Who are These People?

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe issue here is not just about dog poop. It is more about caring for our wild spaces. When we are out for a walk, are we conscience of the land and the parks we value so much?

 Dog People love our dogs and some of us enjoy the freedom of walking our dogs on frozen lakes and creeks near our homes. “Who are these people?” That was the question I was asking last Saturday, when I picked up 30 pounds of dog poop on a stretch of frozen of creek. On Sunday, I picked up another 40 pounds in the park near my house. Also, I have talked to others who have told me that Lake Minnetonka is littered with poop piles. I wonder if those dog owners treat the land around their own homes in a similar manner. What seems to be missing in my suburban neighborhood is a land-ethic: having the same care and attention for our parks and wild spaces that we have for our homes.

Why be concerned about dog poop?

  • 1. Fecal coliform bacteria are common to the intestinal tracts of humans and animals.  These bacteria can enter water bodies from human and animal waste and may cause illness and disease if they do.
  • One gram of dog waste (the weight of a business card) contains 23 million fecal coliform bacteria (van der Wel, 1995), almost twice as much as human waste.  Keep in mind that the average dog excretes 0.75 pounds of waste per day (340 grams).  That equates to 7.82 billion fecal coliform bacteria per day! (For more information go to: www.clearchoicescleanwater.org)
  • Seeing dog poop along the trail is disrespectful to other users of the space.

The issue here is not just about dog poop. It is more about caring for our wild spaces. When we are out for a walk, are we conscience of the land and the parks we value so much? I think most Minnesotans are respectful of the land and don’t want to see it degraded. But the “straight poop” is: I had four bags filled with a total of 70 pounds of poop and we should not be treating the land with such disrespect.

Contributor Grace Sheely added the following valuable comments and ideas:
“I got 100 over pounds up in 3 hours at Purgatory Park…I felt that it was all headed for the creek last week.  I jotted down the responses of people watching me.  One indignant older man remarked that at least someone was picking up poop.  2 women happily helped carry my heavy collection bundles that littered the path to the trash.  One family with kids said that they would help if I left a bucket and a shovel/trowel.  I have been hand picking using plastic gloves when it is warmer and mushy.

I have tried to emphasize the creek protection to those that listen.  Most people seem to believe that the poop will degrade as fertilizer in the woods and that there is no need to pick it up.  The frozen ground and snow suggests otherwise to me but the education component is missing.

As you are aware, the negative message of “not doing your share of the clean up” is not going to do any good.  We cannot shame or blame others into submission.

Ideas to  create a new mindset
Poop as an Easter egg hunt?  My water group last night felt the best solution was to make it a competition with a scale and a photo/email posting site.  Prizes from the community for most poop by a person or group.  Or else plan a group event for set day and time.  Seeing all the poop is believing.  The quantity is amazing as you also noticed.  I can pick-up poop at rate of 30 lbs/ hour.  Two hours and my arms and back are sore (good workout).”

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6 Responses to Who are These People?

  1. Cliff says:

    Right on! Until you raised this land pollution perspective, dog poop was only a rude and disgusting annoyance. If a person has a dog, they MUST pick up the poop. But reading your account of picking up pounds of poop underscores the more important issue: respect for the land and the spread of bacteria. What can we do? Should we be good stewards of the natural environment and wait to see if the human companion picks up the dog’s poop? If he or she doesn’t, should we confront them with the points you make above? Apparently, occasional signage doesn’t help. Any ideas that might avoid potential confrontations with dog owners?

  2. Phyllis Reames says:

    Thank you for your timely and succinct description of the issue. It is a huge problem here in Maine as well and we are constantly looking for new ways to educate and motivate people to pick up. I actually saw an article recently about an animal control officer in Ipswich Massachusetts who is proposing DNA testing to nab the culprits. He says we could register dogs with a DNA swab for around $30 and test poop samples for $80 or so. The fine in Portland, Maine for not picking up is $250 so that could be a feasible solution even though at first glance it seems a bit crazy. It is very frustrating how many dog owners are so cavalier about this thorny issue. Some of the public space associations here have an “April Stools Day” event the first Saturday in April to organize clean up, but the problem persists.

    • Anonymous says:

      I get the same response from people when you point out that they didn’t wash their hands after using the toilet – “Who – me? I don’t have to do that.” That indignant look, by the well-educated, that those activities are below them.

  3. Dale Antonson says:

    Sharing the detrimental effects of the “I choose to just leave it” attitude of the “just let it be” dog walkers is a good place to begin with change. If attitudes do change, and they learn to consider the outdoors truly their own “living room”, they wouldn’t hesitate to clean up their mess.
    I’m very grateful for your stewardship here in Minnetonka, Larry. Thank you for all your efforts!

  4. Joan Ungar says:

    Thanks for the education and reminder, Larry. Unfortunately, people leave poop near their homes in our little area — I’m sending it to our association to help spread the word.

  5. Abby says:

    My boyfriend took me shed hunting in Minnetonka last week and we could not believe the amount of dog poop everywhere on the lakes and trails! It amazes me that people can be so callous – when, no doubt, those same people would be so upset if someone else left dog poop on their manicured lawns. If one takes the time to enjoy the outdoors, one should leave it in a better state for someone else to enjoy, too.

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