It’s estimated that there were over 89 million pet dogs living in the USA in 2017. With every dog pooping two or three times a day, that is a whole lot of dog poop.
And it has to go somewhere!
When I was a kid, in the 1960s dog poop on sidewalks and pavements was a common sight.
Traffic volumes were lower.
Dogs were allowed to roam freely around towns and villages.
Dogs were everywhere
And they pooped wherever they felt like it.
Why didn’t people pick up poop?
Pretty much no-one would have dreamt of picking up a piece of dog poop in 1960.
Touching dog poop was considered disgusting
Anyone doing so would have been widely regarded as mad or depraved.
Many a family outing was punctuated by angry parents scraping dog mess from their childrens’ shoes.
Over the next two decades, the slow trend towards taking responsibility for what comes out of our dog’s behinds began.
Starting with a campaign to encourage people to step off the sidewalk and ensure that their dogs pooped in the street, not on the pavement where people tread.
That campaign was not very successful.
And nowadays the advice has moved on. We are all asked to pick up after our dogs and take their poop to a convenient waste disposal point
The problem isn’t completely solved. But with fewer dogs allowed to roam the streets, and many people now picking up after their dogs, most older folk would agree that modern sidewalks are cleaner than those of their youth
Collecting poop isn’t a great job though is it? There was huge resistance from dog owners when they were first asked to do this.
No-one enjoys it. And a great many devices have been invented to try to make the job easier.
Where to throw that poop bag!
We are often unsure of where to put that poop bag once it contains its aromatic parcel. In some locations dog poop bins are provided. But they tend to be few and far between
Sometimes we may be tempted to drop it in the nearest trash can.
Living at the entrance to a popular dog walking area, my own trash bin is often used this way by passing strangers.
I’m okay with this but I know that some of you are not. It’s quite an interesting debate so feel free to add your own views in the comments box below!
In today’s article we are going to look at dog poop disposal in some detail.
We’ll look at several issues
- at why effective poop disposal is so important
- at the legal requirements now placed on dog owners
- at how we can motivate ourselves and others to help keep our highways and recreational sites free from dog poop
- at the different methods available to us.
Why pick up dog poop?
Most of us can see the sense in picking up dog poop on pavements. After all, no-one likes to tread in it.
But what about large open spaces? Surely this is a natural substance and will just ‘rot down’ without causing anyone a problem.
Diseases carried in dog poop
Dogs are known to be associated with up to sixty diseases that can be passed on to human beings
And apparently we are not making a very good job of reducing the risk of infection
A study published in 2009 suggests that dogs are the largest contributors of enterococci on the beach. Enteroccoci are bacteria that cause a range of diseases from minor urinary infections to major illnesses like meningitis
Dog poop is a major source of waterborne pathogens such as Giardia and Cryptosporidium. So allowing dogs to poop in or near streams, or rivers (often popular dog walking areas) is a really bad plan.
Dog feces also carry parasites such as intestinal worms that can infect people. Children are especially vulnerable because they play in the dirt and have poor hand hygiene.
Of course, it isn’t just humans that are at risk from dog poop. Other dogs are too. And the chances of your dog picking up parasites or other nasty infections from the dog park are significant.
That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t go to the park – we have to find a balance that takes into account a dog’s need for social interaction and exercise.
Laws on disposing of dog poop
Laws on disposing of dog poop have become increasingly strict over the last few decades
In the UK, the dog fouling act of 1996 was created, which made it a criminal offence to fail to pick up after your dog
But the campaign to clean up the city sidewalks, and make poop illegal began long before then. New York City is credited with being the first city to implement a poop scoop Law in 1978.
The regulations are part of health code article 161.
Long before 1978 there was already a law against leaving offensive animal matter in public places, but it wasn’t specifically aimed at dog owners, and was largely ignored.
There was substantial opposition to the new pooper scooper laws and great resistance among dog owners.
But gradually other big cities soon followed NYC’s lead and pooper scooper laws are now in force in many modern towns and cities around the world.
