Let me begin by pointing out: I’m not anti-dog.
Far from it. I actually love dogs. Some of them are pretty cute. They ease loneliness. I appreciate how they can be protective of their owners.
What I am, though, is anti-poop, especially when inconsiderate owners allow their pets to do their business haphazardly and are just as careless when it comes to disposing of plastic bags filled with waste. Those things have become ubiquitous.
Please, excuse the rant, but this isn’t just my pet peeve.
According to the Philadelphia Water Department, there’s a dog for every four humans in Philly. That means more than 300,000 pooches in our fair city. And if each pet outputs about three-quarters of a pound of poop a day — the average, according to experts — that means tens of millions of pounds of dog doo a year.
And why does the Water Department care, and why should you?
People should always pick up after their pets because dog waste is a pollutant, “and when it enters our waterways it can pollute those waterways and make it more difficult to clean up the water in order for it to be used as drinking water and can also harm aquatic habitats,” says Chelsea Ramacciotti, a spokesperson with the Partnership for the Delaware Estuary, which works with the Philadelphia Water Department on this issue.
I didn’t know all that. I just got triggered Sunday evening when I stepped outside and noticed a neighbor letting her dog cop a squat right in our yard. It wasn’t the first time I’ve spotted passersby using our lawn as a doggy toilet.
This kind of thing happens everywhere. In all kinds of neighborhoods. Once I was sitting at a table outside an eatery on Walnut Street when a passerby allowed her large, leashed dog to do his business right in front of our table. We were thoroughly disgusted, but the owner just shrugged it off. I didn’t stick around to see if she cleaned up afterward. Or what she did with the plastic bag.
Too often, bags containing pet waste are haphazardly discarded in recycling bins, a gripe residents in Spring Garden have posted about recently on NextDoor, the community-oriented website. One resident wrote: “Maybe take your dog’s poop with you and put it in YOUR garbage can and not in my bins. Especially when you see that the bins have just been emptied and YOUR DOG’S POOP will sit in my bins for a week!”
“As a [ex-]sanitation worker, I’ve picked up recycling bins that had bags of dog poop in it,” said Terry Haigler, a former city sanitation worker known as “Ya Fav Trashman.” “Because people are just walking past, dropping the bags off.
“You’re not supposed to put it in the recycling bin. It’s supposed to be in the trash. But people don’t want to hold the bag as they walk,” he added. “They usually find the nearest can and then throw it in there.”
In June, a Center City resident wrote that she wanted to ban dog walkers from her street. “We are getting together a petition to prevent dog walkers on the street and taking other measures to prevent dogs from using our flower beds, home fronts, and plant containers as their dogs’ personal toilets,” the person wrote on NextDoor.
A Queen Village resident recently lodged a similar complaint on the site, writing: “I had someone throw a bag of untied doggy diarrhea AT my trash can last week. He tried to get it in the can (thanks I guess?) and missed. I suppose it was too much effort to go get it, so he left it on the sidewalk. ...”
Raphael Feliciano, who calls himself “Mr. Clean and Safe Parks” because of his improvement efforts in Kensington, has a theory: “It’s not the people’s fault. It’s that when they see everything, you know, the city being rundown and the city doesn’t care also as well, the citizen’s thinking is ‘Why should I? It’s just dog poop.’”
Yeah, it’s just dog poop — until you find it in front of your house.