POOlution: The Environmental Problem of Dog Waste

A single dog poop can contain millions of germs, parasites and bacteria that are harmful to human and dog health alike.  The Environmental Protection Agency places dog waste in the same category as herbicides, insecticides, oil, grease and other toxic chemicals.  And with the number of dogs living in America on the rise, with 89.7 million recorded in 2017, the amount of this toxic waste in our environment is also on the rise.  Dog poop that is left on the ground can be carried up in stormwater and make its way into our untreated waterways.  This poses a great risk to organisms that depend on those ecosystems as well as people who use them for recreational purposes.  In order to protect New Jersey's five water regions and has twenty watershed management areas (WMAs), and our environment as a whole, we must be more conscious about how we handle and dispose of our dogs' waste.

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The first thing you can do to help minimize the negative impacts of dog waste on our environment is simply to make sure that it is picked up on a regular basis.  Ideally, dog waste should be picked up as soon as it hits the ground and this is especially true when you are walking your dog in your community.  But every practical dog owner knows that this just isn't feasible when it comes to dogs using a private outdoor space like a yard or dog run on a regular basis.  In this situation the best frequency of pickup really depends on the size of the space, number of dogs and humans using it and its proximity to waterways.  But the safest bet, as a general rule, is to pick up collected dog waste once every week.  This is what we recommend for most of our clients.

When we go to a yard for a cleaning we use 13 gallon trash bags to line a bin into which we deposit each pile of poop that we find using a hoe-like periscopic tool.  At an average stop we collect one bag and then place that bag into a second bag before placing it into the trash or hauling it away (either way, its destination is the landfill.)  During first time cleanups, like the one pictured below, and at yards that are used by three or more dogs it is more common to use 2 or more bags.  With an average of 25-30 stops per route, collecting at least 2 bags per stop, Big Business Scoopers alone uses 50-60 plastic trash bags per route.  Our Scoopers manage 17 routes per week over several New Jersey counties, bringing this total to at least 850 plastic bags used per week.  Of course, plastic is currently the optimal way to contain this toxic waste quickly and effectively, in order to prevent the spread of illness, but we do understand the implications of our business using so much of it.  Sometimes, it feels like we are canceling out the good we do of removing dog waste by also depositing so much plastic into our environment.  Talk about a conundrum!

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We pride ourselves on helping create a world in which dogs (and their humans) can live together even more harmoniously by enjoying safer and healthier outdoor spaces.  Thinking responsibly about how we are impacting our communities and environments by how we handle dog poop pick up and removal is an integral part of constantly striving toward that goal.  And to that end, we are, in this 15th year of business, beginning to look into options for disposing of dog waste in a more sustainable and eco-friendly way.  It will likely be a many years journey of discovery along which we are sure to make mistakes and learn some stinky lessons.  But we feel that it is imperative that we always attempt to do our small part.

The options are many and varied for offering our customers greener options.  We can swap 13 gallon plastic bags for ASTM 6400 certified large compostable bags like those offered by EcoSafe or BioBag, which will break down after reaching the landfill thus reducing plastics waste.  There is a product called Doggie Drain that seamlessly hooks up to a building's outdoor sewer line, allowing our Scoopers to flush (with a hose) dog waste directly into the sewer system.  Some trail blazers in the pet waste removal industry, like Green Scoop in Ohio,  are partnering with local water treatment plants or companies that have the capability to convert dog poop into natural gas and electricity.  Then there are DIY dog poop composter products like the Doggie Doolie which could be good options for dog owners with a lot of property and an open mind about composting right at home!  And there are certainly others that we have not yet come across.  We hope to share what we learn here on the blog as well as on social media so please feel free to follow along on this journey and share your thoughts and comments. 

Here's to greener dog poop!

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Interview: Debbie Huff of PooPrints

Do you ever wish it were possible to catch and penalize people who don't pick up their dog's poop?  Well, in thousands of managed communities across the nation, not only is it possible but it's a reality.  PooPrints is an effective pet waste management program, matching unscooped waste to the canine offender through DNA.  How does it work?  It's astonishingly simple.  Every dog owner on a participating property is required to register their dog on PooPrints' DNA World Pet Registry with a cheek swab.  Then, when unscooped waste is found, a small sample is collected and sent to the lab to identify the source.  Residents are fined for every offense and PooPrints reports that properties see up to a staggering 95% reduction in waste!

Needless to say, we had to find out more.  So we linked up with Debbie Huff of PooPrints of Philadelphia LLC which serves Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Delaware.  Here is what we learned:

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BBS: Who founded PooPrints and what is the story behind their idea?

DH: PooPrints was founded by BioPet’s Science team in 2008. BioPet was functioning as an outsourced Veterinary/Pathology Lab. We had a scientist that had recently moved to town living in an apartment community who saw the excess waste problem on the property. Then one morning the scientist herself accidentally stepped in a mess. She came into the office and said that there had to be a way to determine who left the waste.  At that time the team started to do some research on extracting DNA from fecal matter and PooPrints was born.  From there Tom Boyd, CEO of BioPet, and team discovered the need in the multi-family community and set out to develop a network of distributors.

