What you can do to manage animal waste
Everyone who owns pets or livestock can take steps to help keep harmful bacteria out of waters. Simple actions taken by individuals multiply to make a big difference! Learn about pet and livestock waste management practices that help you protect water quality.
Dog poop is more than just an icky nuisance. It’s a health risk to dogs and people, especially children. It’s full of bacteria that can make people sick. And it’s a source of water pollution. When it rains, dog poop melts away and runoff carries it to storm drains, ditches, and streams that feed rivers, lakes, and marine waters.
Bacteria from dog poop can end up in shellfish. People who eat those shellfish can get very sick. The bacteria can also make water unsafe to drink or to swim in. Nutrients from dog poop can also feed the growth of aquatic plants and algae. As these decay, they use up oxygen in the water that fish and other aquatic life need.
Dog poop left on the ground is no small problem. Based on a study by the American Veterinary Medical Association, it’s estimated there are 1.6 million dogs in Washington. That means hundreds of tons of new dog poop every day!
What you can do to help
- Carry plastic bags when taking your pet for a walk or a romp in the park.
- Pick up your dog’s waste. Use a plastic bag, scoop or disposable gloves. Remember to wash your hands afterward.
- Seal the waste inside a plastic bag (or two) and throw it in the garbage.
- Keep dog poop out of septic systems and sewer systems. These systems are designed for human waste only.
- Pick up after your dog in your yard every few days — more often if you have small children who play there.
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Livestock manure can be a great fertilizer, but when it’s exposed to the weather, it also can be a source of water pollution. Bacteria from manure can make shellfish unfit to eat and water unsafe to drink or to swim in. Nutrients from manure can promote excessive algae and aquatic plant growth. As the plants decay, they deplete oxygen that fish and other aquatic life need.
What you can do to help
- Use downspouts to direct runoff from buildings away from manure.
- Pile manure and keep it under cover in a convenient site that’s sheltered from heavy winds.
- Pick up manure from farm yards and paddocks at least every three days.
- When using a tarp for a cover, use a durable, heavy-weight one large enough to fully cover the pile. Secure it well.
- Work with your local conservation district office to make a plan and learn how to best handle manure. You may be eligible for cost sharing to put your plan into action.
- Build a compost system or have an off-site compost facility collect the manure.