Q. Are dog feces bad for the environment? A. Yes and no. Because dogs eat meat, their excretions contain bacteria that are harmful to all animals, not just humans. The biggest problem with dog poop is if it finds its way into a river or lake, the bacteria can grow in the water and cause cholera or dysentery if the contaminated water makes contact with an open wound or is digested. The second problem is that as the bacteria grows in the water, they will reduce the amount of oxygen that is available for fish. Many species of fish cannot survive in streams that have reduced oxygen levels. Large, unnatural numbers of any animal in a small area can cause a problem — not just dogs. If only a handful of dogs were leaving their poop behind, we wouldn’t have a problem. Their remains could be easily absorbed into the soil. But should you let your dog poop in your vegetable garden? Not a good idea; even in your own yard you should dispose of your dog’s poop properly by picking it up with a plastic bag and placing it in a garbage container. If you compost with it or use it in your garden; the bacteria can leach onto your vegetables and make you sick. Readers: E-mail your questions about the natural world to our resident Ecologist at: belle.bergner@earthlink.net
by Belle Bergner