Why Pick Up Dog Poop? The Dangers of Dog Feces

Updated on February 3, 2019
Natashalh profile image

Natasha is a writer, artisan, and recent graduate with a Master of the Arts in Teaching.

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Why Pick Up Dog Poop?

  • "I pay taxes, why should I have to pick up dog poop?"
  • "It's like fertilizer—it's good to let is stay there!"
  • "Dogs are part of nature—letting their poop stay on the ground is natural, too."

Have you heard or even thought of these excuses before? Approximately 40% of dog-owning Americans polled have admitted they don't pick up after their pet. Unfortunately, cleaning up after your dog is your responsibility as a pet owner. Even if you keep your dog contained in your own yard, taking the time to regularly clean up after your dog helps keep your family and community safe. Once you discover the threats dog feces pose to humans and the environment, you won't want to leave the house without a plastic pick up bag again!

Dog Poop Dangers

Dog poop smells bad and no one likes stepping in it, but it is more than an inconvenience: it is a legitimate danger, and its dangers come in several forms.

  • It poisons grass and lawns.
  • It carries hookworms, ringworms, tapeworms, and more.
  • It transmits human diseases, too!
  • It pollutes waterways and is in the same EPA category as oil and mine runoff!

This little guy is fluffy and cute, but his unattended poop could still cause harm.
This little guy is fluffy and cute, but his unattended poop could still cause harm. | Source

It Is Not Fertilizer

Cow manure is an age-old, and effective, fertilizer, but dog poop is not. Cows are herbivores and their poop is pretty much broken down plant matter. It's sort of like smelly compost. Well, just like you're not supposed to put meat products in your compost bin, a dog's diet makes its poop very poor as a fertilizer. In fact, it is usually pretty toxic to plants. It is very acidic and will kill your grass if left unattended. Have you ever picked up an old bit of doggie business and found the grass withered and yellow beneath? It isn't just from the blocked sunlight, it is literally poison for plants. Actually putting it in your garden as fertilizer (yes, people try this!) can contaminate your fruits and veggies with harmful bacteria. Even if you don't intentionally place it in your garden, runoff can make your produce unsafe.

I wish I had thumbs and could pick up after myself!
I wish I had thumbs and could pick up after myself! | Source

Dog Poop Carries Disease

Of course, it can carry worms. This means if your dog visits the park and someone else left dog poop with worm eggs laying on the ground, your pup is vulnerable. It can carry human-infecting ailments, too, including vicious parasites. Among other things, Fido feces can include:

  • Giardia
  • Salmonella
  • Leptospira
  • E. coli
  • Parvo virus
  • Roundworms (the CDC shows 14% of Americans are infected with roundworms)
  • Up to 23 million coliform bacterial per gram of poop!

Integrated leash/bag holders make it impossible to forget a bag when going out for a walk!

It Contaminates Water

I don't know how many times I've heard someone tell me not to worry about a particular piece of poop because it was about to rain soon, anyway. Not picking up fresh poop before rainfall is even worse than letting it sit on a dry day!

When the rain washes over dog poop and flows into the drainage system, that contaminated water is carried into local waterways. If you like to hang out at a nearby river or lake, this means the fecal water is mixed in where you enjoy swimming and boating! Studies indicate that about 90% of fecal coliform bacteria, which is used as a measure of water health and quality, is of non-human origin, mostly canine. It is considered so dangerous that it is in the same EPA pollutant category as oil and runoff from abandon mines, and two or three days worth of un-picked up poop from 100 dogs can cause a big enough spike in bacteria levels to necessitate closing waterways within 20 miles to swimming and shell fishing.

How to Dispose of It

There are many different ways to dispose of it:

  • Use special, biodegradable pick up bags and throw it in the trash.
  • Reuse your plastic grocery bags to pick it up.
  • Flush it down the toilet (this is okay for dog poop, but some bacteria in cat poop can survive water treatment).
  • Hire a professional poop removal company.

Please Pick Up After Yourself

The next time you take your dog to the park or on a walk, please take the time to clean up. Even if your dog only poops in your yard, letting it remain unattended is an invitation for illness and endangers others in your community. I know it isn't fun or glamorous, but picking up dog poop is a necessary part of dog ownership. Just like getting your furry friend an annual rabies shot is an important preventative health measure, picking up his poop is an easy way to prevent disease and keep your community's waterways healthy.

This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. It is not meant to substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, or formal and individualized advice from a veterinary medical professional. Animals exhibiting signs and symptoms of distress should be seen by a veterinarian immediately.

