Howling over Dog Waste

Studies show a percentage of pathogens and bacteria found in the ocean, which can cause typhoid fever, bacterial gastroenteritis and Hepatitis A, are from dog poop. 





 Molly, the rescue American Bulldog from Ace of Hearts




Q: What’s worse than stepping in a pile of dog poop?

A: Swimming in it.

Rainy season is here and urban runoff is a problem.  So are lazy dog owners, but I’ll get to that in a second.

Urban runoff is the flow of water over rooftops, streets and trails. Along the way it carries anti-freeze, chemicals and bacteria to the ocean. If you live in California, don’t roll your eyes. In Los Angeles, less than half an inch of rain can result in almost 4 billion gallons of runoff dumping into the Pacific Ocean.

My friend Joe made the mistake of surfing too soon after a recent rainstorm and picked up a stomach bug that turned his skin green. Urban runoff occurs when it rains, but did you realize washing your car in the driveway contributes to the 10-25 million gallons of completely untreated, unfiltered water that flows through storm drains every single day?

Back to dog owners. Experts at the Environmental Protection Agency estimate that a single gram of dog waste harbors 23 million fecal coliform bacteria, which can cause cramping, diarrhea and even serious kidney disorders in humans. The EPA figures that around two days’ worth of poop from 100 dogs would be enough bacteria to close a bay such as Santa Monica to swimming.

Obviously, it’s not polite to let your dog poop in the street indiscriminately. Now we know it’s actually dangerous. On our daily walks, Molly, and I cover ground bordering multi-million dollar homes and get our feet and fur dusty hiking in the mountains, too. No matter where we go, we always find ourselves dodging dog poop.

In addition to poop piles, we frequently find tidy bags of waste intentionally left behind by their ‘considerate’ owners. Last I heard, there was no janitorial service in the state park or the streets of Beverly Hills. Clean up programs exist elsewhere, but they’re costly.

Last weekend when I disposed of someone else’s goody bag, the trash can stood a mere 15 yards away.

People are complex; they can adore their dogs, be drawn to nature and yet overlook that they are contaminating the things they love. They think it’s perfectly acceptable that I pick up their dog’s poop. Do they think they are better than I am?


It is possible. But better than my dog? No way. She’s the most joyful, intuitive, gorgeous creature around. So the next time you see someone fail to clean up after their pup, call him or her on it. And if you don’t catch them in the act? Pick it up and dispose of it properly.

Or else you might find yourself swimming in it.







Author Description

Cynthia Baseman

Cynthia Baseman is the author of 'Love, Mom: A Mother's Journey from Loss to Hope.' She writes about motherhood, the environment and education.

There are 5 comments. Add yours

  1. 24th February 2012 | Mary says: Reply
    How about a sequel article on how we can catch the people who leave it on our lawns?
  2. 24th February 2012 | Hayley says: Reply
    It's a good thing you're spreading this word. Most people probably have no idea that car washing as home is so harmful to the environment - I only learned this about a week ago. It would be great to take walks in beautiful Beverly Hills without having to worry about stepping in dog poop. It's hard to understand why there are so many inconsiderate dog walkers. We don't have a dog but all of our family members have stepped in dog mess simply walking on the grass in front of our own home. Good article!
  3. 20th February 2012 | Franny says: Reply
    Agreed How do we get the city to install "doggy bag dispensers" in parks and obvious dog areas (high school front lawn, reservoir lawn at Rexford & Sunset & maybe more spots) - people could even sponsor in honor of their dog. Most parks have these. Also, how about dog poop pick up lawn signs with "Pick up/Keep our city clean/it's your Dooty" type signage - anyone know where to get these - we could just spread the word and have on our lawns. Thx for helping to make this a better place Cynthia
    • 20th February 2012 | Cynthia Baseman says: Reply
      I called the city about those "It's your Doo-ty" signs, but they'd given them all away. When I asked if I could create my own, they said Beverly Hills was very picky about what they would allow. In any case, the next step would be City Council - what not to like about providing convenient disposable, dare I say, "earth-friendly" bags?
  4. 20th February 2012 | Ellie May says: Reply
    Ewww and Ohhhh! Thanks for the cute and informative article.

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