BBS: What is the #1 concern that you hear from interested property managers?  How do you best address it?

DH: Other than cost…the most common question is, “How much time is involved in getting the program started at a location.”  There is a little extra time involved in starting the program because a DNA sample needs to be taken from each dog on the property.  Once management is trained on how to take a DNA sample they find out it only takes around 7-8 minutes to complete.  Not much time at all and it only has to be done once.  And when the benefits of PooPrints is explained to the resident during the DNA testing process, most locations find that their pet waste problems decrease by 75% because the program works great as a deterrent.  This frees up management time because they find they have a significant reduction in time they have to spend in handling pet waste issues and questions.

There is a onetime charge for a DNA test for each dog that lives on the property.  This cost can be less than the price of a large bag of dog food.  The DNA testing cost can become a part of the pet fee a location may charge.

BBS: Do resident pet owners at participating properties ever balk at the idea of registering their dog for this purpose?  How do you handle this issue (if it is one)?

DH: As a whole, most residents are thrilled to see PooPrints come to a property.  Once the program is explained to residents, pet owners and non-pet owners see that it will hold dog owners accountable for doing the right thing in regards to picking up pet waste.  Normally the pet owners that may balk at the program are the owners not currently picking up the poo and they know they are finally going to be held accountable.  Dog Poo on a property doesn’t only cause “curb appeal” issues, it can also cause disease and parasite problems for other pets and children on the property.  By explaining these concerns, management can usually overcome issues.

BBS: When unscooped dog waste is found who is usually the one to collect and submit it to your lab for analysis?  Residents, maintenance crew?

DH: If a property has a maintenance staff, they are usually trained to collect the poo and how to submit the sample to our lab.  In locations where there is not a maintenance staff the management may collect the sample.  At condos, I often find that a “dog committee” is usually formed and someone on that committee may collect the sample.  There are many ways to implement the program; implementation can be customized for the size and type of the managed community using PooPrints DNA pet waste management.

BBS: About how many accounts do you have open in New Jersey?  As the most densely populated state I’m sure it has a particular need for this service, am I correct?

DH: PooPrints has over 3,000 managed communities using our program in the USA.  We can also be found in Canada and Europe.  There is a growing concern about pet waste runoff into our waterways.  With the dense population of NJ and the many waterways, NJ has a real need to control pet waste and safeguard our environment.

BBS: We all know that the best thing about a dog business are the dogs.  While you may not deal with dogs directly on a daily basis, you surely have a cute/funny/unusual story to share...

DH: One of my favorite stories came from a property manager at an apartment that had a pet waste issue for years.  She found out about PooPrints off the internet and called me about starting on the program.  The announcement to start the program was sent out to residents on a Friday and she told me over the weekend residents were outside with buckets picking up their dogs waste.  The following spring, the PM told me it was the first time in over a decade that when the snow melted, their lawn was not covered in pet waste!  What a success story!

One of the hidden benefits of PooPrints is our free lost and found service.  Our lab has stated they get a call a week to help get a lost pet back to its owner!

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BBS: What is the ultimate, pie in the sky goal that PooPrints is trying to achieve and what active steps are they taking toward that end?

DH: PooPrints functions on three pillars. Promoting responsible pet ownership, protecting and expanding Pet Access, and safeguarding the environment. Our program focuses on accountability, but also allows for more dogs to live more places. Our vision for PooPrints is that it becomes a pet amenity, industry standard in the multi-family community. The program will allow for breed, size, and pet restrictions to be lifted. We see PooPrints paving the way to educate the masses on the additional benefits of DNA Registration, ultimately becoming a solution for municipalities. We take our science seriously and we are always evaluating our service and program to ensure that we are meeting the quality standards and ease of implementation that our clients demand. To assist in helping achieve these goals we are working to add value and resources within our technology that allow our communities and resident to understand the health and wellness of their pet. This gives our customers the added benefit of living in the digital age with their canine, and positions PooPrints to be the trusted resource in Waste management and pet health.

For more information about PooPrints please visit their website:

https://www.pooprintsphiladelphia.com/

Is Your Backyard Safe For Your Dog?

Having a pet dog is awesome. There’s nothing like the love and fun you get from your furry friend.  And the unconditional love and excitement they show when you come home is worth any hassle. That’s why you take good care of your dog.

But is your backyard safe? Too many times, you hear stories about dogs who escape under a fence or get sick from a toxic plant. That’s why you need to inspect your backyard (or any part of your yard that’s fenced in). Before you can make sure things are safe, though, it pays to know what kind of problems to look for.

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Common Backyard Problems

By far, the biggest problem here is your fence. As Fence Authority explains, there are several ways your fence might not be good for your dog. Open-style fences can let dogs climb over it, while damage such as a missing board can give just enough space for your pet to squeeze through. The same is true for gaps under the fence. (Note that many dogs can get through gaps you might think too small for them.)

Although not common, there can be plants in your backyard toxic to your dog. Flowers like foxglove and crocus can make your dog very sick. You should also look around for any nests of bees or wasps, as dogs can easily be allergic to their stings.