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    • profile image

      Samantha 

      4 months ago

      I know this post is older, and I do clean up my dog poop now that I live in an apartment complex however, my dog poops 3xs a day. So if I use a plastic bag each time she poops that’s 1100 bags for 1 dog for a year. I’m just asking, is that better for the environment than the movements on the ground and left there. Also, I know people don’t stand under their dogs bottoms to catch the movements, so I know not all of the poo is picked up entirely after it’s dropped. And if other wild animals like wolves and coyotes make movements in the wild and in our yards (which we find dropping from them all the time) should we worry about their movements as well? I’m just asking in all health aspects. I obviously will clean it up in a high traffic populated area like my apartment but, in my own home and yard where we have acres of woods in between. I guess I’m super curious to hear the argument against everything I’ve asked in the post. The bags, the other animals, the left behind poo you don’t always can grab. Thanks if anyone is even looking at this article still.

    • Larry Fish profile image

      Larry W Fish 

      15 months ago from Raleigh

      Natasha, I live in an apartment complex and am irritated that so many people do not pick up after their dogs. It just seems like a common sense thing go do. I pick up every time, no matter the weather. I try not to step in any dog poop, but sometimes in the dark, I am not so lucky.

    • profile image

      Gertrude 

      17 months ago

      In my neighbourhood in the Netherlands, every bit of grass is covered with dogpoop. Few people pick it up even though there are special bins for it and free dogpoopbags. In summer it stinks. Not only do i tread in it with my profile soles of my walking shoes again and again but i cannot let my dog poop anywhere without them treading in it or eating it. In summer it stinks of dogpoop when walking past. Some dogs are 80 kg and leave turds as big as human turds. Some owners even let them poop on the sidewalks. Here in they now start fining € 150,00 when they see your dog poop and in some cities even if you cannot show you have a dogpoopbag with you. Some owners however are clever. They tie one dogpoopbag on their leash and still never pick up. Not even talking about the fact i no longer can let my grandchildren feed the ducks for it is dangerous to allow them to walk the grass bordering the water.

    • profile image

      angie 

      23 months ago

      Our neighbor nextdoor has a large dog that poops in there back yard, the last time she picked it up was 7/9/2017. The smell has been really bad. I finally ask her to please pick it up, she said yeah, that was yesterday and it still there and the smell comes right through the fence. What am I to do?

    • profile image

      Linda Peters 

      2 years ago

      Thank you for sharing! Now I understand better what the primary problems are about leaving it In our city, there are places where you are no longer allowed to walk your dog because people have got fed up with stepping in it. We need to do it for our safety.Voted up and useful.

    • Natashalh profile imageAUTHOR

      Natasha 

      4 years ago from Hawaii

      Ugh - sorry about that! I see it around where I currently live, too. Thanks for stopping by!

    • BeyondGS profile image

      BeyondGS 

      4 years ago from Ohio

      Good article. My apartment complex has people who never pick up their dog's poop and this article might be an eye opener for them. Good research and hub!

    • Natashalh profile imageAUTHOR

      Natasha 

      5 years ago from Hawaii

      It's pretty shocking how harmful something so simple can be! I love dogs, but they definitely require some work. Thanks for stopping in and I'm glad you found the information helpful.

    • Lizolivia profile image

      Lizolivia 

      5 years ago from Central USA

      Good information summed up well on one page. Now I understand better what the primary problems are about leaving it. I pick it up for various reasons, but didn't know about the run-off of hazardous coliform bacteria. Thanks

    • Natashalh profile imageAUTHOR

      Natasha 

      5 years ago from Hawaii

      Wow! I had no idea. I'm not surprised, though, and I can't blame communities for banning dogs if people can't be responsible.

    • JanHeath profile image

      JanHeath 

      5 years ago from Australia

      Great Hub! I would add one more reason for cleaning up after your dog. In our city, there are places where you are no longer allowed to walk your dog because people have got fed up with stepping in it. Can't blame them! So doing the right thing also supports dog-friendly places and helps them stay that way.

    • Natashalh profile imageAUTHOR

      Natasha 

      5 years ago from Hawaii

      I'm glad you found it useful. Thanks for stopping in!

    • Melissa A Smith profile image

      Melissa A Smith 

      5 years ago from New York

      Wonderful comprehensive hub on the issues with animal waste. I will reference this for sure.

