The scoop on dogs and dirty water

The scoop on dogs and dirty water

There’s a lot more to dog poop than meets the eye.

Not only are dog droppings unsightly, they are a contributor to water pollution and can spread diseases.

“It is a bigger problem than most think,” points out Angela Gallardo, an Environmental Services Assistant Division Manager for City of Tacoma. “Though the majority of dog owners are good about picking up after their pet, it only takes a few to create a significant problem.”

And, it’s a sizable problem when you consider:

  • There are nearly 80 million dogs in the U.S alone; 4 percent of all households in the U.S. own an average of 1.6 dogs per household, according to the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA).
  • The average dog poops once to five times a day, “depending on what it eats and how often it eats,” AVMA says.
  • The average dog produces one pound of excrement each day–again, depending on the dog’s size and diet.

That means there are some 50,712 dogs in just the City of Tacoma generating 25 tons of dog poop every day (based on 2018 U.S. Census reports of 82,540 households in Tacoma with 216,279 residents).

Even if 80 percent of all dog owners scoop their pets’ poop, that’s still a lot of dog doo that ends up in surface water and stormwater and washes into Puget Sound, untreated–unlike human waste that goes to treatment plants.

That’s why Tacoma and most jurisdictions in the Puget Sound area require all dog owners to clean up after pooches and “properly dispose” of it or run the risk of violating Tacoma Municipal Code.

City of Tacoma provides neighborhood “Pet Waste Stations” that any city resident can “sponsor” in a neighborhood common area where there is a dog waste problem (i.e., open space, greenbelt, etc.).

These sponsors presently man 34 stations throughout the city by stocking them with Puget Sound Starts Here-branded doggie bags they can pick up for free from Tacoma’s EnviroHouse and the Center for Urban Waters.

“We have some great homeowners that are very vigilant about keeping them stocked,” Gallardo added. “We also have stations at some city parks and trails that are stocked, as well.”

Gallardo reminds dog walkers that most Pet Waste Stations only dispense plastic doggie bags; it’s not a place to leave and run.

“You’d be surprised how often people use the bags and leave them where they found their dog’s poop after they scooped it up,” Gallardo mused. “Now and then people leave them on the trail, sidewalk, or next to the station.”

Instead, City of Tacoma’s Environmental Services encourage all dog owners at home and on walks to “scoop poop, bag it, and dispose of it in the garbage” as the preferred method to eliminate dog deposits.

While that may be the simplest solution to this age old problem, there are several other ways to deal with this sticky problem, including:

  • Flush in the toilet (not the plastic bag).
  • Bury it at least 12 inches deep in your yard if you have the space.
  • Dog poop removal services.
  • Build a dog septic tank in your yard (unless it’s clay-based soil).
  • Various methods of composting for flowers, not food.
  • Build a worm farm in your yard.
  • Australia is building a small methane plant with dog poop.

And, if that is not enough to digest, check out the complete scoop with Dog Doogity’s Dog Poop PSA (public service announcement) at



Steve Kruse, who wrote this article, is a freelance writer and frequent contributor to Senior Scene.