Dog owners take note: Contrary to popular belief, doggie deposits do not make for good fertilizer – quite the opposite in fact. Leaving pet waste on the ground or concentrating it in one specific area of the yard can seriously harm soil quality and also presents a number of potential human health hazards to families and their pets.
The idea that Fido or Fluffy’s waste is a natural fertilizer is a commonly held misconception stemming from the use of cow or horse poop as a soil enhancer. But not all waste is made equal and whether a specific animal’s waste is beneficial to the ground it lays on depends primarily upon the animal’s diet. As a rule of thumb, in order for waste to be used as an effective fertilizer, it must consist mainly of digested plant matter.
Cows and horses are herbivores, which makes their waste ideal for use as fertilizer. Dogs, on the other hand, are carnivores, making their byproducts unsuitable for soil enrichment.
It is possible to compost dog waste, but in order to do so, the heap must exceed 165 degrees Fahrenheit for approximately five days to safely sterilize the manure. Unfortunately, most backyard compost systems rarely reach this temperature, and even if they did, it would still be inadvisable to use the waste as fertilizer. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, dog waste – composted or otherwise – should never be used on crops grown for human consumption.
Uncomposted and unattended doggie deposits aren’t only harmful to soil quality, they also pose significant potential human health hazards.
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.
Unlike other common sources of pollution, such as rinse water from driveways and motor oil, dog waste carries disease-causing bacteria and parasites that can be transmitted directly to humans and make them sick. Ringworm, roundworm, salmonella and giardia are common examples, 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.
While dog waste may seem like an abundant and cheap fertilizer substitute, please take note that it is not. Instead, the best action people can take for their family and community is to make sure their pets are always picked up after. Those who are too busy to deal with the mess should consider hiring a local pet waste management service.