Dear EcoNews: Dog Poop

Dear EcoNews, 

I am the proud owner of an amazing dog my partner and I rescued from the shelter many years ago. One of our favorite activities is taking him on walks throughout Humboldt. However, my partner and I have different opinions on  whether or not to pick up his poop when we are in forested or more wild areas. He thinks that it is better for the poop to be able to biodegrade naturally instead of putting it in a plastic bag and sending it to a landfill, but I feel uncertain as I have heard that it can sometimes spread disease. Could you please explain whether we should be picking up our dog’s poop up in a plastic bag, and if anyone has come up with a better system so we don’t have to use so much plastic?

-Distressed Dog Owner

Hey Distressed Dog Owner!

Thanks for writing to us about the pet waste predicament. We get this question all the time from our customers. The unfortunate answer is that simply leaving our pet’s waste to naturally decompose can be harmful due to the sheer load that would be present, with many Humboldt residents owning pets. The EPA estimates that two or three days’ worth of droppings from a population of about 100 dogs would contribute enough bacteria to temporarily close a bay, and all watershed areas within 20 miles of it. Here are some additional facts about pet waste and why it’s a huge issue! 

Dog waste takes about 9 weeks to break down, all while creating an environment for bacteria and mold to grow. A single gram of dog waste can contain 23 million fecal coliform bacteria. Dog waste can also carry diseases that can be passed to wildlife such as whipworms, hookworms, tapeworms, parvo, canine coronavirus, giardiasis, and salmonellosis to name a few. With dog’s scent glands being located in their butt, the smell can disturb local wildlife and overload their senses while foraging. Many of the aforementioned contaminants also can easily be carried into waterways when it rains, affecting not only local wildlife but potentially humans as well. These bio contaminants can also exacerbate algal blooms, which Humboldt waterways already struggle with seasonally. 

The use of excess plastic is of course a concern of ours. Luckily there are options available. Simply reusing paper bags or plastic bags you may have lying around the house is a great option. There are plastic free options from brands like Earth Rated (industrially compostable) & Cycle Dog (biodegradable) that allow you to responsibly dispose of pet waste while avoiding plastics. We also get asked about composting dog waste, which, similarly to human waste, the resulting compost shouldn’t be used on edible crops. Parasites and bacteria can live in dog waste including E. coli and salmonella along with several types of worms like ringworm and tapeworm. They can live in the soil for years so it’s best to keep your dog’s waste away from your gardens or from where your animals can get to it. According to the EPA, dog waste is a safe soil additive for revegetation and landscaping when it is composted properly. While it may be safe to compost dog waste, it is not recommended to compost or even flush cat waste. Cat waste can carry toxoplasmosis which can greatly impact wildlife and be carried through birth for generations. 

Humboldt Pet Supply hosts a monthly clean-up at the Arcata Marsh during the spring and summer months to help keep our lovely local animal sanctuary clean and poop free. Our next clean-up will be on Earth Day, April 22. We would love your help if you want to join! 

Your eco-friendly pet shop,
Humboldt Pet Supply