Things that happen when you don't pick up after your dog.
Updated: Feb 26
(And in case you haven't guessed it, there WILL be pictures of poop in this article!)
I have been a dog walker (and a pet sitter) for a long time. I've been doing this longer than any of my previous jobs! As such, I have "strutted my stuff" with many canine companions through hundreds of streets and pathways in several North West communities in Calgary over the last decade.
Every year, it is SHOCKING to see how much poop and feces are left behind by dog owners and walkers. Just today, on a warm and breezy January day, I was able to count at least 100 examples surfacing through the melting snow in ONE community. They come in all shapes, sizes, colors... And smells. There aren't enough words to describe how horrifying this is.
Some people blame coyotes for the doo-doo left alongside community pathways. The thing is, the urban coyote population in Calgary is so small that the amount of waste produced by the local packs is negligible, and certainly not as visible.
On the other hand, the latest data released by the City of Calgary on December 2021 reported 89,544 licensed dogs in the city - per capita, we're among the highest among Canadian cities! And guess what - the average dog will produce approximatively 275 lbs. of waste per year. Yes, you read that right.
Therefore, even if only a handful of dog owners don't pick up after their dog on their daily walk around the block, they are still leaving hundreds of pounds of feces behind, which is not only a major eyesore, but will also have a serious impact on the environment, and on others living in the community.
So what *really* happens when a dog owner decides not to pick up after their dog?
1. They contribute to the contamination of the environment and put people, and other animals, at risk.
Dog poop left behind doesn't decompose like plant matter, or even like droppings from other animals like deer or rabbits. Dog waste decays and disintegrates over a much longer period of time, releasing a significant amount of harmful bacteria and undigested chemical nutrients into the surrounding environment.
These nutrients, including nitrates and phosphorous, are washed into waterways, including retention ponds, creeks, lakes and rivers. Once in the water, these chemical compounds in excess will cause algae blooms and significantly reduce oxygen levels and water quality. These changes can negatively impact the fish and aquatic species populations. Some reports even suggest that dog waste may be responsible for deadly cyanobacteria blooms in lakes!
Dog waste also carries a long list of possible bacteria, including the infamous E. coli, plus fecal coliforms. Dog waste is also known to propagate certain viruses (Parvo) and parasites (Giardia), even when a dog appears to be healthy.
As such, dog feces also contribute to the bacterial contamination of waterways and other areas frequented by humans and other animals, like pathways, sport and green spaces. It is no secret that E. coli and coliforms can seriously make a human sick.
Contrary to popular belief, dog poop is not a fertilizer. The high protein and nitrogen content in dog poop make the waste dangerously acidic for lawns, gardens and grass. It will burn and ultimately kill the vegetation where it decays. Regular composting at home will not kill the bacteria, so that's definitively a no-no solution.
So every time a dog owner doesn't pick up after their dogs, they put other people, their pets and the wildlife at risk of disease, illness, and even death.
2. Their attract the ire of their very own neighbors.
Everyone belonging to a Facebook community page is familiar with the recurrent "please pick up after your dog!" rant. It is annoying because regardless of how many times people complain about it, using kind or harsh words, nothing really changes.
My house has a perfect 180 degree view of the ravine and pathways in our community. Witnessing neighbors not picking up after their pets is a frustrating, daily occurrence.
These neighbors are consciously soiling the common community spaces with their dog feces because they are lazy, or they don't think it's a big deal, or they believe nobody can see them do so. And it needs to stop!
3. They risk being on the city's radar and fined if caught or reported.
Dog owners who deliberately don't pick up after their dog on public property face a fine ranging from $150 to $250 per occurrence in Calgary, and even more if they are caught on a walk without suitable means to remove the feces.
Now imagine that once your name is in the system, every time a city employee accesses your account, they can see you have been reported and/or fined for "failure to remove dog feces from public property". That's not very glamourous.
4. They give dog owners a bad reputation.
Although Calgary is considered a "dog friendly" city, not everyone enjoys the company of dogs and even less so stepping in dog poop while on a walk. While many dog owners work very hard to train their dogs to become good citizens and not a nuisance to their community, every time someone walks away without picking up, it reinforces the stereotype that dog owners are entitled and do not care about others in their community.
5. The poop they leave behind attracts pests like coyote and wasps.
On top of contaminating the environment, dog waste can be an irresistible source of food for pests like rodents, magpies, wasps, and even coyotes! Not only this is gross, nobody wants to be chased by an angry wasp because they walked too close to a fresh pile of dog feces left on the side of the sidewalk on a warm summer day.
In a conscious effort to keep coyotes away from populated area, removing potential food sources, like dog poop, is extremely important.
6. You risk becoming (in)famous on social media.
Remember what I said about dog owners not being appreciated by their neighbors due to their failure at picking up after their pet?
Nowadays, more and more people have cameras connected to recording devices and security systems - and more and more people won't hesitate to make an online spectacle of people not picking up after their dogs. You don't need to search very long on the internet and social media to find a long list of "online shaming" videos of dog owners not picking up after their dogs and being confronted about it in front of the entire neighborhood.
This video alone should discourage anyone considering not picking up after their dogs...
7. They get bad karma.
If they understand all this, some dog owners still won't bother to clean up their dog's feces on their daily walk, I am not sure what else will convince them otherwise. One certainty though is that for the huge impact it has on the environment and others, there's certainly bad karma attached to it. Leaving bagged poop on the side of the road is also not an acceptable option, by the way.
So next time you grab the leash, don't forget to also grab your colorful roll of poop bags - and understand that it's the RIGHT thing to do.
The environment, and your neighbors, will thank you for it! ;)