworm and salmonella, which can be found in dog manure. Even worse, think of the possible consequences of fertilizing your vegetable garden with compost that includes dog waste, or simply leaving dog waste to break down near your veggies.
"There are so many things that aren't good about dog waste," French said.
She mentioned calamities such as a child walking barefoot through poop in the yard, or a gardener getting contaminated with it while digging in a flower bed, or stepping in it and introducing bacteria into the house.
If neighborhood garden clubs and civic leagues would get on the bandwagon and focus on "scoop the poop" campaigns, it would not only make for more pleasant neighborhoods (and neighborly relations), it also would make a better world.
Here's an idea, Lynnhaven River Now and the Virginia Beach SPCA recently came up with scoop the poop stickers for garbage cans. That way, every week when cans go out on the street, there is a reminder to all residents to clean up after their dogs. The cans become rotating billboards.
Scooping the poop is probably one of the simplest actions you can take to help the environment, and a surefire way to improve neighborly relations and clean neighborhoods.
"People have to be responsible with their dogs," French said, "and that goes as far as
protecting our environment and protecting our neighbors."
Mary Reid Barrow, firstname.lastname@example.org
To learn more about pet waste and its impact on the environment please visit www.DirtyWork.net | Atlanta's Professional Pooper Scooper Service