Picking Up Pet Waste

(Conservation Currents, Northern Virginia Soil and Water Conservation District)

Nathan Pitkin and his dog Nayla
Nathan Pitkin and his dog Nayla

Dog walkers are out in the morning before the workday begins and again in the evening. Most have something in common. They carry a bag, usually a grocery bag or the long plastic sleeve in which newspapers are delivered. These conscientious pet owners take their waste-filled bags and put them in their household trash or flush the contents in the toilet.

What about the not-so-conscientious pet owners? The Center for Watershed Protection refers to them as “bad dog walkers” and claims their numbers are 16 million in the United States.

Pet owners who violate the County’s pooper scooper law may incur a fine up to $250. Unfortunately, since 1999 not one summons was issued for such violations. That means the only deterrents to leaving pet waste on the ground may be our individual conscience and societal mores.

Pet waste left on the grass or in the woods makes its way to storm drains every time it rains. Storm drains lead to lakes or streams that ultimately lead to the Occoquan Reservoir and the Potomac Rivers, our drinking water supply. Pet waste may carry disease-causing organisms, which make water unsafe for swimming and more costly to treat for drinking.

Dog waste on the ground is ugly and messy. It pollutes our environment even if it is hidden in the bushes, under leaves or in the woods. Please pick up after your pets. Our health may depend on it.

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