A dog park can be fun for both you and your pet – until it becomes a literal dumping ground for pet waste. So what’s the scoop on the poop in the park? You could say it’s a pretty crappy situation.
You arrive at the dog park with your best bud, and he’s ready to go play. But wait – right there in the middle of the entry is a pile of dog poop. You narrowly miss stepping in it, and move in another direction to face yet another pile. You try to navigate your dog around it, but Fido is faster and snags a bite before you can stop him. Then you realize that there are a lot of piles just within the first 10 feet of the gate to the park. You pull Fido back, disgusted, and leave the park as you curse under your breath.
A month later, you take Fido to the vet for stomach issues. The fecal test comes back – Fido has worms now. So you go through a whole de-worming regimen, and keep him in your yard for the duration until his follow-up fecal test comes back negative. You take Fido for a walk, and lo and behold – another pile of poop in the path.
Why don’t people clean up after their dogs at the dog park?
It’s everywhere. In the streets, on sidewalks, on lawns, and in the dog parks. People seem to have an aversion to cleaning up after their own dogs. This causes all kinds of problems for a community. Dog waste poses a health risk – not just for dogs, but for humans too.
Intestinal parasites are excreted in animal waste. Roundworm, tapeworm, pinworms, and a host of other parasites can pass between animals and humans when a dog eats poop and then licks your face. Or when your dogs share food/water bowls after eating poop. Or when you’re gardening in an area where your dog has done his business.
Dog waste can cause contamination of the ground water. When it rains, the waste breaks down and soaks into the ground, along with pathogens that can cause health issues for humans as well as other animals. Oh – and let’s not forget to mention the odor, particularly during warmer weather.
The problem with poop in dog parks – what’s the scoop?
Off-leash dog parks are a great place to take your dog when you want to let him socialize with other friendly pups. But every activity has its risks. One of the risks at a dog park is animal waste. At most dog parks, the expectation is for owners to be responsible for cleaning up after their dogs. But that doesn’t happen at every park. In spite of posted ordinances and other signage, owners are increasingly ignoring them and not picking up after their dogs.
The Carver County Parks and Recreation Department threatened to shut down the off-leash park at Lake Minnewashta Regional Park over this very issue. Dog owners were disregarding the posted signs and county ordinances by not cleaning up after their dogs. The county scheduled a clean-up event, and asked for volunteers to help clean up and keep the park open. This shouldn’t have been necessary – people need to take responsibility for their pets, and that includes remembering to scoop their poop.
Challenges of sanitation at a dog park
In my small city, people have been clamoring for an off-leash dog park for years. But the city has been slow to plan it. One of the concerns, of course, is funding. But an even bigger concern is sanitation. If people can’t be bothered to clean up after their dogs at home, chances are they won’t clean up in public either.
Our city park is increasingly becoming used by dog owners as a place to take their dogs to relieve themselves (instead of using their own yards), and they haven’t been cleaning up after their dogs. I’ve stopped walking my own dog at the park for that reason. There is a play area for kids that includes an area that once had sand fill, but the sand had to be removed. Not only were dogs pooping in it, but the neighborhood feral cats were using it as a giant litter box. The sand volleyball court is still there, but nobody uses it because of the animal waste buried in it. This poses a health hazard to the general public.
Irresponsible pet owners ruin rentals
Most of the older apartment complexes and some of the rental homes still allow pets, with limitations. But I’ve noticed that recently, there have been more and more “no pets allowed” rental homes and apartments on the market. Landlords are saying that previous tenants did not clean up after their pets. They describe yards where all the grass was killed by urine and fecal waste. The soil had to be cleaned up and treated or replaced, and re-sodded.
Pick it up
If dog owners won’t pick up their dog’s waste in their own yards, or at a city park where kids play, then it’s a safe assumption that they won’t pick up after their pets at a dog park either. If the dog park becomes a sanitation hazard to the community, the city will shut it down – resulting in wasted local tax dollars and the possibility that the problem will simply relocate to the local city park where your kids play.
In order to keep our families and pets healthy and happy, we need to scoop poop. We flush the toilet when we go. So pick up after your dog, because they can’t flush – and it’s not just because they don’t have thumbs.
To find out more about your local dog parks, contact the Jackson County Animal Protection Society.