The Scoop on Marin Dog Poop

I took a very scientific poll of all my Marin friends and the one thing they agree on is that pooch poo is pervasive in our parks, on our trails and at our beaches.

Nary a week goes by without a reader sending me an email griping about the vast quantity of dog waste in our recreation areas. Considering I’ve been working at the Pacific Sun for 15 years, that’s a lot of crappy kvetching.

I grumble about it too, but excrement left on the sidewalks bothers me even more. The soles of my shoes behave like magnets for the waste.

Often the poor pets are maligned about doing their doody duty, though of course we should blame the dog owners for not picking it up and placing it in the proper receptacle. Bagging the poop and then leaving the full plastic bag behind is also bad behavior.

For the record, do not put dog turds in the compost or recycling bins. It goes in the can headed to the landfill, even if you use biodegradable bags.

And, for goodness’ sake, don’t just leave it and pretend you’re fertilizing … because you’re not. While dog excrement contains trace nutrients, it also harbors 23 million fecal coliform bacteria per poop gram, some of which can cause disease in humans, according to the Environmental Protection Agency.

If that doesn’t make you pick up your dog waste, maybe getting more specific will help the cause. Humans can get E. Coli, salmonellosis, giardia, roundworms, tapeworms and an assortment of other diseases and parasites from dog feces. When it rains, dog poop melts and runoff carries it into our waters.

An average-size, 40-pound hound excretes 274 pounds of poop per year. Since Marin has an estimated 64,777 dogs, how much doggy-doo do we host on an annual basis? The very scary answer is almost 18 million pounds.

Another fun fact: we have 52,214 human children in our county. Marin has fewer kids than dogs. Frankly, I’m surprised there aren’t even more mutts here. In my lifetime, I’ve produced zero children and adopted four canines.

Hikers frequently urge people to clean up after their pooches. On the Oakwood Valley Trail in Mill Valley, one desperate trekker resorted to covering feces in multi-colored glitter to bring attention to the matter. Unfortunately, glitter is also litter. I came across pieces of poop skewered with toothpicks flying little signs imploring, “Pick Me Up,” when hiking on Crown Road in Kentfield.

Byron, a dog lover residing in Kentfield, used to love hiking around nearby Phoenix Lake in the Marin Municipal Water District. Now, he’s concerned about dog excrement in our water supply.

“My post-retirement life was going to be hiking in the water district, and I’ve pretty much stopped going to Phoenix Lake,” he says. “I’ve got incredible photos of dog crap and bags of poop right next to the lake. I wrote to the water district board of directors and said, ‘This is the municipal water supply. It isn’t an appropriate place to serve as an outdoor toilet for dogs.’”

Gross. I’m glad I use a water filter.

There is a solution to get people to clean up after their pups. Enter PooPrints, a biotech company serving more than 5,000 apartment complexes, condo communities and similar properties. Residents must provide a DNA sample from their dog, which is analyzed and kept on file at PooPrints. When a rogue piece of poop appears on the property, it’s scooped up, sent to PooPrints and compared to DNA samples in the database. Voila. The offending pup is identified.

With a big enough fine, people learn to bag their dog’s poop and throw it away. Sure, it’ll be challenging to administer a dog DNA program for an entire county, but we live in Marin and that means we’re special.

In lieu of DNA tests for dog dung, may I suggest you simply clean it up? Your dog’s not going to do it for you.

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Nikki Silverstein
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