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Man’s best friend has a dirty little secret, and the Environmental Protection Agency is concerned. The agency estimates that just 2-3 days’ worth waste from only 100 dogs can contribute enough bacteria to temporarily close a bay and all watershed areas to swimming or shell fishing within 20 miles.

As Earth Day draws near, please remember that cleaning up after your dog is not only required by most laws, but it is also your civic duty.

pooch photo for DoodyCalls LinkedinConsider this: There are now more than 77 million pooches living in the United States, and the average dog deposits about ¾ pounds of waste each day. What first appears as a small amount quickly adds up. Picture 267,500 tractor-trailers filled with dog poop. Lined up they would stretch 3,800 miles, from Boston to Seattle. That’s 10 million tons each year.

Sure, some people are conscientious about picking up after their dogs, but many are not, and the risks are having an impact on our communities.

Dog poop is more than just a gross and unsightly mess — it’s an environmental pollutant and a human health hazard. When left on the ground, waste eventually breaks down and washes into the water supply, polluting our rivers, streams, creeks and other local waterways.

Pet waste carries a number of bacteria, parasites and other diseases that can be transmitted to humans, according to the Centers for Disease Control. Dog droppings can transmit different worms that can affect us, especially children. Roundworms, for example, are common in dogs, and can remain alive in the soil for years. According to the CDC, 14 percent of Americans test positive for these worms.

Another hazard is campylobacter bacteria. Although infection can cause transient gastrointestinal problems in healthy adults, they can cause life-threatening infections in infants, older persons, and people with weakened immune systems. Dog waste can also carry E.coli, parvovirus, and salmonella.

In cities the problem is compounded by rats and other rodents. Dog waste is often a leading food source for rats in urban areas. Rat urine and feces have been linked to a number of diseases that can easily be passed to humans, including leptospirosis, typhus, and salmonellosis.

This Earth Day, please take a moment to realize that one of the leading sources of water pollution in communities across America is entirely preventable and can be completely eliminated overnight. Dog owners simply need to take responsibility and pick up after their pets.

A growing number of groups are joining in the fight against dog waste in their communities and I am proud to say that DoodyCalls has been on the front lines since 2000. Every day, our teams collect dog droppings in homes and public spaces to prevent water pollution and public health issues. We regularly volunteer around the country and have even helped clean up the National Mall in Washington, D.C.

Our mission is to make our communities safer for everyone, especially families with children.

Please help us, and your community, by picking up after your pooch.