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You also have to be careful with how long you let your dog play in the yard. Dogs need some time to run around outside, but leaving them out for too long means you can miss your dog’s needs. Remember that dogs run in packs. Since you’re the owner, you and your family are the pet’s pack. They need to spend time with you, so don’t think spending hours and hours in the yard is a good thing.

Protecting Your Dog

You’ve looked around your backyard and noticed a few problems. What should you do about them?

Notes From A Dog Walker explains that you can make a fence more secure by adding some landscaping. If your dog is a jumper or climber, put down some shrubs and bushes along the inside of the fence. This blocks your dog from escaping this way. If you have a chain-link fence, buy some bamboo rolls or slats to cover up the chains. Not only will this help stop your dog from getting through the fence, it looks great and gives some more privacy to your yard.

When it comes to plants, you can always pull toxic flowers. But as you try to keep your yard bright and green, skip the pesticides and weed killers. Both contain poison that can sit on the surface of grass and plants for days. If your dog licks either, they could get sick. And if you grow a garden, put a barrier around it. Onions, tomatoes, and chives can hurt your pet.

When To Hire A Contractor

At some point, you may have to give up trying to patch that old fence and get a new one installed. That’s especially true if you have an aggressive dog that likes to dig or charge. As strangers and animals move around just beyond the fence, your dog can turn a small gap into an escape route.

To take down and install a new chain-link fence in Newark, NJ, HomeAdvisor estimates the costs to be between $1,115 - $2,892 and will take around two days. A contractor can also repair or reinforce your fence as needed.

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Protect Your Dog

Letting your dog use the backyard is more than just convenient. It’s a great way to give your dog some exercise and fun. But you still need to keep your backyard safe. Make sure your fence is secure and replace it if not. Then remove any toxic plants and skip the chemicals for your lawn. This will help your pet dog stay healthy and happy.

Cindy Aldridge is passionate about dogs and pets and loves sharing her thoughts and insights on being a responsible dog owner. 

It helps to have support in the effort to keep your yard safe!  The Pooper Scooper that regularly visits your yard from Big Business Scoopers will also keep an eye out for any potential problems in your yard that could pose a threat to the health and safety of your dog.  Every Scooper is trained to report anything potentially hazardous back to our office so that we can contact you immediately.

A Parasite Called Giardia and Your Dog's Poop

Giardia are protozoa that prey on the small intestines of animals including young puppies and older dogs.  They are transmitted when your dog comes into contact (direct or indirect) with infected feces.  This most often happens by drinking compromised water but can also happen by grooming after contact with feces that contain Giardia cysts.  The best ways you can protect your dog from this parasite are to provide him with safe drinking water and to keep him away from the feces of unknown dogs in dog parks and other public places.  

This is an image of a parasite called Giardia that prey on dogs' intestines.  Symptoms of infection can be found in dog poop and spotted by a dog waste removal company like Big Business Scoopers.  We will bag a fecal sample for dog owners to take to their veterinarian for diagnosis and treatment options.

The resulting infection of contact with Giardia is called giardiasis and is often asymptomatic.  But when it does show, it can cause diarrhea and sometimes weight loss.  An infected dog's feces may be lighter in color, have an abnormally funky odor and look somewhat greasy.  We'll watch out for that for you and alert you as soon as we discover any warning signs.  And we will also be happy to bag a fecal sample for you to take to your veterinarian for diagnosis and treatment options.

For more information on Giardia we suggest visiting Pet Education's thorough article on the subject.  And as we learn more we'll be sure to continue sharing!

5 Qualities of Dog Poop that We Regularly Check

So you've hired Big Business Scoopers to clean your yard of all your dog's poop.  What a relief!  Now you never have to look at or smell that stuff again!!  (Well, that is except for those rare occasions when bad Fido decides your living room rug looks like a great toilet.)  But did you know that we do more than just clean the poop?  We check it for signs of poor health as well.

If he or she hasn't already, your veterinarian may ask questions about the quality of your dog's waste.  Professional pet health providers look for five main qualities in your dog's stool: Color, Shape, Consistency, Size, and Content.  Because your dog's poop can speak volumes about your dog's health you want it to be the BEST POOP EVER.

This is a dog poop cartoon saying, "I wouldn't be here without my friends, family, and whatever that dog ate."  It is smiling next to a golden trophy that reads, "Best Poop Ever."  Courtesy of  barkpost.com

We at Big Business Scoopers care very much about your dog and your dog's health.  We keep these five poop health qualities in mind as we clean your yard.  After all, we're often the only ones who see your dog's poop on a regular basis!  If we notice anything out of the ordinary we make sure to notify you immediately so that you can look out for other indications of a health problem and know when to notify your vet.  

No, we won't call you every time we see a slightly soft deposit.  (Everyone has a bad day once in a while!)  But if we do notice a pattern or something particularly worrisome then we won't hesitate to let you know.  And if you ever need a stool sample to bring to the pet clinic, just let us know.  We'll be happy to bag a sample for you.  

Here's to healthy dogs and healthy dog poop!