Puppis is a constellation in the southern sky. A poop deck is the roof of a cabin in the rear of a ship. Pooped means fatigued and Poop...well, it needs no explanation other than why I’m writing about such an indelicate subject. It’s because I have a pet peeve, no pun intended, about dog parents who leave it behind.
The big question is why they do? I don’t have that answer. But, I can tell you that it’s a very serious problem around the world. In a weird way, I find doggie poop fascinating now. That’s because of the outrageously creative and inventive ways people have come up with to deal with it. I guarantee once you read this, you may never look at dog poop in the same way again. In fact, you may gain a certain respect for it and all that it can do.
FIRST, HERE ARE SOME FACTS
How Much Waste?
Every year 40 million tons of dog waste is produced throughout the world - 10 million tons in the U.S. That would fill 3,800 trucks stretching from Seattle to Boston.
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) estimates that a dog excretes 0.75 pounds of waste per day. That’s about a half-ton of pet waste per year per household.
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) estimates that 2-days-worth of dog waste from about 100 dogs would contribute enough pollution to close a beach and all watershed areas within 20 miles of it.
How Much Bacteria?
One gram of dog waste (the weight of a business card) contains 23 million fecal coli-form bacteria.
Is It Dangerous?
YES! Recent studies show that dogs rank third or fourth on the list of contributors to bacteria in contaminated waters. Dog poop can seep into our ground water, wash into storm drains, and flow into streams and rivers transmitting deadly parasites that cause cramps, fever, hives, kidney problems & even permanent vision damage.
Pet waste is rich in nutrients which act as fertilizers for algae so it grows faster. These algae blooms result in large fish kills when they die because the process of decay removes all oxygen from the water.
Because of the various parasites, never compost pet waste.
In Buenos Aires, an estimated 650 people are hospitalized every year from slipping on dog poop. Now, that’s an image I don’t want to think about.
How Long Does It Take to Decompose?
It can take dog waste piles a year or more to fully break down, depending on climate, the animal’s diet, size, etc.
The Million Dollar Answer
About 40% of Americans don’t clean up after their dogs. A national survey found that 80% of dog owners were unaware that dog waste possesses a health threat and more than 83% didn't know they could become infected by the worms and parasites in it. That may be a reason why dog owners don’t think twice about not picking it up. “If you think picking up what your dog leaves behind is disgusting, try drinking it,“ Jacob D’Aniello, DoodyCalls co-founder and CEO. “The longer dog waste stays on the ground, the more it washes into the water and the environment.” According to the EPA, yet another good reason why people should avoid walking their pets near streams and waterways.
People around the world have come up with clever and creative ways to deal with dog poop issues. Some have gone beyond just finding ways to clean it up. They have invented ways to make dog poop a lucrative business.
Apartment and condo managers now use DNA testing. “We would call or send a letter and that dog owner would say: “Prove it,” says Barbara Kansy, manager of a 398-unit condo in Braintree, Massachusetts. So, she contacted BioPet Vet Lab in Tennessee and signed up for PooPrints. The first step is to register the DNA of all the dogs in the complex by collecting cheek cell samples for the database. The second is to collect a feces sample and send it to the lab for matching. The process is part of the condo contract. The initial DNA testing fee is $59.95. Additional testing fees if needed are $50 plus a $100 fine that doubles or triples for each offense. The unorthodox solution worked. Only one offender has been cited since subscribing to the service.
The University of California at Davis School of Veterinary Medicine is another leader in DNA dog waste testing. Just like in a CSI episode, it helped solve a 2000 homicide in which three men were shot execution-style. The suspect claimed he never left the car and only acted as a lookout, but dog feces found on his shoe matched feces at the crime scene. DNA testing on dog poop also helped convict a Texas man of rape in 2008. The California lab linked the feces on his shirt to one of the victim’s dogs waste in the backyard where the crime took place.
Special Delivery in Spain
Mayor Borja Gutierrez of Brunete, Spain was plagued by citizen complaints about dog owners who didn't clean up. So, he got creative and set up a sting operation. Volunteers were instructed to watch for negligent owners and then approach their dogs to pet them. After a few flattering remarks, they would ask the breed and then the dog’s name. Back at City Hall, where more than 500 residents had registered their dogs, it was enough information to get the owner’s address. The dog owners got packages – white boxes bearing the town seal and labeled “lost and found." Curious and unsuspecting, they signed for them. Delivering over 140 boxes of the real stuff seemed to make an impression. Not only was there a 70% improvement in cleaning up - most of the owners found the campaign to be funny.
DOG POOP POWERS THE FUTURE
It was only a matter of time before someone would come up with the idea of poop for profit and other 21st century innovations.
Terra, a Mexican Internet firm, partnered with ad agency DDB to create an incentive program for dog owners: FREE WiFi in exchange for their dog’s poop. The pilot study was done in 10 parks in Mexico City. Owners would put their dog waste in a robot-like machine called Terra Poo. The more poop… the more free Internet. Users got signals via dog bone-shaped dongles inserted on the grass, trees, or other hot-spots near where people might congregate.
Lights in the park
Every day about 200 dogs visit the Cosmo Dog Park in Gilbert, Arizona. When they go home, they leave behind about 8 cu yards of dog waste. Now, those little piles will be used to power a light at the park thanks to a team of engineering/technology students from Arizona State University. The “dog waste digester” breaks down the dog waste in septic tanks through a process called anaerobic digestion. The by-product is biogas – a combination of methane, carbon dioxide, water vapor and other gases. The “digester” helps save the city money by eliminating the cost of collecting the dog waste and taking it to a landfill and reducing atmospheric emissions of methane, a greenhouse gas that contributes to global warming.
HI TECH POOPER SCOOPERS
You won’t believe the dog poop gadgetry that I found on line. Until now, I didn't know I needed more than just a plastic bag to take care of business. I’m going to mention just a few.
The company’s tag line, “Just Frost & Toss with Poop Freeze” says it all. Just aim, spray and watch your dog’s poop frost to a cool -62 degrees.
The Power Pooch System is a lightweight, cordless power shovel. The Dog Dung Vacuum has a 30,000 rpm motor and is good for 50 suctions. Both suck up the waste into a disposable bag.
Doggie Do Drain
If you want another option besides a landfill, this might be for you. The “drain” screws into your existing sewer clean out. Your pet’s waste goes directly into the sewer line along with yours.
Poop Scooping Robot
The Poop Scoop is a futuristic robot designed by the GRASP (General Robotics, Automation, Sensing and Perception) LAB at the University of Pennsylvania. It’s capable of finding and removing 95% of dog poop on a sidewalk at the amazing rate of one ppm (poo per minute). The price tag on this prototype robot is a whopping $400,000.
WOW! Who knew that dog poop was such a big business. And, who knew that using a plastic bag was so old school. I don’t know what I want more now - one of those power shovels, a robot, or a company to service me. That’s not true. I want to keep walking Maru with my baggie in hand just like we’ve always done. It’s our special time together when I can be a good mom to her and a good citizen in my community. I guess there’s no moral to this story except to always “watch your step”.