Current dog poop disposal laws vary from region to region, but in most areas they are quite strict and breach of the rules carries a financial penalty.
Fines in the USA vary but can be in the region of hundreds of dollars.
Failure to pay an ‘on-the-spot’ fine in the UK can lead to court prosecution and a much heavier fine of £1000 – that’s about $1600
Enforcing dog poop disposal laws
Making laws is one thing. Enforcing them is another. And local authorities have always found it challenging to catch those invading the poop scoop regulations.
Video surveillance can help, and in some locations, authorities are even using DNA to track down the culprits!
Enforcement is expensive though, as well as challenging.
Perhaps the greatest weapon we now have in the war against poop is a change in public attitudes. Those who don’t pick up are now often shamed into doing so by other dog owners.
After all, we all stand to benefit from cleaner beaches, parks and waterways
Dog poop pick up – the best way
Before you dispose of your dog’s poop, you need to get it into that dog waste bag. And many people have looked at ways to make this a less repugnant task
In the US patent office you can find dozens of fascinating inventions for collecting and disposing of dog poop.
A few of them have been successful and are now available to dog owners. But they do tend to be quite bulky and not the sort of thing you are likely to want to carry around with you on a walk.
When you are out in public with your dog, the simplest approach really, is to grit your teeth, put your hand inside the poop bag, pick up the offending object and turn the bag inside out.
You shouldn’t ever have to touch dog waste with your bare hand.
Double bagging might make you feel a bit happier about putting the parcel in your pocket for the journey home!
Urban Pets make a popular one that you can order from Amazon
Once that poop is safely in the bag, we need to think about how to dispose of dog poop.
Dog poop disposal methods
You wouldn’t be the first to wonder what to do with dog poop.
The three main methods of dog poop disposal are
But many of us feel a bit uncomfortable with the either of the first two options.
In the USA government departments often recommend flushing pet waste down the toilet. Or placing it in a plastic bag and putting in the garbage. So these are reasonable options.
Especially if you don’t have room in your yard for a composter.
If you intend to flush your dog’s poop, make sure that there is no debris (leaves, sticks, stones) stuck to them!
Your sanitary system won’t be able to cope.
And never put standard poop bags down the toilet. Unless you really enjoy your plumber’s company.
It is now possible to buy flushable poop bags. They are called Flush Puppies
Flush Puppies can be flushed down the toilet or placed in a composter
Dog poop disposal in public spaces
When you are out and about with your dog you have a couple of options.
You can either dispose of your dog’s poop in a trash can, or take it home with you and flush it down your toilet when you get back.
You’ll need to get it into a bag first! (See Dog poop pick up above) We have a review of dog poop bags here: The Best Dog Poop Bags.
Dog waste bags can be quite strongly scented and some people prefer to use baby diaper sacks
Once it’s in the bag, you need to get rid of the bag itself
Designated dog waste trash cans can be found in some areas, but are often few and far between. So many people resort to throwing their poop bag in someone else’s trash (more of that below)
Or resign themselves to taking it home
Dog poop disposal at home
It’s a good idea to collect up your dog’s poop from your yard or garden on a daily basis.
Even if you have a really large yard.
Regular collection helps to reduce the risk of visiting dogs or children picking up infections, and also helps to reduce the risk of your dog becoming a poop eater!
A much more common problem than most folks realise
Poop scooping devices are useful for picking up poop at home. At the bare minimum you need a receptacle and something to push the poop with.
You can use gardening tools such as a shovel (in one hand) and a hoe or something similar with a long handle (in the other) but a commercial pooper scooper can be really helpful
Jaw clamp scoopers like this one are ideal.
Dog poop compost
Turning dog poop into compost has great appeal. You can build your own composter or buy a commercially made one. The principle is the same.
You need a large waterproof container with sturdy sides a lid, and plenty of holes in the bottom (or no bottom at all)
Dig a big hole, bigger than the container and place some stones in the bottom of the hole to help drainage.
