Pet waste left uncollected is unsanitary and disagreeable for users. It contains pathogenic bacteria and other parasites. When pet waste is washed into our lakes and rivers it decays in the water, depleting oxygen levels and releasing ammonia, which can be harmful to fish and other aquatic organisms. Pet waste also contains nutrients that foster weed and algae growth. Elevated bacteria levels in lakes and rivers caused by Escherichia coli (E. coli) can cause unsafe conditions for swimming and recreational activities.
This fact sheet provides guidance on developing a community pet waste management program.
Pet waste management results in cleaner parks and neighborhoods, with improved aesthetics and lowered potential for diseases to spread. Reducing the amount of uncollected pet waste reduces a significant cause of stormwater pollution.
Programs designed to combat poor management of pet waste fall into three broad categories. Municipalities often create programs that overlap these categories for optimal results.
Programs are designed to overcome educational barriers. Owners are educated about the health risks and natural resource impacts associated with not cleaning up their animal’s waste and are informed of their responsibility for finding suitable methods to pick up after their pet. The City of Minneapolis has implemented the “Canines for Clean Water” awareness campaign. Throughout the summer, the city sponsors dog oriented activities and education about keeping their waterways clean.
A municipality may introduce a law that requires pet owners to pick up after their pets or risk receiving a fine.
The cost of reducing pet waste varies on the intensity of the program and control activities implemented. The most popular control method is via ordinance, but municipalities must consider the cost of enforcement, including staff and equipment requirements. Awareness campaign costs are determined by the quality of materials produced and the frequency and method of distribution. Park signage may have higher initial capital costs, but can last for many years. Signs may also be more effective, since they act as on-site reminders to dog owners to clean up in parks. Collection systems can cost anywhere between 💲60 and 💲400. The pickup bags purchased in bulk cost 5¢–15¢ each.