Pets are wonderful companions when hiking our great open spaces or taking a walk around the neighborhood. Spoiler alert – that pleasant walk is not so fun when you are dodging piles of poop because some other human did not pick up after their dog relieved themselves. Additionally, it can be harmful to other pets and the environment.
Picking up after your dog is not only the law, but also a common courtesy, and your responsibility as a pet owner. According to the city of Albuquerque website of ordinances, 9-2-3-8 ANIMAL NUISANCE; DEFECATION; CLEANUP. “No person shall allow an animal to defecate upon public property or upon any private property other than the property of the owner of the animal without thoroughly removing and disposing of the feces.” It may be tempting to think if the dog goes off trail a bit, no one will step it in or run over it with their mountain bike. Or to consider pushing the waste off the sidewalk into the street “where it will just go away.” Another fallacy is the pet waste fertilizes the ground.
Pet waste dangers
Even if your pet is fully vaccinated, it can still give or receive disease-causing bacteria and parasites in pet waste.
Children and adults can also become infected from disease-causing bacteria and parasites in pet waste.
Humans at risk for:
• Campylobacteriosis – a bacterial infection carried by dogs and cats that frequently causes diarrhea in humans.
• Salmonellosis – the most common bacterial infection transmitted to humans by other animals. Symptoms include fever, muscle aches, headache, vomiting and diarrhea.
• Toxocariasis – roundworms usually transmitted from dogs to humans, often without noticeable symptoms, but may cause vision loss, a rash, fever or cough.
• Toxoplasmosis – a parasite carried by cats that can cause birth defects if a woman becomes infected during pregnancy. Can also be a problem for people with depressed immune systems.
• Intestinal parasites can be transmitted to people and other pets, including: roundworms (one of the most common parasites found in dog waste and can remain infectious in contaminated soil and water for years), whipworms and hookworms.
Stormwater pollution happens when pet waste left on the streets, yards, trails or roadsides is then picked up by stormwater runoff and carried into drains or arroyos. Stormwater is not treated before it reaches the river, and pet wastes contribute to poor water quality. To paraphrase a clean-water campaign “If you think picking up dog poop is unpleasant, try water recreation in it.”
Wild animals differ
Dog food is a processed, protein-rich diet. Wild animals generally eat what they find in their environment and recycle the nutrients already there. According to a Popular Science article in May 2022, simply picking up the excrement removes 97% of all phosphorous, 56% of all nitrogen and drastically lowers the disease risk.
It’s not fertilizer
Dog waste can burn or kill grass. While cow manure can be used in compost for gardens and fields, dog waste can cause contamination.
ABQ’s 20 tons a day
Several articles sited that an ecosystem could handle about two dogs per square mile. In many cities there are close to 125 dogs per square mile. The city of Albuquerque website estimates 80,000 dogs reside in the city, creating 20 tons of waste per day.
Make a difference
Take a plastic bag along when you walk your pet. Parks, Open Space and many neighborhoods make it easy by having “Mutt Mitts” readily available. Carry a couple extra to offer to other dog walkers who may not have a bag. Tie the bag and dispose in trash barrels provided in most public places or take it home for disposal.
Help be a part of the solution, volunteer for the Park Management Mutt Mitt Program. Contact Park Management Division (505) 857-8657 for more information.
Mountain bike riders who have their dogs running with them should recognize picking up after their dog applies to them, too.
While picking up after your pet may be unpleasant and an inconvenience, the negative effects of not doing it are greater. Be a good pet parent and enjoy a good , clean walk with your four-legged friend.