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Not cleaning up after your dog creates a health hazard

January 10, 2018
Pine Island Eagle

To the editor:

I love my dog. I pick up after my dog. Everyone should. I used to enjoy walking my dog during calm and cool mornings. However, my enjoyment has turned into dismay and anger due to the piles of dog poop along the route I walk. I believe that generally intelligent and caring people do not realize the impact of dog waste left in yards along their walking route has on their neighbors, the community at large and our surrounding environment. My yard and my friends' and neighbors' yards are not the personal toilets for someone else's dog. Yet this is exactly the attitude that some people have. I am sick and tired of this brazen and inconsiderate behavior. It puts my health at risk and my dog's health at risk. It places a true burden on our already fragile waterways. It disregards common respect for private property.

There are international efforts to address this problem. They start with public awareness and education and some end with very steep fines. Last year at this time, local media covered the problem of the13 tons of dog waste being improperly disposed of throughout Lee County. "The county Department of Health issued a warning as the high nitrogen and phosphorous content in the waste feeds algae, which plagued the Florida waterways during the rainy season" according to WINK news. Stormwater run-off can pick up pet waste as it washes down storm drains, drainage ditches and runs into our rivers, streams and marine water. The bacteria feeds the weeds and algae that can choke our water and become a major cause of water quality decline. The waste decay uses up oxygen and can release ammonia which combined with warm water temperatures can kill fish and other aquatic life and make shellfish hazardous to our health. Our waste water treatment is not designed to filter dog waste unless it is flushed down the toilet.

The U.S. Center for Disease Control and Prevention confirms that bacteria, parasites and viruses contained in pet waste are a health hazard. Pets, children and adults who come into contact with improperly disposed pet waste are at risk. When the waste is left to disintegrate, the parasite eggs can linger for years. A single pea-size gram of pet waste contains an average of 23 million fecal coliform bacteria. Some of the other pathogens include salmonella, roundworm, ringworm, tapeworm, Giardia and parvo.

As residents of Pine Island we are challenged by the relentless dog poop left by some individual careless pet owners, the size of which is thousands of times larger than a single pea-size gram. We step on it, mow our lawns over it, ride our bikes over it and bring it back into our homes. We vigilantly caution the moves of our children and our pets so that they do not unknowingly come into contact. It is left in our driveways, next to our mailboxes, in our gardens. We have spoken kindly to certain culprits but to no avail. We have offered to help, but gestures have been disregarded.

So perhaps we can all participate in a community-wide effort to join the thousands of people across the world who are concerned about these health risks, let alone the sheer disgusting aspects of carrying this on your shoes, tires and paws into our homes, cars and places of work. Pick up the dog poop with a scooper or in a plastic bag and dispose of it in the trash, not in yard waste. It can also be buried a minimum of 6 inches deep and covered or flushed down your toilet, where humans deposit their own but somehow feel that their dogs can use anybody's neighborhood or yard as their own personal pet toilet. Join in the efforts of the Lee County Department of Natural Resources campaign and follow their three initiatives and feel free to visit their site: Regularly pick up your pet's waste in your yard; monitor your dog's waste in public places; gently remind other dog owners of why they need to collect their pet waste.

Lee Horowitz

St. James City



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