A Better Pooper Scooper

Good weather brings more people and their dogs outdoors. But, not everyone picks up after their pooch. Unfortunately, the presence of dog piles where we walk, picnic and play has become a common and unwelcome sight in our parks, beside paths and walkways, and even in neighborhood flowerbeds.

No one likes cleaning up after their dog, but it is the law in many communities. Even where no pet waste control ordinance exists, picking up your pet’s waste immediately is the courteous thing to do when it lands anywhere but on your own property.

Pet waste that is left on the ground isn’t just unpleasant; it’s also a source of urban pollution and a health hazard. That’s because pet feces, left sitting, wash into storm drains and waterways. Bacterial pollution is a serious problem facing U.S. waters and, according to the Center for Watershed Protection, pet waste is a significant source of bacterial contamination in our urban watersheds.

Further, animal waste left behind where children and dogs play can spread disease to humans and other animals. It’s no wonder that neighbors and friends find such irresponsible actions distasteful.

While most pet owners know better than to leave waste on the ground, it’s evident that many do—especially when they think no one is looking. Taking pet waste seriously is every pet owner’s responsibility, no matter how objectionable they find that to be. This means removing it from public and private property to cut down on contaminated runoff and reduce health risks.

Whether you’re a thoughtful pooper scooper or still working to reform, when you scoop pet poop, there’s still the matter of its disposal. Owners have three imperfect choices:

1. Flush it. Flushing pet waste means it will be treated either at the sewage plant or by a septic system. Unfortunately, this requires bringing animal waste indoors—a difficult choice for some—and depending on the number of animals you have and their um… production… this can use a lot of extra water.

2. Install an in-ground waste digester. An in-ground digester acts like a mini-septic system. With the addition of a digester liquid or powder, waste quickly breaks down into organic matter and is absorbed into the soil. If you use biodegradable cornstarch bags to pick up after a pet, you can toss the bag right into the system. For more information on cornstarch bags and pet digesters, go to Composters.com/main.html and scroll down the page to Pet Waste Management. Pet digesters should not be buried in any garden where food is grown.

3. Throw it in the trash. If local law permits, pet waste can be sealed in a plastic bag and added to the trash. However, when it is incinerated or put in a landfill, it can cause pollution problems.

Crissy Trask, author of "It’s Easy Being Green: A Handbook for Earth-Friendly Living", is a freelance writer and a green living advisor based in Spokane, WA. She can be reached at CT@GreenMatters.com.

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