It’s great to use poo bags and pick up after your dog, but don’t leave it on the ground. Dispose of it properly. JOHN RIOLO

Some time ago, I wrote about feral cats and the problem they pose to our natural environment. But what about man’s best friend, the dog? 

I came across a social media meme that read, “If your dog poo is on the path, just flick it to the dirt or grass. It will degrade naturally in a few days. Or, put in a plastic bag and dump it to the side That way, it will last for 500 years.”

I’m sure whether that was meant in jest or sarcasm, but it did get me thinking. Of course, leaving an occasional piece of poo on a seldom-traveled trail is not going to be much of a problem unless someone has the misfortune to step in it. 

But most dog owners are not taking their dogs on back trails in the deep woods. Rather, they walk their pets in well-populated urban and suburban areas with many other dogs. 

How much poo do our pet dogs generate? There are an estimated 89.7 million pet dogs in the US alone. These dogs produce 21.2 billion pounds of poop each year.  

The good news is that the majority of pet owners pick up after their dogs. But a sizable minority do not. 

According to recent surveys, only about 60% of dog owners pick up after their pets. Among the excuses offered by the 40% who don’t pick up are: “Because eventually, it goes away;” “too much work;” “small dog, small waste;” “it’s in the woods anyway.” 

Of the 60% or so who pick up after their dog, most pick it up in plastic bags and it goes into our trash bins, and ultimately lands in landfills.  

Unfortunately, when dog waste goes to a landfill it can’t properly compost, according to many environmental experts, and it makes a significant contribution to greenhouse gases. 

The best environmental solution for dog waste is composting. Compost heaps are one of the best environments for breaking down waste. 

Compostable bags will rot in three months in a properly managed compost heap, however a high temperature of at least of 140°F must be maintained. That temperature should kill most bacteria, including the toxoplasmosis found in cat poo.

Cat poo! This means cat owners are now going to have to rethink how we dispose of our used cat litter. 

John Riolo lives in Moss Creek and is past president of the Nature Club of Moss Creek.