Recently, there has been a lot of discussion around dog waste, so we wanted to take the opportunity to clear up some of the confusion.
In Blaine County, we are fortunate to have an incredible network of public trails to enjoy with our four-legged friends. In order to preserve these into the future, trail users must also be proactive stewards, and this includes picking up after your dog.
Dog waste is the third leading cause of water pollution in the U.S. The average dog produces 0.75 pounds of waste per day (271 pounds per year). The EPA estimates that two to three days’ worth of waste from a population of about 100 dogs would contribute enough bacteria to temporarily close a bay to fishing and swimming, and all watershed areas within 20 miles of it. Have you read about the closures of Quinn’s Pond and Esther Simplot Park in Boise? That’s in part due to unattended dog waste.
Unlike that of horses, deer and wild animals, dog waste contains microbes that can be harmful to humans and dogs alike, including parasites, E. coli, salmonella, giardia and many more. One gram of dog poop contains 23 million fecal bacteria.
Wild canine waste is 100 percent biodegradable, as it is the product of a high-protein and calcium-rich diet, and does not contain preservatives, chemicals or grain. Alternatively, domestic dog waste is often the result of a diet that is preservative-rich, making decomposition time longer and adding more chemicals to the environment.
Dog waste contains extremely high levels of phosphorus and nitrogen, and when added to the water, encourages rampant algae growth. This growth depletes oxygen levels in water, making it difficult for other aquatic organisms to survive.
As dog waste decomposes, components can seep into the groundwater or run off into surface waters during rain events or snowmelt. The rivers and streams of the Wood River basin are fed almost entirely by rain and snow runoff, making our water systems particularly vulnerable. Therefore, every time dog waste is left on the trail, it adds to the pollution of our local waterways—the waterways that we depend on for drinking, irrigation and recreation.
For these reasons, the ERC, in collaboration with many user groups including the Forest Service and BLM, has provided bags and routine bin servicing at 16 highly trafficked trailheads for more than 10 years. Our PUP (Pick Up for the Planet) program works to lessen the negative aesthetic, environmental and health impacts of unattended dog waste. In 2016, the ERC diverted more than 250 33-gallon bags of dog waste from local trailheads, with more being diverted in 2017.
Do your part in sustaining a healthy environment and community and pick up after your dog. If you grab a bag, please also remember to dispose of it properly. Introducing additional plastic to the environment makes these problems substantially worse.
Hadley DeBree and Alisa McGowan
Environmental Resource Center