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Dogs Are Great, But…

2011 December 9

By Amy Miller

My dog is cute, but she poops.

I knew when I decided to get a dog that she would poop. Every day.

So I called my friends with dogs. What do you do with the poop, I asked. And then I started hearing the numbers. The official, how-bad-is-dog-poop-for-the-environment numbers. It turns out: Bad.

My big black dog would create as much as 7.8 billion – that’s right billion – coliform bacteria per day. I don’t really know what that number means, but it’s big and bad.

The dirty statistics continued. As much as 90 percent or more of the fecal coliform in urban stormwater in one study was of non-human origin, and most of this was dogs. Plus pet waste can cause algae and weeds. And it can get on your shoes.

Many people think it is OK to put their dog’s doo in a storm drain, where it can run directly into nearby rivers, lakes or oceans. Worse yet, some people put plastic bags holding the waste into storm drains.

Towns around the country are putting up signs to educate the millions of us who have dogs. They are signing laws to encourage us to pick up the poop and passing out bags to make it easier. Unfortunately, nearly half the dog owners who don’t pick up poop said it was the disgusting nature of the job – not ignorance or laziness – that stopped them. And by the way, men were less likely to scoop than woman.

Although most people knew dog waste can be a water quality problem, most also thought it was the least important local water quality problem Not so.

To deal with our distaste for scooping, some towns are setting aside areas where the waste can decompose while other towns are designing areas with high grass doggy loos.

Update, December 13:

In her original post, Amy quoted her stormwater friends at EPA as saying that “as long as there is no chance that the poop will drain into a waterway, my lawn and the woods are AOK.”

Unfortunately, that’s not the case, and I’m sorry for the confusion.  While scooping the poop can be a real chore, whether in your yard or on a walk, please promptly dispose of your pet’s waste in the trash or down the toilet, where it will be properly treated. When pet waste is left behind, it washes into storm drains and ditches, and there’s nowhere it’s ok to just leave it. From drains, it can move straight to local lakes and rivers, taking harmful bacteria with it.

With a little extra effort, dog owners everywhere can play a big part in helping keep our neighborhoods and waters clean, healthy, and pollution free.

— Editor

About the author: Amy Miller is a writer who works in the public affairs office of EPA New England in Boston. She lives in Maine with her husband, two children, seven chickens, two parakeets, dog and a great community.

Editor’s Note: The opinions expressed in Greenversations are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

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18 Responses leave one →
  1. Lina-EPA permalink
    December 9, 2011

    Thanks for the good advice!!!!!!!!!!!!

  2. Arman permalink
    December 9, 2011

    The Dogs Are In Here…..

    People in the world divided Western and Eastern. The Westernization loved The Dogs like as themselves, but in here our culture alleged Them is an “excrement” animal. In other side, many Tribes sometimes cookies Them for extra times. In several beach are poorest, weakly, and a tragic scene. So, I ask to myself: “Is The Dog an animal?”….

  3. dale abbott permalink
    December 9, 2011

    As a plumber and a drinking water professional for 27 years now
    I see first hand as to what some of these pet owners do. I must
    have 50 people in my neighbor hood that walk their dogs from dawn
    to late evenings. I watch what they do, they do not have a bag, or
    a scooper. The dogs tear up my lawns and piss all over my flowers.
    What bothers me the most is that their owners let them. I have
    named my street (LAWN Sausage alley . I have had a couple of
    young people get very hostile with me when I say anything about
    what their dog does. To many dogs in the hood. They bark fight
    with other dogs and just cause a lot of pain when a big dog attacks
    a small one. a blood bath.

  4. Brenda Kahn permalink
    December 9, 2011

    Hi, as a relatively new dog owner, I’m very interested in this topic. I am always in a quandary about what to do with the poop in the plastic bag once I’ve scooped it up — do I put in the garbage or the yard debris bin, which we are told to put our kitchen foot scraps in for recycling/composting by the local garbage company. Is it better to to into the solid waste facility or the composting area of the garbage company? And should I use a real plastic bag to contain it, or one of the composting bags that breaks down shortly? Even if you put the poop in the toilet, the bag you carried it in is still contaminated. I hope the writer can answer some of this. We live in Berkeley, CA.