And away you go
One of the most popular commercial dog poop composters is the Doggie Dooley Large Pyramid Dog Toilet
The name can be a bit misleading – you don’t teach your dog to poop in the Doggie Dooley, but you do collect up the poops and tip them in there
Dog Poop and Wormeries
Some people like to put dog poop in a wormery. If you do this, don’t include dog poop from dogs that have been wormed recently.
And don’t use the compost that the wormery creates for anything you are going to eat. Just put it on your flowerbeds
Dog poop disposal summary
Attitudes to dog poop disposal have changed dramatically in the last few decades.
This is a good thing because dogs are more than ever part of our families and our communities.
And we need to make sure that association is beneficial to all concerned.
That means minimizing any health risks that may arise from bringing dogs into our lives.
Picking up poop isn’t fun, but it is an important and necessary job. Scented poop bags and poop bag holders can help make it a more pleasant task. At home you can get some handy gadgets to make your yard depooping easier, and keep your surroundings smelling sweet.
Why not let other readers know which tools and methods you have found helpful?
Before we go – back to that debate I mentioned earlier. Should you ever throw your dog’s poop bag in someone else’s trash can? What do you think?
References and further reading
- Curtis V, Biram A. Dirt, Disgust, and Disease is hygiene in our genes? Perspectives in Biology and Medicine 2001
- Mateus T. Multiple Zoonotic Parasites Identified in Dog Feces Collected in Ponte de Lima, Portugal — A Potential Threat to Human Health. International Journal Of Environmental Research And Public Health 2014
- Pereira A et al. Prevalence of parasites in soil and dog feces according to diagnostic tests. Veterinary Parasitology 2010
- Wang et al. Prevalence of Giardia and Cryptosporidium species in dog park attending dogs compared to non-dog park attending dogs in one region of Colorado. Veterinary Parasitology 2012
- Shukla R et al Cryptosporidium spp. and other zoonotic enteric parasites in a sample of domestic dogs and cats in the Niagara region of Ontario. Canadian Veterinary Journal 2006
- Batchelor D et al. Detection of Endoparasites with Zoonotic Potential in Dogs with Gastrointestinal Disease in the UK. Transboundary and Emerging Diseases 2008
- Katagiri S, Oliviera-Sequeira T. Prevalence of Dog Intestinal Parasites and Risk Perception of Zoonotic Infection by Dog Owners in São Paulo State, Brazil. Zoonoses and Public Health 2008
- Rinaldi et al. Canine faecal contamination and parasitic risk in the city of Naples (southern Italy) BMC Veterinary Research 2006
- Papini et al. Occurrence and cyst burden of Giardia duodenalis in dog faecal deposits from urban green areas: Implications for environmental contamination and related risks. Preventative Veterinary Medicine 2009
- Rubel and Wisnivesky. Magnitude and distribution of canine fecal contamination and helminth eggs in two areas of different urban structure, Greater Buenos Aires, Argentina. Veterinary Parasitology 2005
- Tudor P Soil Contamination with Canine Intestinal Parasites Eggs in the Parks and Shelter Dogs from Bucharest Area. Agriculture and Agricultural Science Procedia 2015
- Wright M et al Microbial load from animal feces at a recreational beach. Marine Pollution Bulletin 2009
- Conboy G. Canine angiostrongylosis: The French heartworm: An emerging threat in North America. Veterinary Parasitology 2011
- Himsworth et al. Multiple Zoonotic Pathogens Identified in Canine Feces Collected from a Remote Canadian Indigenous Community American Journal of Tropical Medicine And Hygiene
- Schets et al. Monitoring of Waterborne Pathogens in Surface Waters in Amsterdam, The Netherlands, and the Potential Health Risk Associated with Exposure to Cryptosporidium and Giardia in These Waters. Applied and Environmental Microbiology 2008
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Pippa Mattinson is the best selling author of The Happy Puppy Handbook, the Labrador Handbook, Choosing The Perfect Puppy, and Total Recall.
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