Why it's Important to Clean up After your Pets
Updated: Feb 10, 2022
Taking walks with your furry friend and watching them frolic over grassy hills is one of the great joys of pet ownership. But after the fun is had, it's important to clean up after they do their business. Doing so will keep harmful bacteria like E. coli out of our surface waters.
There is a direct pathway from pet waste in residential yards to E. coli in our lakes, rivers, and streams. The storm drains on your streets flow straight into nearby waterbodies. So, when it rains in your yard or along city sidewalks, the bacteria from your pet's waste flows directly into the nearest water source without any treatment or filtration.
Bacteria from your pet’s waste does not just harm water quality, human health, and recreation in Minnesota. Most of the lakes and rivers in Scott County--and most lakes and rivers in Minnesota--eventually drain into the Mississippi River. The Mississippi then flows all the way down the Gulf of Mexico! Anything that we dump on our waterbodies here in Minnesota has the potential to cause problems downstream in countless other water systems.
Other Common Misconceptions
A common assumption is that pet waste fertilizes grass. While pet waste does contain nutrients found in fertilizers, they don't always decompose into the soil. They clump in excess and get washed away by rain, which ends up causing harmful nutrient spikes in local lakes. These nutrient spikes cause things like algal blooms and can make lakes un-swimmable and un-fishable.
It might be easy to associate pet waste with wildlife waste. And while the chemical makeup of a dog’s waste might be similar to the waste of other meat eaters, there is one major difference between the two: we cannot control where wildlife goes or if their waste is picked up. We can control our pets.
Dogs who get their exercise around city parks and paths are also more concentrated then wildlife, and they revisit the same areas with greater frequency. When highly concentrated dog paths are not taken care of, nearby waterbodies can become overrun with the bacteria runoff of their waste.
Along similar lines, pet waste cannot be composted. Grass-eating animals like cows and horses have compostable waste, but dogs are a little different. Since dogs eat meat, their waste contains parasites, bacteria, and viruses that are not readily destroyed during the composting process. Those harmful pathogens can be passed on to humans. The best thing to do is dispose of the waste in the garbage. Doing so will have a positive, lasting effect on the quality of our water for years to come!
Tips to take with you
Be prepared before walks. Don't forget to take a plastic bag with you, or attach a small doggie bag carrier to your leash so you always have one.
Never toss your pets waste in a storm drain!
Avoid letting your dog do their business within 200 feet of a water body.