  5. Jeanethe Falvey permalink
    December 9, 2011

    Nice post Amy! Glad it wasn’t too sticky a topic. ;)

  6. Michael E. Bailey permalink
    December 9, 2011

    Hi, I am the Vice Chairman of the California State Council on Developmental Disabilities and one of the things the Council is looking at is service dogs for persons disabled by autism and/or seizure disorders. We would also like to begin a program with the State Department of Education as soon as next year on placing a service dog in various special education classrooms in California as a pilot project. The issues you bring up in the blog post are some of the concerns we have as well. Will persons with severe autistic and/or seizure disorders going to really be able to care for the dogs? That is something still being worked on. Best wishes, Michael E. Bailey.

  7. Ted permalink
    December 10, 2011

    Hi , I live in Dublin Ireland and I do want to share my experience with dog waste on the streets , there every were the signs on the roads with penalty warnings but, no one care about it and very phew person do clean up after they loved dogs. So in this tight financial situation when there is lots of people out of work there will be maybe good idea to have some sort of dog and rubbish dumping patrols on streets or if we are will not punish dog owners what the reason to have that sings ? Thanks .

  8. wade tillman permalink
    December 12, 2011

    Interesting that dog owners can deposit fecal ridden waste anywhere their hearts desire (as noted by Ms Amy at levels of 7.8 billion) and our company has to meet a fecal discharge of less than 200 or be served with a violation from the environmental regulators.

  9. Travis Ross permalink
    December 12, 2011

    Good for you for picking it up! Even in your own yard, the more frequently you pick it up, the less potential pathogens Fido can bring into the house on his paws. In terms of disposal, the most practical and safest means of disposal is the landfill. Composting dog waste is not a good idea. Carnivorous animal poop should not be composted under normal composting conditions.

    I’ve occasionally put dog poop in a hole that my dog seems to be working on in the yard to discourage the digging. But normally, just bag it up and put it in the trash.

  10. Amy permalink
    December 13, 2011

    The same “stormwater folks” at EPA had this to say:
    “Never compost cat/dog waste for garden use – heat generated is not sufficient to kill potential pathogens/viruses – put it in the trash. If the trash is landfilled, a biodegradable bag is best, if not, it doesn’t really matter.”

  11. Jeffrey Levy permalink*
    December 13, 2011

    Hi Brenda. I echo Travis’ praise – good job picking it up!

    I just edited the post to indicate that you should either put it in the toilet or the trash. As for composting, it’s a “depends” answer. According to our page at , you generally should not compost pet waste because it might contain parasites, bacteria, etc. However, check with your local composting or recycling coordinator as some commercially run composting facilities may be able to process pet waste. By the way, that page also has tables at the bottom with lists of other things to compost and not compost.

    Jeffrey Levy
    Greenversations Editor

  12. Jeffrey Levy permalink*
    December 13, 2011

    Michael: that sounds like a wonderful program! I don’t have an easy answer for you, but if the people with autism are placed in classrooms, maybe you could work with teachers to pick up the waste?

  13. DOG POOP BAGS permalink
    December 20, 2011

    The blog is really informative and i like to share it with my friends.I love to come back on a regular basis, please post more on the subject.
    Your posts are simply fabulous and inspiring . Thanks for the inspiration!

  14. Chris Lundy permalink
    December 28, 2011

    Picking up after your dog is never fun but the easier you make it the more likely it’ll happen. If you add in some around a public area you’ll notice the amount of stray waste dramatically decline.

  15. Cooke Osborn permalink
    April 3, 2012

    Great Blog Post. Really interesting stuff. I’m starting a blog of my own about service dogs and this is one topic I’ve never read about before. While I would never think to put my dogs waste, especially in a plastic bag into a storm drain, I also never considered the consequences. I will try to inform my readers about this. I knows its not the most pleasant thing to clean up after your dog, but would you throw your babies dirty diaper down a storm drain? People need to use more common sense sometimes.

  16. Home Remedies For Herpes permalink
    March 21, 2013

    i even don’t know that dog poop was bad for the environment. thank you for the information. this is really useful, because i think there are many people out there that still doesn’t know about this fact.

  17. August 21, 2014

    I think that one of the main probleems is that even if you pick up the dog poop, some of it often times is left behind. This is bad for people, and especially children who play on the fields and come in contact with the left over waste, i.e., that it has been estimated that a single gram of dog waste can contain 23 million fecal coliform bacteria, which are known to cause cramps, diarrhea, intestinal illness, and serious kidney disorders in humans.

  18. Joe Blume permalink
    March 25, 2015

    Are there ANY scientific studies about this issue? I see a ton of assertions backed up by other people’s assertions – but I’m having an enormous amount of trouble finding any fact finding being done using actual scientific principles. Can anyone help me out?

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