We at West Maui Kumuwai have been hearing a few dog-related things through the coconut wireless lately. So let’s talk about dog poop as part of our continuing series on “quarantine-friendly” Earth Month activities. For starters, mahalo to everyone who has adopted or fostered a dog during our stay at home orders, that is fantastic! If it’s your first dog, you might have noticed they poop a lot. If you already have a dog, then you probably have an existing routine for walking them. Is it ocean-friendly?
Now, we’re hearing there’s a LOT of dog-walking going on at the moment, which may have *something* to do with the pandemic lockdown. Before we get into all the fun that is dog poop, we want to stress that you should be aware of the rules in your given area before doing anything that takes you off of your own property. These rules may be constantly changing, so know before you go.
Dog poop is an often-overlooked environmental issue. It’s not only gross, it’s essentially raw sewage, and it’s not “natural fertilizer,” despite what you may have heard. It’s full of bacteria and other disease-causing pathogens like viruses and parasites. Did you know that a single dog can produce more bacteria in one day than a person, a horse and a cow combined? Right?! That’s just gross. You step in it and track it into your house? Gross. (Good thing we usually take our shoes off before entering the house here in Hawaii!) Leaving it on your lawn or along sidewalks means that it could end up getting washed into storm drains, then wind up in local waters where you swim and go fishing. Yup, gross.*
How do we avoid all this grossness that can affect our health and the environment? The simple solution is to scoop the poop, bag it, and place it in the trash, whether it’s in your own yard or a public place. You can also bury it at least 12” down to keep it out of waterways.
However, another observation that has come our way is that there seems to be an uptick in piles of unscooped dog poop around lately, particularly bagged dog poop left around that never makes it to a trash can. Sure, that’s anecdotal data, but feel free to share a report from your neighborhood on our Facebook page if you’ve also made this observation.
OK, but WHY do people leave unscooped dog poop? Maybe they think it’s natural so it’s fine (it’s not and also it’s not). Maybe they forgot their bags? (try leaving some by the front door or in your car.) Maybe there wasn’t a trash can nearby? (get one of those poop holding bags you can attach to the leash.) Maybe they were jogging and meant to loop back and get the bag of poop but just didn’t? (seriously, don’t be “that guy,” just come back and get it already.) A lot of these reasons have to do with convenience. If people have a hard time doing the right thing, maybe they need more and better support, such as bag dispensers and trash cans. Can you ask your homeowners’ association to put in poop bag dispensers along with an extra trash can? What else can we do? Seriously, we want to know your thoughts, observations, and suggestions, so please visit our Facebook page and weigh in under the photo meme from this post.
If you REALLY want to take it to the next level, we are piloting a dog poop citizen science activity. Yes, you can carry around a clipboard with a datasheet when you walk your dog, while counting and recording piles of unscooped poop. Sounds fun right?! Why are we trying this out? It could reveal “hot spots” for unscooped dog poop, and the areas that are near storm drains and waterways are of the most concern. Our datasheet allows you to record things like this, plus note whether you saw any bag dispensers or trash cans in the area you covered during your walk. Maybe we can take action in these areas, in one form or another. Having data first always helps with the action part. Plus, we think this could be the basis of a solid STEM and environmental education activity. For instance, you could do some math with the data, not to mention turning it into a civics project. Teachers and environmental educators, we’d love to hear your ideas and feedback on this concept. Eventually we could write it up and link the activity to standards. So for now, please download this datasheet and help us test this out. You can email us photos of your completed datasheet(s) and we’ll see where this goes!
BONUS: We will send a $25 gift card to one of several essential Maui businesses to the first three Maui households who email us a photo of themselves out walking their dog while collecting data with this datasheet, along with your photo of the completed datasheet too. Please include your mailing address with your email.
*written by a cat person who fully acknowledges that cat poop in a box in our homes and near our waterways is also totally gross (and environmentally-harmful).
Here's an example of what a filled-out datasheet might look like:
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