Our Pet Waste Problem

Man’s best friend is causing a problem that is too big to ignore. With an average waste output of .7 pounds per day, dogs in The Woodlands create about 23 tons of waste daily! Responsible pet owners know the importance of picking up after Fido at the park or along the pathway. But have you ever wondered what happens if you leave it behind?

If you think it’s a natural fertilizer that will decompose with little impact to the environment, just take a look at our contaminated waterways. They tell a different story. According to the Houston-Galveston Area Council’s 2020 Basin Report, almost 65 percent of Spring Creek is listed as impaired because of high bacteria levels. The tributaries within the Township that flow into Lake Woodlands and Spring Creek; Upper and Lower Panther Branch Creek, Willow Creek and Bear Branch Creek, are all included on the list of impaired waterways because of bacteria. The truth is, pet waste is endangering the health of our watereways.

The issue

Left on the ground, bacteria, viruses and parasites in dog waste can transfer to humans and animals. A single gram of feces contains over 23 million bacteria, including harmful pathogens like e coli, giardia and salmonella. And you don’t have to step in a pile of waste for it to be a problem. The pathogens live on long after the pile has dissolved, spreading through the soil and eventually into the nearest waterbody (including your favorite fishing spot).

Not all poop is equal

So why is pet waste more harmful than deer or other wildlife scat? According to the Leave No Trace Center for Outdoor Ethics, waste left behind by wild animals actually benefits the ecosystem because those animals consume resources and nutrients from the ecosystem. Our pets’ diet, while healthy and balanced for them, creates excess nitrogen and phosphorus in their waste that leads to unstable conditions when it enters our waterways. Pet waste also introduces fecal coliform bacteria into waterways and is known to cause serious health problems in humans, like intestinal illness and kidney disorders. These water-born pathogens make it dangerous for swimming and other recreational water activities.

Coyote scat, pictured above with berry seeds, is visibly different from our pet’s waste and reflects the differences between wild and domesticated diets. Resources consumed in the wild are returned to the wild when waste is left behind.

Good news

The solution is simple. Do your ‘doody’ to pick up pet waste and place it in the trash. Bagging pet waste and leaving it behind only delays the inevitable – contamination still occurs once the bag breaks apart, and it creates a litter issue, to boot.

Here’s a simple way to make bagging and tossing your dog’s waste a part of your daily walk: 1) attach a carabiner to the handle of your dog’s leash; 2) hang a plastic grocery bag from the carabiner; 3) place bagged waste into the grocery bag. Voila! A hands-free option for carrying bagged waste to the nearest trash can.

By simply carrying your pet’s waste home, you can prevent contamination in our neighborhoods and waterways. Photo credit: ZKillian

Spread the word

Disposing of your pet’s waste properly is an important first step, but the work doesn’t stop there. Get the message out to your neighbors that putting pet waste in the trash prevents pollution. If you’re a dog owner, model the solution for others. If you’re not a pet owner consider taking action to protect our waterways by joining one of our many volunteer projects.

Volunteers are needed to help install markers on storm drains in your neighborhood. Markers remind residents that anything going in storm drains (dog waste, lawn chemicals, litter) will be washed into a nearby waterway – unfiltered and untreated. To be notified about the next training and volunteering day, email Environmental Services at enviro@thewoodlandstownship-tx.gov with Storm Drain Project in the subject line.