In America, we love our dogs. By recent figures, there are now upwards of 84 million taking up residence in the United States today and annualized collective spending on our furry loved ones surpassed $55 billion 2013 alone. But despite our undying affection for Fido, we still don’t enjoy dealing with the waste he leaves behind.
According to the Environmental Protection Agency, the average dog discards approximately three quarters of a pound of waste per day. Over the course of one year, it adds up to 275 pounds per dog, most of which ends up in the back yard.
When you take the entire US dog population into account, the numbers are jaw-dropping. On average, the 84 million dogs currently living in our country collectively deposit approximately 62.7 million lbs of waste every day and 22.9 trillion lbs of waste every year. That is the equivalent of 286,344 tractor trailers fully loaded with dog doo. If those 18-wheelers were lined up bumper to bumper, the caravan would stretch 4,067 miles. Put another way, it would stretch from New York City to Los Angeles, with enough trucks left over to circle back around and cover the distance from LA to Austin, Texas. That is a lot of waste.
What’s the big deal?
Dog waste is an environmental pollutant. In 1991, it was labeled a non-point source pollutant by the Environmental Protection Agency, placing it in the same category as herbicides and insecticides; oil, grease and toxic chemicals; and acid drainage from abandoned mines. According to the EPA, two or three days worth of droppings from a population of about 100 dogs can contribute enough bacteria to temporarily close a bay and all watershed areas within 20 miles to swimming and shell fishing.
In addition, unattended pet waste presents a number of human health hazards to families, communities and their pets. Bacteria, worms and other parasites thrive in waste, eventually washing away into the water supply. Ringworm, roundworm, salmonella and giardia are examples of such bacteria, all of which are found in dog feces and are easily transferable upon contact.
Roundworm, for example, is one of the most common parasites found in dog droppings and it can remain infectious in contaminated soil and water for years. How prevalent is roundworm? A recent CDC study found 14 percent of Americans tested positive for them.
What can you do?
The most responsible action pet owners can take for their family, community and environment is to make sure their pets are picked up after. Pet owners who do not have enough time to deal with the waste – or simply don’t want to – should consider hiring a local pet waste removal service to handle the dirty work.