Our waterways are an essential part of our lives that affect our lands, communities and environment. Clean water is crucial to our health as humans and water pollution jeopardizes that entirely. Clean water begins with our we treat our environment and communities. Our daily activities affect our waterways and watersheds in more ways than one may consider. Trash and litter play a huge part in the water pollution, but you may have not considered other activities that pollute our waters as well. Consider this: leaving grass clippings and leaves in storm drains, washing your car in the driveway, overusing fertilizer on your grass, and letting motor oil or antifreeze run into storm drains are all just a few ways our water gets polluted. In fact, this is just a short list of water pollutants and there are many more including one that gets frequently overlooked by pet parents – dog poop. That’s right, your dog’s poop is one of the many pollutants making its way into our rivers, streams and lakes. These rivers, streams, and lakes are a product of how we treat our land. Specifically, the 96.4 square miles of land that Tinker’s Creek Watershed covers, and as water moves across our lawns and parks and into storm drains, it eventually empties into Lake Erie. This means that whatever pollution is on our land, will make its way into the water that we enjoy.
A common misconception about dog waste is that it is a natural fertilizer and therefore does not need to be picked up; that is not accurate. Dog waste contains fecal coliform bacteria and other pathogens that can spread diseases such as Salmonella and Giardia and when not picked up, it is washed into our storm drains and into local watersheds. Not picking up dog poop from your yard or when out on a walk impacts not only the environment but can be a human health hazard as well. Another misbelief about dog waste is that is it no different than wildlife feces, but your dog consumes processed kibble, unlike wildlife who feed from their natural environment.
Domestic dog waste can be a hazard to our waterways because of the bacteria and foreign particles it contains. Just like our daily activities contribute to water pollution, excess nutrients such as phosphorus and nitrogen from lawn fertilizers and dog waste contribute to water pollution. When dog feces is left on the ground, these nutrients are absorbed into the ground and cause instabilities in the ecosystem which, in turn, promote algae blooms and the growth of invasive species, killing off native plant and fish species. As you can see, not picking up dog wastes has more implications than most people know. Luckily, as a pet parent there are many courses of action you can take when it comes to keeping our waterways and the Tinker’s Creek Watershed free from dog waste pollutants.
At home, be sure to pick up dog poop in your yard on a regular basis and dispose of it properly. Be sure to tie the bag tightly before throwing it into a trash bin. Another way to dispose of dog waste properly is to collect it into a separate bin and dispose of it into a dog specific compost facility. Check your local municipality for a natural waste compost site.
When out on a walk or hike, it is also important to bag your dog’s waste and dispose of it properly. It is best practice to bag the dog poop and carry the bag with you until you find a waste bin. Of course, this can be an inconvenience to dog owners, which is why many choose to either leave the poop on the ground as is, or bag it and leave it, promising themselves they will come back for it after their walk or hike – and then forget to pick it up. For many, the bag of poop gets left there on the ground for some random hiker to come across. Conversely, it’s never wise to leave plastic out in nature. As a solution, dog owners should consider investing in convenient and easy to use waste bags that can be disposed of in a trash bin. It is important to remember the consequences dog waste has on our water quality and find ways to make picking up dog poop easier to help alleviate water pollution.
We all live in a watershed and keeping it clean is everyone’s responsibility. Our daily activities greatly impact the quality of water that drains into our streams, rivers and lakes. As a pet owner, picking up dog waste and disposing of it properly is just one way to protect our waterways and environment.
CleanUp News. Pet Parents: Why it’s your doody to scoop the poop. https://www.cleanupnews.org/home/problem-with-dog-poop-on-trails
Tinker’s Creek Watershed Fact sheet. https://tinkerscreek.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/05/Tinkers-Creek-Watershed-Fact-sheet-update-12-6-12.pdf