Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Dogs' use of outdoors as bathroom affects our water

This photo is fromDuluthStreams.org

Until recently, the only reason I picked up Prof. Cricket's dog-doo was as a matter of courtesy for my neighbors. I thought it was unsightly, a hazard to people who might accidentally step on it. It wasn't until Marnie Lonsdale Duluth, Minn city employee and Project Lead, City Administrative Lead, Stormwater Plan Links came to visit my United Methodist Women's circle earlier this year that I realized that dog waste is a health hazard. It gets carried by runoff water into everyone's water supply hurting humans, lakes, rivers and aquatic life.

"But wild animals poop in the woods in nature," you may say. This is true, but we human's have more pet population in a small land area compared to the population of animals in the wild. It is estimated that 40 percent of Americans own a dog. In Duluth it is estimated that 125 dogs live within a square mile.

Your dog's business is everyone's business
I am embarrassed to admit that I never saw the need to pick up dog doo in my own yard if I didn't feel like it. I thought it was my yard and my dog's business was no one else's business. I thought that the rain dissolved it and it "biodegraded" and returned to the land. I was wrong. Bacteria from pet droppings ends up in the water supply.

This spring I was walking Prof. Cricket when I met an elderly couple who were so upset by the the piles of dog doo in front of their house that they had shovels and were flinging the excrement onto the street. This was actually making the situation worse. Cars were driving over the excrement and it was taken by the water of the melting snow straight to the storm sewers and into Lake Superior.

It is important to pick up the dog doo to prevent contamination of water. But if you read Prof. Cricket's previous post about mummifying our garbage in landfills, you might wonder whether or not the dog doo biodegrades even if you use biodegradable bags. Biodegradable material relies on microbial action for degradation. Microbes require moisture, oxygen and elevated temperature for survival. Landfills are designed to exclude moisture and compaction reduces oxygen. A majority of dog waste bags end up in landfills. A brand named Mutt Mitt labels itself "degradable" and says, Mutt Mitts include additional degradants and will degrade even in a landfill.

Flushable bags
Some bags are designed to be flushed down the toliet. I would double check with the city or the person in charge of your spectic system before doing this. Here are some companies that sell flushable bags: The Flushable Bag™ and Handicapped Pets

Dog doo composters
If you live in suburbia you can even purchase an underground doggie doo composter. Check outDoggie Dooley , Pet D Posit or a City Farmer site

Different cities handle this question in other ways. Here are the options in Duluth: • flushed down the toilet (be sure to pick out rocks and sticks first) • put in the trash or • buried in your own yard. If you want to bury pet waste, make sure it is in a hole at least 6 inches deep, away from vegetable gardens and water sources, and in permeable soil (not clay). Do not add it to compost piles.

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