Thanks to the recent warmer weather, our family has been venturing outside more and more often. Both our front and back yards are still mostly covered in snow, but the patches of greenish-brown grass and earth beneath are gradually becoming larger. Interspersed among the piles of snow and ice, muddy ground, and sloppy puddles, a terrible hazard has emerged – dog poop. In fact, the massive quantity of dog poop in our yard is rather breathtaking (literally) and somewhat perplexing too, as we have only one dog and have actually been picking up the poop as much as possible throughout the winter. How much poop can one dog create?
According to DoodyCalls, a pet waste removal service, the 78.2 million dogs currently living in the U.S. create 10 million tons of waste every year, enough to fill 267,500 tractor trailers to the brim. Larger dogs obviously create more waste than smaller dogs, but none-the-less, an average sized dog could easily generate 255 pounds of poop in one year!
Given how horribly unpleasant it is to scoop up partly defrosted feces from my yard, would there really be any harm if I just wait until it melts away? One look at my toddler scrambling around on his mostly melted snow fort and I know that the answer is definitively yes. Unfortunately, dog poop can carry a whole host of bacteria and parasites, including heartworm, whipworms, hookworms, roundworms, tapeworms, parvovirus, giardia, salmonella and e.coli. Avoiding the poop until it melts away naturally isn’t really an option either; some of the parasites like roundworm remain infectious in contaminated soil for years.
Then there is the issue of nutrients. Many people falsely believe dog poop acts as a fertilizer, but because dogs are carnivores, their poop is actually quite different from horse or cow manure. There is some research from University Extension offices around the country showing that pet waste can be composted and then used as fertilizer, but only if you follow a special compost recipe to ensure that you get safe results. It is true, however, that dog poop contains nutrients like phosphorus and nitrogen (human feces does as well). This can be a problem for local lakes and rivers when dog poop washes into storm sewers or waterways, contributing to excess nutrients in the water that can cause harmful algae blooms. In some parts of the country, cities have had to close beaches near dog parks or “dog-heavy” areas after rainstorms due to too much polluted runoff.
So what’s a stylish gal to do about dog poop on her walk or in her yard? First, you need to get yourself some color-coordinated bags. We buy ours in little spools that fit easily in a pocket and come in green, pink, yellow and purple. In the yard, you can accent your look with a pair of lady-like gloves. We’ve got a box of blue latex exam gloves on a shelf in the garage and they do help to make things less gross. If all else fails, you can always hire a service!