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Why Should You Pick up Dog Poop?

Pet dogs in the United States produce about 10.6 million tons of poop every year. That’s a lot of dog doo!

But what’s the big deal with cleaning up after them? Why should we pick up dog poop? Lots of animals poop without scooping up afterward.

Aside from the unsightly and smelly mess unscooped dog poop creates, it’s also a public health and pollution hazard. And the risks that dog doo carry don’t go away when it rains or if you hose it down.

So, when should you pick up dog poop? Here are five reasons you want to pick up your dog’s poop every single time.


1. Pick Up your Dog's Poop to Prevent Disease-Causing Parasites and Bacteria
Ever had a dog that contracted hookworms or tapeworms?

You know how he or she got them? By coming into contact with or eating (ew!) another dog’s poop. (Personal contact isn’t even required. Flies that land on contaminated dog doo can also spread the diseases.)

Dog waste is littered (pun intended) with parasites and bacteria that can spread to other dogs – and humans. Intestinal parasites like tapeworm, hookworm, ringworm, and giardia, along with bacteria like E. coli, salmonella, parvovirus, and others can all be found in a dog’s feces.

In 2017, an outbreak of Campylobacter across a dozen states was traced back to puppies at several Petland stores. The infectious disease is primarily spread when people come into contact with the dogs’ poop. Even trace amounts are enough to spread the disease. (Symptoms of Campylobacter can include bloody diarrhea, fever, stomach cramps, nausea, and vomiting.)    

Even if your dog never shows any symptoms of illness, she could be carrying something. By not picking up dog poop, you put other people’s dogs at risk.

But it's not only other dogs at risk of getting ill. Children playing outside and gardeners are also frequently at risk, as is anyone who steps in the poop you left behind.


2. Pick Up your Dog's Poop Because It’s the Law
Most cities in the United States have laws requiring people to pick up after their dogs. Fines may vary, but you’ll almost always have to pay up if you don’t clean up after your dog. For instance, fail to pick up your dog’s poop in New York City and it’ll cost you $250. Do that in Austin, Texas and it might cost you up to $500. In Washington, D.C., fines can be as high as $2,000!

Think you can get away without anyone knowing the poop left behind was your dog’s? Some cities and many apartment complexes require dog owners to submit a sample of their dog’s DNA to be put on record. They then use those records to match the DNA of any dog poop left behind.


3. Pick Up your Dog's Poop Because It’s a Pollutant

The Environmental Protection Agency classifies dog poop as a pollutant. It doesn’t decompose on its own. Instead, it leaches into the soil and into groundwater. Or gets washed into local waterways by the rain. In fact, dog poop is a leading cause of water pollution.

When dog waste is washed into rivers and streams, the nutrients in the feces promote the growth of algae. This alga robs water systems of oxygen that fish and other aquatic animals need to live. Water that’s covered in algae turns an ugly green and smells. Not something you want in your nearby park.

Additionally, the water itself can become contaminated with the parasites deposited in the waste, making the lakes and streams unsafe for fishing and swimming.


4. Pick Up your Dog's Poop Because It’s Not Fertilizer
Amateur gardeners often assume any type of poop can be used as a fertilizer. They’re wrong. In fact, dog poop is the opposite of fertilizing. Because dog poop is high in protein, it’s highly acidic and will destroy your yard rather than help it.

Plus, the parasites that migrate from your dog’s poop to the soil may lay eggs on any vegetables you grow. If you then eat those veggies? At the very least, be sure you’ve got lots of toilet paper on hand!

By the way, the above are the same reasons you shouldn’t put your dog’s poop in the compost. It’s not healthy. It won’t break down. And all those dangerous parasites and bacteria will migrate into the compost, making anything you do with it contaminated.

What if you don’t have a veggie garden? Do you have to pick up dog poop in your own yard? Yes, for all the same reasons listed above. (Well, it’s not illegal to leave dog poop in your yard.)

Even if you never step foot in your own backyard, all that dog waste will get washed into the local water systems. It’ll wash onto the street and into drains, and that makes it dangerous for everyone. Not to mention, the stench on a hot summer’s day!


5. Pick Up your Dog's Poop Because It’s Common Courtesy
Ever had to wipe dog poop off your shoe after stepping in it? (Even worse? Off your open-toed sandals…)

Then you understand why picking up after your dog is common courtesy. No one wants to step in dog doo.

The stench of dog poop is another reason cleaning up after your dog is simply the right thing to do. While one poo alone might not be so bad, dog poop that piles up at the dog park, in the street, or in your backyard can create a smell so foul even your dog wants to avoid it.

An accumulation of dog poop also makes parks unsafe, even more so when water is involved, like at the beach. In 2000, San Diego had to shut down swimming at its popular Dog Beach 125 times due to the pollution caused by left-behind dog waste.

You help keep your local parks and neighborhoods enjoyable for everyone when you pick up your dog's poop.