U.S. Waters Polluted by 10 Million Tons of Dog Poop

The 78 million dogs living in the United States create 10 million tons of feces annually, polluting waterways and posing a threat to public health, according to a pet waste removal service asking Americans to pledge to scoop the poop this Earth Day.

Dog Waste Threatens Public Health

“Dog waste is an environmental pollutant. In 1991, it was placed in the same health category as oil and toxic chemicals by the Environmental Protection Agency,” explains Virginia-based pet waste removal company Doody Calls in a press release. “The longer dog waste stays on the ground, the greater a contamination becomes. Bacteria, worms and other parasites thrive in waste until it’s washed away into the water supply.”

USAToday reports that 40% of dog owners do not pick up their dog’s waste at all and all that waste pollutes waterways. Because scientists are able to track the origin of the fecal bacteria to the species that excreted it, we even know how much. One study showed as much as 90% of the fecal coliform in urban stormwater was of non-human origin, mostly dog.

In just a couple of days, 100 dogs can deposit enough bacteria to temporarily close a bay, and all watershed areas within 20 miles of it, to swimming and fishing. Officials in Seattle consider waste from the city’s million dogs to be a major pollution source of Puget Sound. Dogs have also been shown to be a major source of water contamination in Clearwater, FL; Arlington, VA; and Boise, ID.

So What’s a Responsible Dog Owner to Do?

If you live in Cambridge, MA, you can drop your dog’s leavings into methane digesters to power the lights in some parks. If you live in Jefferson County, CO, you can join the poop patrol to remind your neighbors that there is no dog poo fairy (seriously). For the rest of us, the Natural Resources Defense Council has the following recommendations:

  • First, you definitely should not let your dog’s droppings lay near water ways, curbs, or even in your yard. What you should do is . . .
  • Wrap it in a plastic bag (biodegradable, corn-derived, or regular) and put it in the trash (though not all municipalities allow this).
  • Flush it. Dog waste can be managed by most sewage treatment systems and some septic tanks. (Do not flush cat waste because the parasite Toxoplasma gondii can survive sewage treatment plants.)
  • Install an underground pet waste digester. Basically a septic tank just for your pet.
  • Bury it in your yard. Keep pet waste away from vegetable gardens, the water table, and streams and buried at least 5 inches deep. Always cover fresh waste with with dirt.
  • Hire a poop collection service. Services will patrol your yard for poop on a weekly or bi-weekly schedule.  What a service does with the waste will vary, but you won’t have to handle it yourself.

Related Reading

The Cool Way To Clean Up After Your Dog [Video]

Lights Powered by Dog Poop! (VIDEO)

NRDC Study Finds U.S. Beaches More Polluted Than Ever


Update 4/12/2012: added previously omitted quote by Doody Calls

Image credit: excerpt of infographic/advertizing by Doody Calls


Terry V.
Terry V5 years ago

AIN'T that the SHITS???

Tim C.
Tim C5 years ago


Natasha Salgado
Past Member 5 years ago

Please do not blame these wonderfull innocent dogs. This article should instead mention the dog owners as the ones who are the problem. Next time you see dog poop either on your property or on the sidewalk,just please remember that it's the human's ignorance!!!

Valentina R.
Valentina R6 years ago

Always clean up after your dog! The park is not asking to be fertilized by dogs' poop. Respect is everything.

Patricia M.
Patricia M6 years ago

Sylvia W., why do you live rurally without the comapanionship of a canine? And complaining about other animal dung, hey lady, you are really borrowing their home, for the little rural areas left are still their homes. Don't like cleaning up their dung, don't, it fertilizes the earth. Still don't like it, move to the city...

Patricia M.
Patricia M6 years ago

Let me say something here, reading comments one can see who hates animals & those who love & care for them. Also there is more than dog dung in public waterways, septics and public waste facilities. We do not need to spend millions on more silly ideas, all feces dissolves. In the ocean where waste is eliminated from sewers in various forms it will be erased by the faculties of salt water. And dog feces is also sent to the ocean along with cats (A smellier feces), and humans with far more diseases than dogs, not to mention the fish, and swimming mammals feces erupting into the water daily. Spend money to cure AIDS, Cancer, and other human diseases that has not a damn thing to do with dogs or any lower form of animal...

Cheryl Holzle
Cheryl H6 years ago

People must be more responsible about cleaning up after pets. There is nothing worse than walking by a filthy yard that reeks, and seeing the poor dogs that likely have to live outside most of the time. People that treat their pets like that shouldn't have them. I like the idea of using dog poop to power the lights in the parks. I am more concerned about the runoff from farm chemicals that get into the waterways as well as prescription drugs that don't break down, but everyone that has pets does need to do their part.

Annmari Lundin
Annmari Lundin6 years ago

Bob S. Are you for real or just an Internet troll?

maryam p.
maryam p6 years ago

we have more dogs and rats in nyc than people!!

Sylvia Wulf
Sylvia W6 years ago

James T and Lost A - you are correct, and not just about China. The practice of using "night soil" as fertilizer is an ancient one, and while controversial in the West is becoming accepted in some areas under the new-fangled name humanure.