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Guest Column – Do you and your furry friends pollute our waterways?

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When pet waste is left on the ground or disposed of improperly, water quality may be at risk. Storm water runoff can pick up pet waste as it washes down drainage ditches, and into our rivers, streams, and creeks. Pet waste that is not picked up can pollute our water.

Pets, children who play outside, and adults who garden are at risk of infection from these bacteria, p

arasites, and viruses contained in pet waste; such as:

Salmonellosis- the most common bacterial infection transmitted to humans and other animals.

Fecal Coliform- Found in the feces of warm-blooded mammals, these bacteria are a potential health risk for people exposed to it in water. A single gram of pet waste contains an average 23 million fecal coliform bacteria.

Toxocariasis- Roundworms usually transmitted form dogs to humans.
Toxoplasmosis- A parasite carried by cats that can cause serious health problems for individuals with depressed immune systems.

Other problems…
In addition to causing health risks to other animals and people, pet waste can also cause serious water quality problems. Pet feces are high in nutrients, which feed weeds and algae that choke out our creeks and rivers. The water becomes cloudy and green; very unattractive for swimming, fishing, and boating. A high concentration of nutrients is the major cause of decline in our water quality.

When pet waste washes into our waterways the waste decays, using up most of the oxygen, and in some cases producing ammonia. The cumulative effect of low oxygen levels, ammonia, and warm water kills fish and other aquatic life.
Does being a responsible pet owner mean picking up after my pet?

Yes, you do have to “scoop the poop!” It’s a small price to pay to protect your water quality. Whether you’re in the yard, out for a walk, or at the dog park, its easy to do the right thing, purchase a commercial “pooper scooper” or simply use a small shovel and/or a plastic bag.

What can you do….
* Pick up your pets’ waste in your yard – it’s not fertilizer.
* Flush pet waste down the commode to be treated.
* Bury the pet waste at least 6 inches down in the ground so it can decompose slowly; keep it away from vegetable gardens.
* When out for a walk, carry a plastic bag in your pocket to pick up and dispose of the pet waste in the trash.

What is storm water run off?
Storm water is water from rain. It flows from rooftops, through lawns, over paved streets, sidewalks, and parking lots, across bare soil, and into storm drains to our creeks, rivers, and streams. As it travels, storm water run off collects and carries litter, oil and grease, and other pollutants. These materials are called non-point source pollution, some of the biggest causes of pollution to our water.

Did you know…?
There are an estimated 74.8 million dogs in the United States? That’s over 17 billion pounds of waste per year!
Consider that there approximately 4,700 dogs in the City of Lockhart. A dog drops an average of three-quarters of a pound of waste daily. That’s means 3,525 pounds or more than a ton and a half of dog waste in Lockhart per day!

In all of Caldwell County there are approximately 12,700 dogs, this equates to 9,525 pounds of dog poop per day – more than four tons!

What does it all mean?
When it rains, the stage is set for thousands of pounds of pet feces to wash down the storm drain and into our creeks, rivers, and streams; untreated! That means a lot of harmful bacteria associated with dog waste is going into our water.

For more information please contact City of Lockhart Animal Services Director at (512) 398-7320
By Melanie Tucker
Animal Services Director
City of Lockhart

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