    • Natashalh profile imageAUTHOR

      Natasha 

      6 years ago from Hawaii

      Thank you! Seeing people not cleaning up after their dogs makes me so angry! No, it isn't fun, but it is important. Thanks again for voting and pinning.

    • Peggy W profile image

      Peggy Woods 

      6 years ago from Houston, Texas

      We always pick up after ours but see others who do not do it. It is rather maddening and after reading this...even more so! I truly did not know that it was that dangerous for the environment. Up, useful and pinning.

    • Natashalh profile imageAUTHOR

      Natasha 

      6 years ago from Hawaii

      I hate that! I've seen poop on the sidewalk/in the parking lot twice in the last month! Leaving it under a bush is one thing, but letting it sit on a walkway is something else, entirely! I think you're right - a lot of people today own a dog because it seems fun, not necessarily because they are super in to dogs. My family has a dog because they wanted a dog in the yard, but they don't really do much with her.

    • dahoglund profile image

      Don A. Hoglund 

      6 years ago from Wisconsin Rapids

      I think that so many people own dogs now who are not ones who are "dog people" that they don;'t think about these things. What does annoy me is that when I am walking my dog there is dog feces on the sidewalks. OOn the other hand when I visit my son in Hudson, Wisconsin there are posts with dog bags available although I don't recall if there are dispoal containers. voted up and sharing.

    • Natashalh profile imageAUTHOR

      Natasha 

      6 years ago from Hawaii

      Thank you for spreading the word! I think lack of information is a big reason people don't pick up.

    • profile image

      The Chewy Mommy 

      6 years ago

      Good article. Although I always clean up my dog's poop out of respect for others I really had no idea it was so harmful to let it sit where the dog leaves it. This was very informative and I will share it.

    • Natashalh profile imageAUTHOR

      Natasha 

      6 years ago from Hawaii

      Thank you!!

    • saveahusky profile image

      Emily 

      6 years ago from Maine

      Great HUB!

    • Natashalh profile imageAUTHOR

      Natasha 

      6 years ago from Hawaii

      Thanks for the votes! I agree - dog poop is a major issue! It's getting warm now and I'm already starting to smell all the messes my neighbors don't take care of!

    • rajan jolly profile image

      Rajan Singh Jolly 

      6 years ago from From Mumbai, presently in Jalandhar,INDIA.

      Natashalh, what an excellent hub and thanks for sharing the importance of cleaning up after our dog has helped itself. We need to do it for our safety.

      Voted up and useful.

    • Natashalh profile imageAUTHOR

      Natasha 

      6 years ago from Hawaii

      Glad to help =) thanks for stopping in!

    • Barbara Kay profile image

      Barbara Badder 

      6 years ago from USA

      I realized that humans can get worms from dog poop, but I hadn't thought about E coli etc. Thanks for the info.

    • Natashalh profile imageAUTHOR

      Natasha 

      6 years ago from Hawaii

      Thank you! Yes, I was pretty shocked to learn it's in the same category!

    • Maren Morgan M-T profile image

      Maren Elizabeth Morgan 

      6 years ago from Pennsylvania

      Comparing the droppings to mine run-off is very chilling. Good hub!

    • Natashalh profile imageAUTHOR

      Natasha 

      6 years ago from Hawaii

      Oh, yeah, most places have fines for not picking up! It's just difficult to catch people.

    • Natashalh profile imageAUTHOR

      Natasha 

      6 years ago from Hawaii

      !!! That is terrible! Man! What an awful experience =(

    • pinto2011 profile image

      Subhas 

      6 years ago from New Delhi, India

      Hi Natashlh! There are few places in our country where you are fined if you do not pick your dog poop. Now you have made me understand why the law authorities have endorsed such things.

    • mr-veg profile image

      mr-veg 

      6 years ago from Colorado United States

      Thank You Natasha to get this hub going. I love walking and sitting on grass, I still remember the day when I was about to sit with my arms down and I felt something beneath my hand and to my disgust it was Dog poop, from then till now I have seen it so many times lying around the grass area of my apartment that I stopped going over the grass...:) Again Good Job !!

    • Natashalh profile imageAUTHOR

      Natasha 

      6 years ago from Hawaii

      One would hope so! I agree - I think a lot of why people let it lie is not knowing how dangerous it can be. They think they're not doing anything wrong, or maybe even being helpful.

    • randomcreative profile image

      Rose Clearfield 

      6 years ago from Milwaukee, Wisconsin

      I think that more widespread information about this topic would get more pet owners to pick up after their dogs!

