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Letters to the Editor

Letter: Pet waste issues

  • Author: Cherie Northon
    | Opinion
  • Updated: February 27
  • Published February 27

In Shawn O’Donnell’s Feb. 17 letter to the editor, he stated that Tim Woody’s op-ed “claimed streams are polluted and outdoor activities are thwarted by dog feces, yet no source was given for these anecdotal situations. How does a leash have anything to do with dog poop and polluted water…?”

This is not unsubstantiated by any means. A quick search for “pet waste and water pollution” clearly shows that this is a major problem in every urban area throughout the U.S., and Anchorage is no exception. Using national statistics for pet waste, Animal Care and Control estimates there are 65,000 dogs in the Municipality who produce (on average) three-quarters of a pound of waste per dog per day. That’s 48,000 pounds of dog waste per day. Sadly, an awful lot of that is not picked up — which is why the Anchorage Waterways Council works hard on its “Scoop the Poop” campaign.

Another fact: Every creek in the Anchorage bowl has a fecal coliform impairment, with the major source being domestic pets. This means that our water quality does not meet EPA standards for clean water. How does that impact residents? Swimming, wading, kayaking, and other activities in local creeks and lakes can harm users if the water is ingested. Giardia, diarrhea, ear and eye infections and other ailments are the potential consequences. This is the primary reason for cleaning up pet waste.

How does this relate to unleashed dogs? Dogs that are trailing behind or forging ahead of skiers, cyclists and joggers often relieve themselves out of their owner’s sight, so their poop is not picked up. Where are many of these activities? Along local trails that border our creeks where stormwater runoff handily carries pet waste down into waterways. Dog parks, where pets are off-leash, are another place where a lot pet waste is not picked up because dogs again are often out of sight. If you want substantiation, I can give you the names of people who dutifully go out to parks and trails and clean up pet waste from others’ dogs. A leashed dog’s owner is going to see when and where their dog poops, and, unless they are entirely dismissive of the perils of pet waste or they have forgotten a poop bag (which happens), they are more than likely to clean it up.  

— Cherie Northon


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