In my younger days I just didn’t understand why it was problematic to leave dog poop in the grass or dirt. After all, I figured it was “organic” and would decompose and make a positive contribution to soil quality. Ha! I sure got that wrong!
In my optimism and ignorance I thought the real issue was about being considerate of others to avoid stepping in it. Then, I learned about the downstream impacts when “stuff” other than rain (that has fallen from the sky) ends up in our storm drains, creeks, rivers and eventually ocean. This flow is fragile and vulnerable to contaminants that can degrade and poison our water quality right here at home and beyond.
Once I observed runners exercising with their dog and leaving a bag of poop by the side of the road. When I called out to them they said they would pick it up at the end of their run. If they did, I have no issue. When they don’t, I am barking loudly.
It is perplexing what makes some of us think that littering our landscape with bags of poop is OK. It’s hard to decide which is worse, leaving the pile on the ground or discarding the bag with poop on the ground. Neither choice is taking responsibility for our four-leggeds or protecting a resource we all benefit from (clean water) and being thoughtful of others. Doing the right thing generally goes unnoticed. It takes just one abandoned poop bag or one miss-step to stink up one’s day.
Our Ashland Parks and Recreation department makes it super easy to pick up after our pooches when we forget our own bag. The program began in 2008 with 20 stations complete with plastic bag and garbage can. In just 10 years there are roughly (pun intended) 70 woof-waste stations that can be found in Ashland parks, trails and open space areas.
All of the woof waste stations get serviced by parks staff once or twice a week year round.
Parks purchases the Woof Waste bags from Step Forward Industries, which is an Oregon QRF (qualified rehabilitation facility) that makes the Woof Waste bags and employs disabled veterans.
Purchasing new plastic bags for dog poop pick-up can often be avoided. Bread, berry and produce bags for example, make great final use for picking up poop if Rover is small to medium in size. When we are walking in our neighborhoods equipped with our own plastic bags we can stretch Ashland Parks’ resources. Your friend’s may have some of these bags they would love to give you. One person’s discard is another one’s resource. It’s only trash if that’s how we treat it.
Extra clean plastic bags without holes can be dropped off at the Southern Oregon Humane Society and Jackson County Animal Shelter. They gladly accept them for their dog walkers to pick up poop.
The Rogue Valley is fortunate to have a program called “Stream Smart” that has a clean water project dedicated to preventing water pollution. I recently went on their website at www.StreamSmart.com/pledges/petWaste to officially pledge to pick up and properly dispose of pet poop. I made the pledge (on one knee) to continue to reduce pollution in our local streams. I learned that, on average, each dog produces 7.82 billion fecal coliform bacteria every day! I’m no scientist and feel pretty sure that we don’t want that bacteria roaming our neighborhoods!
If I have yet to convince you to commit to dog poop pick-up, the city of Ashland created Municipal Code 9.16.055 for the removal of dog waste. It is a Class IV violation to abandon dog poop. More info on the city website.
One option that avoids the landfill is possible only if you have land away from any underground water source. Dig a hole deep enough to nearly bury a plastic garbage can with many holes drilled in it. Use lid as cover after dropping dog poop inside. Add water occasionally to aid in decomposition. Don’t use that soil for vegetables. The container provides an isolated spot for it to break down.
Please don’t be a poop. Pick up after your pooch!
Risa Buck has served on the Ashland Conservation Commission and in waste prevention education for more than a dozen years. You may reach her through firstname.lastname@example.org. Find past WasteNot columns online at bit.ly/rbwastenot2.