    • Natashalh profile imageAUTHOR

      Natasha 

      6 years ago from Hawaii

      Cclitgirl - They can surprise you by going several times in one trip outside! I always ask for plastic bags and reuse them for doggie duty.

      Heidithorne - Yep! I always stuff my pockets with bags! Thanks for stopping in.

      Mary615 - Me, too! The dogs look at me like "What are you doing, mom?"

    • mary615 profile image

      Mary Hyatt 

      6 years ago from Florida

      I find myself picking up other dog's poop! If I am on a walk with my little dog, and I see dog poop, I pick it up even though it is not my dog's poop!

      Great Hub, voted it UP, etc.

    • heidithorne profile image

      Heidi Thorne 

      6 years ago from Chicago Area

      I always have about 5 bags on me when I'm out with the furry kids. You just never know when you might need it! Thanks for spreading the word on the issue.

    • cclitgirl profile image

      Cynthia Calhoun 

      6 years ago from Western NC

      Awesome info. I know it's not good to leave the poop and *blushing* I don't always pick it up, but I will now. Now I know what to do with all those grocery bags. :)

    • Natashalh profile imageAUTHOR

      Natasha 

      6 years ago from Hawaii

      That's exactly how I feel all the time!

    • NornsMercy profile image

      Chace 

      6 years ago from Charlotte, NC

      Ugh, everyone who lives in my apartment complex needs to read this, and badly. Nobody picks up around here but me and my husband... :(

    • Natashalh profile imageAUTHOR

      Natasha 

      6 years ago from Hawaii

      Ha! I can just imagine a big dog saving up for a special occasion!

      It is really pretty frightening how much bacteria dog fecal matter can contain and how many human-affecting illnesses they can carry! I would post signs around my apartments, but everyone ignores the signs already in place.

    • Gordon Hamilton profile image

      Gordon Hamilton 

      6 years ago from Wishaw, Lanarkshire, United Kingdom

      Hi, Natasha

      Well, I knew that dog faeces carried some dangers but had no idea to what extent. I occasionally take my Mum's dog a walk for her as he is too big and strong for her to handle and I swear blind he saves up his "deposits" to do them when I take him out. I do always take special bags with me and pick it up but the mess of the streets and parks in the area is a disgrace. I would love these details to be compulsive reading for dog owners!

    • Natashalh profile imageAUTHOR

      Natasha 

      6 years ago from Hawaii

      Just Ask Susan - A lot of the people at my apartments seem allergic to cleaning up after their dogs! I spend lots of time picking up other's dog poop, but at least I own dogs of my own!

      Billybuc - Wow! I bet that's quite a battle. When I had a yard, I had weekly hunt for dog poop excursions in the backyard to clean it up.

      Born2Care - Thanks for stopping in and enjoying the hub! My dogs know bags mean it's time to go outside, but I haven't trained them to fetch bags or anything. That would be a trick!

    • Born2care2001 profile image

      Rev Bruce S Noll HMN 

      6 years ago from Asheville NC

      Hi Natasha,

      Thanks for saying what many of us dog owner/lovers are thinking all the time. This hub explains the reasons why we're thinking/saying this all the time. We're trying to train our very, very smart red & white Border Collie (Kaylee) how to pick up after herself. She knows where the bags are but she hasn't quite gotten the knack of picking it up! (with her paws that is) LOL.

      Excellent Hub and thanks for the ammunition!

      Bruce

      PS

      Thanks Theresa, (Phdast7) for the recommendation.

      @ Just Ask Susan - What a wonderful form of community service you provide! LOL

    • billybuc profile image

      Bill Holland 

      6 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Well, that's just about all I ever need to know about dog poop. LOL We have three dogs and we are constantly de-pooping the yard. :) Good information, Natasha.

    • Just Ask Susan profile image

      Susan Zutautas 

      6 years ago from Ontario, Canada

      I've had people walking their dogs past my house and their dog poops on my lawn and they leave it for me to pick up. It makes me mad as I always clean up after my dogs.

    • Natashalh profile imageAUTHOR

      Natasha 

      6 years ago from Hawaii

      Thank you for sharing! I love my two dogs, but they are a whole lot of work. Plus, I seem to make additional work for myself by trying to clean up the apartment dog park by myself...

    • phdast7 profile image

      Theresa Ast 

      6 years ago from Atlanta, Georgia

      Natasha - Excellent Hub. I don't have dogs at this point in my life, but if I did, I would certainly clean up after them. Very helpful hub. Sharing. Theresa

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