Dog is man’s best friend. They are however, friends that come with responsibilities, and chores. The least attractive quality of these canine companions is that seem to rent food, rather than consume it, and produce copious mounds of waste material wherever they happen to be.
Which leaves us, their owners, with a disposal problem. Few options are open to urban dwellers. They can either place their pooch’s poo bags in designated doggy doo bins, or in the general refuse bins at home – which raises the question of whether it’s illegal to put dog poo in the garbage.
To confirm, it is not illegal to put dog poo in the garbage, whether that’s your own waste cans, or one you would find in public.
Having said that, those in the suburbs and countryside have wider options. Dog poo has also been used experimentally, exploiting its methane properties.
A brief history of dog poo (as if you wanted to know!)
In the wild, dogs live in packs and clean up after themselves. The carnivore diet they eat is almost wholly absorbed by their systems. Waste material is minimal and sends powerful signals to potential predators.
The dominant male will use his to mark the borders of the pack’s territory. All waste that indicates weakness, such as that of the young and very old, is eaten by pack members.
In urban areas, dogs are often fed on diets of convenience, which contain a great deal more starch and fibre than is required by a dog’s digestive system. This results in bulky stools with an indeterminate half-life.
Why we need a disposal system designed for dog waste
The canine carrying capacity of a square mile is 2 dogs. The average urban environment in the USA has 125 dogs. This calls for a waste disposal strategy. There are several reasons why stools cannot be left to litter the landscape.
Dog poo contains harmful pathogens
The US Center for Disease Control (CDC) has determined that a single mound of dog feaces can contain 3 million bacteria, plus viruses and parasites. The reason these pathogens are dangerous, is because they do not die when they leave the dog. Many of them remain viable for weeks after being eliminated.
The pathogens include bacteria, such as salmonella and e-coli, which have proven fatal to humans. The virulent rabies virus is zoonotic, meaning it can be transmitted to other mammal species, including humans. Other lethal viruses, such as parvovirus, distemper and canine hepatitus can be passed on to other domestic pets.
Parasites come in a range of sizes, from measurable masses of wriggling worms to microscopic colonies of Giardia. They all have unpleasant side effects for humans and household pets.
Dog poo contaminates ground water
A medium sized canine in the city will produce 180 kg (almost 400 lb) of poop per year. If left lying around until they break down, these feaces will finally dissolve in the rain and enter the ground water.
Firstly, they tend to be high in nitrogen and phosphorus which stimulate the rapid growth of algae. This results in oxygen depletion in the water, creating a toxic environment for aquatic animals.
Secondly, some of the pathogens that are excreted remain viable in water, and can contaminate a city’s water supply.
Thirdly, many dogs are fed synthetic dietary supplements, and some receive regular doses of medicines for chronic disease. Residues of these substances make their way through the dog and onto grass verges and pavements, and eventually into the water system.
Dog poo is too intense to be a fertiliser
When a pat produced by a grass fed cow breaks down, it is beneficial to the soil and feeds the grass being grazed.
Dog poo is acidic and too rich in nitrogen to be of direct benefit to your lawn or the city’s green belt. It needs to be broken down and neutralised, in a composting process that contains a balance of carbons and nitrogen.
Dog poo attracts vermin
Because of the high starch content in many commercial dog foods, there is sufficient nutrition left in dog poo to confuse even dogs themselves. Many return for a second go at their dinner.
It is the stuff of dreams for rodents, who can dine out for days on a single serving.
Random mounds of dog poo are not aesthetically pleasing
It depends on your taste in art, but most people do not consider it visually appealing when a public space or even a private garden is dotted with dog do. This is not to mention that much of it is malodorous, and emits methane, a flammable gas.
Nothing sticks like dog poo
If you’ve ever stepped in one of these urban landmines with a pair of running shoes, you will know how difficult it is to remove. It is usually discovered far from the scene of the crime, after a trail of residue has been left across the city. Invariably, traces are taken home with you.
Best ways to dispose of dog poo
Designated public bins
If you are walking your dog out in public, the first course of action is to scoop up the poop, immediately after it has been deposited on the ground. Good luck with the consistency and smell.
Fortunately, we live in an era when science has developed compostable, leak proof dog do bags. When used correctly, you will not get any of the substance on your hands. Alternatively, use a poop scoop, although these are cumbersome to carry around.
If your dog has diarrhea, sprinkle on some clumping cat litter. This will consolidate the extrusion, making it easier to gather up.
If there is a designated bin in the vicinity, dispose of the bag there. If not, you need to carry it home with you. Sadly, there are many people who, due to one or other unfortunate circumstance, may rummage in the garbage in regular refuse bins. We do not want to make life more unpleasant for them.
There is an urban legend about a stylish, elderly lady who used an old handbag to carry her dog’s deposits. One day she was robbed of the bag while walking in the park. Crime does not always pay.
In the correct bin at home
At home, you need to dispose of your dog waste in the general refuse bin which is destined for removal to a landfill site.
In some municipalities there is a dizzying array of colourful bins to choose from. Do not put it in the food bin, the garden waste bin or the recycling bin.
Also, do not dispose of it in your neighbour’s bin. In some areas, this can be misconstrued as trespassing or fly-tipping.
A compost pile that heats up sufficiently with kill any pathogens harbouring in dog poo. The pile needs to have a balance of carbons and nitrogen, or ‘green’ and ‘brown’ matter in order to break down the material aerobically.
It also needs the right amount of oxygen and moisture, to keep the bacteria alive that break down its contents. An imbalance will cause anaerobic breakdown which will take longer, and produce a stench greater than the original problem.
Use the resulting compost on non-edible plants only.
Vermiculture is a viable option for the disposal of dog poo. Worms eat all things organic and turn them into castings and worm wee, otherwise known as liquid gold. These are potent fertilisers that need to be diluted before being used on your garden.
As with the composting process, you want to mix in other materials that counterbalance the acidity.
How not to dispose of dog waste
Do not flush it down the toilet.
It goes without saying that if left in a common or garden poo bag, it will more than likely clog up your sanitation system. However, special flushable bags have been developed which should prevent this problem.
Nevertheless, many local authorities and utility companies do not allow the practice.
Do not flick it into the bushes.
Do not be tempted to get rid of your problem by hiding it under a bush. On its own, dog poop will contaminate the ground water, damage the vegetation where it falls, and spread pathogens to local wildlife.
In a plastic bag, it is an environmental hazard. Even compostable bags take much longer to degrade in the open, than in a controlled composting or landfill environment.
Do not burn it
If you live in a populated area, there are most likely ordinances that prevent you from burning waste of any kind. As a general rule, it causes air pollution. Dog feaces, in particular, produce methane gas when they decompose, which is flammable. You may end up with a fire that is harder to control than you thought. In an experimental project in a park in the United Kingdom, the methane in the dog poop collected has been harnessed, and used to fuel gas lights in the park.
Image in header from https://pixabay.com/photos/garbage-waste-container-waste-2729608/