Among the pollutants that can be washed into lakes, ponds, wetlands, and streams during a storm event, pet waste is one that all pet owners can and should address on a regular basis. According to the EPA:
“Leaving pet waste on the ground increases public health risks by allowing harmful bacteria or organic material to wash into the storm drain and eventually into local waterbodies.”
The following list identifies just three of the diseases that can be spread by pet waste:
- Campylobacteriosis- a bacterial infection that causes diarrhea in humans.
- Salmonellosis- the most common bacterial infection transmitted to humans from animals. Symptoms include fever, muscle aches, headache, vomiting, and diarrhea.
- Toxocarisis- roundworms transmitted from animals to humans. Symptoms include vision loss, rash, fever, or cough.
The proper methods for disposal of pet waste are to either flush it, bury it, or where allowed by local laws, trash it. This weblink to great brochure from the University of Wisconsin Extension Service summarizes the harmful effects that waste generated by pets can have on local water bodies and provides useful guidelines on how to handle your pet’s waste.
Many local, state, and national parks now have pet waste disposal centers which provide plastic bags and receptacles for when you are away from home. As a courtesy to others, please use these facilities when they are available and always be sure to carry small plastic bags or a scooper when you walk your pet around the neighborhood. More than once I have been greeted by a surprise deposit left in my front yard while cutting the grass during the summertime.
If disposing of pet waste in your yard is not your thing, some places around the country have private pet waste disposal services available that will take care of it for you for a fee. In all instances, please address the waste left behind by your pet(s), because you local water quality and general community health may depend on it. For all of us pet owners, taking responsible action is part of our civic “doody.”