| Encourage pet owners to collect their animal's waste so it will not wash into sewers and streams.
When pet waste is improperly disposed of, it can be picked up by stormwater runoff and washed into stormdrains or nearby waterbodies. Since stormdrains do not always connect to treatment facilities, untreated animal feces often end up in lakes and streams, causing significant water pollution.
Decaying pet waste consumes oxygen and sometimes releases
ammonia. Low oxygen levels and ammonia can damage the health of fish and other aquatic life. Pet waste carries bacteria, viruses, and parasites that can threaten the health of humans and wildlife. Pet waste also contains nutrients that promote weed and algae growth (eutrophication). Cloudy and green, Eutrophic water makes swimming and recreation unappealing or even unhealthy.
Since there are pet owners in all communities, pet waste management is an issue for all municipalities. Municipalities can do a variety of things to encourage pet owners to properly dispose of their animal's waste. They can distribute materials that explain how pet waste harms water quality and how citizens can help reduce water pollution. Additionally, municipalities can enact an ordinance that provides a legal basis to fine pet owners for improper waste disposal.
The first step in a pet waste management program is to increase public
awareness. Pet waste management
programs encourage proper waste disposal by passing local ordinances
and launching public education campaigns that inform pet owners about the
importance of cleaning up after their pets.
Many communities implement pet waste management programs by posting signs in
parks or other pet-frequented areas, by mass mailings, and by broadcasting public service
announcements. Thurston County, Washington, has developed a brochure (PDF) (2 pp, 1.1MB) that
instructs pet owners about the proper disposal of pet waste. The Alabama Department of Environmental Management also
has developed a brochure (PDF) (2 pp, 2.8MB) describing the problems associated with pet waste and how to properly dispose of it.
Sign posting is one of the most common outreach strategies.
Signs can designate areas where dog walking is prohibited,
where waste must be recovered, or where dogs can roam freely. Many
communities post neighborhood signs that ask pet owners to "Curb Your
Dog." The rationale behind the request is that dogs walked along the curb
are more likely to defecate on the road, where the waste can be captured by
street sweeping. However, waste deposited in the road is also more likely to be
washed down storm drains, so this tactic has limited usefulness.
A "pooper-scooper" ordinance is an effective solution. Many communities have pooper-scooper laws that mandate pet waste cleanup. Some of these laws specifically require anyone who
takes an animal off their property to carry a bag, shovel, or scoop.
Any waste left by the animal must be collected immediately. Some of these laws also include fines that can offset some of the program costs. In addition to postings, many communities have established dog parks. Other communities have installed "pet waste stations" with waste receptacles and a supply of waste collection bags, scoops, and shovels.
In some communities, public works departments or public utilities have
developed programs to control pet waste. More than 150 canines showed up at one
Southern California pet store to put their paw print on a pledge to make sure
their owners clean up after them. The Los Angeles County Department of Public
Works Environmental Programs Division also developed a program to control pet waste.
By profiling various groups of pet owners, the Division identified the best
target for reducing coastal pollution. The program included a multimedia
campaign to educate new and existing pet owners about the water quality effects
of pet waste. The program gave pet-owners cleanup kits and installed
plastic bag dispensers in parks. The Division established partnerships with
local pet stores and pet supply companies to promote the program (Lehner,
Deciding whether to encourage residents to dispose of pet waste in the trash, bury it in their yards, or flush it down the toilet is an important issue for communities.
The City of Columbus , Ohio, recommends that pet owners flush
it, or bag it and place it in the trash.
The City of Albuquerque , New Mexico requires pet waste to be picked up from any property other than the owners. The waste must then either be flushed down the toilet or wrapped tightly and put in the household trash.
Pet waste management results in cleaner neighborhoods, with improved aesthetics and better water quality. Reducing pet waste reduces an important source of water-polluting nutrients - that's the message specifically targeted at pet owners.
The New Hampshire Department of Environmental Services conducted a study to determine the
source of bacteria in water samples in Dover, New Hampshire. It found dog waste to be a significant source of the bacteria. To solve this problem, it decided that pest waste should be picked up
with a plastic bag and placed in the trash. Alternatively, unbagged waste could either be
flushed down the toilet or buried about five inches deep into the ground.
Because pet waste management is focused toward individual pet owners, the
program is dependent on the participation and cooperation of all pet owners. Many consider it a nuisance to consider the environmental and aesthetic
benefits of pet waste management, however.
To be effective, pet waste management programs must be enforced. Neighborhood
residents, community organizations, and even the municipality are responsible
for ensuring that pet owners pick up after their pets and properly dispose
of the waste. For the program to be fully effective, every pet owner must
participate. In the city of Oskosh,
Wisconsin, dog owners are required to remove pet waste from any property other
than the dog's owner. The penalty for
failure to comply is $116.75 in fines and court fees (City of Oshkosh,
2001). In Arlington County, Virginia,
the county has established standards for dog exercise areas, including where to
site them, how to maintain them, and the extent of the county's financial obligations for them.
The cost of a pet waste management campaign will vary depending on several
factors, including the materials produced (signs, ads, clean-up stations). The
cost of signs will depend on the material used; plastics can be just as durable as and often cheaper than metal. In
Sausalito, California, the Remington Dog Park, established in 1991, has spent more than $36,000 for
park improvements. Most of the money
has been raised by user donations (Dogpark.com, 2000).
At the Mary Jane Roe Dog Park in the town of
Clifton Park, New York, $700 was spent to install a sealed, 500-gallon underground
septic tank for pet waste. Each pet
owner is charged $20 for a permit to use the dog park.
Funds from the permit fees will be used to
help offset the costs of the septic system (Kemper, 2000).
In Poway, California, the city council
raised $25,000 to pay for fencing, gates, signs, irrigation, modifications, and
retired fire hydrants (City of Poway, no date).
Alabama Department of Environmental Management. No date. When Your Pet Goes on the Lawn, Remember It Doesn't Just Go on the Lawn. [http://www.adem.state.al.us/MoreInfo/pubs/CWP_Pet.pdf (2 pp, 2.8MB) ]. Accessed September 8, 2005.
City of Albuquerque, New Mexico. 2005. Pet Waste and Water Quality. [http://www.cabq.gov/flood/scooppoop.html ]. Accessed September 8, 2005.
City of Dover, New Hampshire. No date. Help Dover reduce pollution from pet waste!.
[http://www.ci.dover.nh.us/csenviron_out.htm?id=PET%20WASTE ]. Accessed September 8, 2005.
City of Oskosh, Wisconsin. 2001. Responsibilities of Pet
Owners in the City of Oshkosh. Accessed September 8, 2005.
City of Poway, California. No
date. Poway Dog Park website
History of Dog Park. Accessed September 8, 2005.
Kemper, J. 2000.
Septic Systems for Dogs?
Nonpoint Source News-Notes 63.
Lehner, P.H., G.P. Aponte Clarke, D.M. Cameron, and A.G. Frank. 1999. Stormwater
Strategies: Community Responses to Runoff Pollution. Natural Resources
Defense Council, New York, NY.
Thurston County, Washington. No date. Don't Let Your Pet Pollute [http://www.co.thurston.wa.us/health/ehrp/pdf/pet_waste_bro.pdf (2 pp, 1.1MB) ]. Accessed September 8, 2005.