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The Scoop on Pet Waste Removal: It’s not Yard Waste

Picture of a dog sitting.Depending on what you feed your pet, animal waste isn’t necessarily an environmental threat in the order of carbon pollution or nuclear waste (although sometimes we wonder after they’ve come in from making lawn landmine). While Fido might not be leaving a radioactive pile on the lawn, it’s still not safe for you or your family to have it around. Pet waste removal is an important responsibility for all pet owners. After all, we want to take the best care possible of them, right?

The Down-Low on Doody:
  • America alone has over 83 million dogs, which means over 10.6 million pounds of dog poop per year.
  • Dogs can harbor lots of viruses, bacteria and parasites — including harmful pathogens like e coli, giardia and salmonella, which is why is shouldn’t be considered yard waste.
  • A single gram Scooby’s doo contains an estimated 23 million bacteria.
  • Studies have traced 20%-30% of the bacteria in water samples from urban watersheds to dog waste.
  • According to the Environmental Protection Agency, just two to three days of waste from 100 dogs can contribute enough bacteria, nitrogen and phosphorous to close 20 miles of a bay-watershed to swimming and shellfishing.
  • It also can get into the air we breathe: a study of air samples in Cleveland, Ohio, and Detroit, Mich., found that 10 to 50 percent of the bacteria came from dog poop.
  • According surveys, only about 60 percent of dog owners practice responsible pet waste removal.
All puns aside, you can see that pet waste removal isn’t really a laughing matter. With the various forms of bacteria and parasites that you can find in a fresh pile, keeping them out of our yard and yard waste, is extremely important.
Misconceptions:
“I’ll use it as fertilizer for my yard.” In addition the amount of bacteria and parasites that might be playing guest in a fresh pile, which could cause serious illness to your family and your furry friends, dog poop isn’t good for the soil for a few other reasons:
  • Dogs have a high protein-based diet that creates a very acidic excrement.
  • Cow manure is in fact good for vegetation because it in fact started out that way.
  • Most dog foods today are composed of beef, chicken and/or pork products, which creates a highly acidic waste product that is bad for your grass and can leave your back yard looking like, well, much of  a yard at all.
  • All of that bacteria in your dog’s stool? Yeah, that seeps into the soil and eventually the groundwater too, but not before it has a chance to cause retinal diseases in kids according to a study done by an Extension Veterinarian and Extension Soil Scientist at the University of Wisconsin, Madison.
“I’ll add it to my compost pile.” Composting dog waste in a backyard bin can be iffy, and it’s generally not recommended. Why? Because it's hard to achieve the temperatures needed to kill off pathogens. Typical yard waste, like grass clippings, leaves, and leftover vegetable waste doesn’t contain these pathogens.
  • You should never use composted pet waste on plants you'll be eating.
  • Commercial composting facilities are required to keep the compost at hot enough temperatures, for a long enough period of time, to get rid of harmful pathogens.
  • Only when properly treated, is the resulting compost is safe.
 “It’s organic, so I can put it with my other yard waste.” It seems like a no-brainer, but mixing your dog’s poop with your yard waste is a bad idea. Most yard waste is broken down and turned into mulch and then recycled into mulch or other yard and garden materials that you don’t want around your pets or your family.
  • Improperly disposed dog waste can find its way into waterways, such as lakes and streams -- and ultimately, your home's taps.
  • The bacteria found in canine excrement can wreak havoc on aquatic plants and the public's health
  • And, like we mentioned, it’s a no-no for the typical vegetable-garden compost pile.
Picture of a happy couple with their dog.With approximately 37%-47% percent of Americans owning a dog and 30%-37% percent of Americans owning a cat, responsible pet waste removal is an important issue to owners and non-owners alike. Keep your pets and your family safe by practicing safe pet waste removal. Waste Connections Memphis asks that you double-bag the waste and throw it in your trash receptacle. This will ensure that the chances of a bag opening and any leaching will not occur. Another option is to invest in a pet septic system. These systems can be easily installed and work by breaking down and neutralizing the dog poop. For more information about pet waste removal, yard waste, or to learn about properly disposing of other pollutants, email us or give us a call at 901-398-5400.

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Visit the News section often to learn more about the many environmentally conscious and civics-oriented efforts Waste Connections of TN supports in the greater Memphis area. We will also provide service updates, Memphis recycling and waste disposal tips and informative articles on how you can support our efforts to keep Metro Memphis safe and clean.