A Dog Day at the Beach

bag the dog poop, pack it out

Stewardship Column

We love our dogs so much that there are an estimated 90 million dogs in the US! As Sound Water Stewards, we often hear the question, “Why pick up after my pet? What is the difference between local wildlife scat and that from my dog?” The answer is twofold. First, localwildlife takes in nutrients from the local environment and then returns them as a nutrient resource. Our fur friends are neither local wildlife nor take from the local environment. Our canine friends eat an extremely nutrient-rich diet. Therefore, this high nutrient load scat is not coming from the local environment but is adding to it, often high in nitrogen and phosphorous. This is not the closed-loop system provided by local wildlife.

Secondly, partially because of their diet, partially because of who they are, our canine friends carry high levels of bacteria and parasites that are harmful to the local environment.

The local environment deals with scale, the sheer number of dogs we love, and their harmful poop. For example, a study by the National Institutes of Health on a Florida recreational beach found that one incident of dog feces was equal in dangerous microbial load to over 6000 bird fecal events.

So, what can we do to make our day at the beach safer for the marine environment?

Pet waste can contain 135 trillion harmful fecal bacteria
Sign at Kayak Point, a Snohomish County Park on Port Susan Bay
  • When headed to the beach, most dogs get excited and need to relieve themselves. Walk them around the parking lot or take them on a short trail near the beach before taking them to the water. Let them do their business, bag it and throw it in a receptacle or place the bagged poop in your trunk to dispose of in the landfill. If you are already at the beach and your pup just can’t wait, be very sure to scoop the entire poop from the beach, bag it and throw it in a receptacle or place the bagged poop in your trunk to dispose of in the landfill.

scoop the poop stop harmful bacteria
Sponsored by Snohomish County, Snohomish Conservation District, Sound Salmon Solutions
  • Never scoop your poop into a plastic or “biodegradable” bag and leave it behind! The aquatic environment is affected by the microbial load from the poop and must now contend with plastic debris.
  • If you reside at or near the beach (which is essentially all of us in Island County because all water runs downhill to the beaches we love), be sure to scoop the poop in your yard as it occurs or at least every other day. Don’t let it sit and allow the microbial load to leach into the ground and end up in the water. Then send your bagged poop to the landfill.

Love your pooch, love your beach, and protect them both!

Learn more at https://snohomishcountywa.gov/3366/Pet-Waste

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