There’s more to being a dog owner than loving and caring for it. Owners also have to deal with their dog’s droppings.
The village of Shorewood, just north of Milwaukee, is launching a campaign aimed at keeping dog poop out of local waterways — a daunting environmental challenge, according to an environmental consultant.
"There's 73 million dogs in the United States. They generate 40 billion pounds of waste a year. Only a fraction of that is picked up. When it rains it goes into our waterways — period," says Kae DonLevy, environmental consultant hired by the city of Shorewood.
Shorewood already has restrictions on dogs running loose on the beach or in its parks, but even more pressing than where the animals tread, is the delicate issue of dealing with their waste.
"There are issues around dog waste — the quantity of dog waste and how you dispose of it, or how [the village is] disposing of it. I think we need to educate people about that," says Ellen Eckman, chair of Shorewood's parks commission.
So the village is launching a campaign aimed at keeping dog poop out of sewers and local waterways, which includes a detailed list of disposal alternatives, such as:
- Flush it down the toilet. Many say it's the best way to manage dog waste, just make sure to only flush the poop, not the plastic bag.
- Place dog poop in the garbage daily or fill a 5-gallon bucket or other container lined with a bag. Cover your poop pail and empty it when you think it's full enough.
- Purchase or make your own dog waste composter. Composting comes with a list of don'ts, including do not place composter near fruit or vegetable plants, do not compost dog waste with regular composter, and never compost cat poop.
- Hire a service to pick up after your dog.
- When out on a walk, keep a few biodegradable waste bags in your pocket for quick dog poop cleanup. Regular plastic bags don't break down for 20 to 1,000 years.
Rather than dwell on the dos and don'ts, the village came up with the Shorewood Loves Dogs! campaign, featuring a dog mascot contest. The winning dog will add a friendly face to the effort.
Thirty-six dogs entered, with a little help from their owners of course. (If you're interested, you can see all the entries here — even if you're not a dog person, the dog glamour shots are worth a peek.)
Bonnie Pedraza, a member of Shorewood's parks commission, was one of seven judges who sized up the six finalists earlier this week.
"We managed to get some kids to come so we can see how the dog reacts to kids. We want a dog that's photogenic. And we want one that will represent the city in a good way. So I've taken a few notes on who did well and who maybe needs some more work," Pedraza says.
The judges ultimately chose Mika, a 3-year-old rescue dog.
"She was a stray in Louisiana. She has one floppy ear, and we don't know exactly what she is, and has caramel eyes," Mika's owner, Tasha Weston says. "She's really a good dog."
Weston — who happens to work in the marketing field — thinks the mascot idea is a clever way to convince dog owners to stop and think about where they dispose of their pet's poop.
"I think it's always good to find an outlet to let the public know better ways to be healthy and healthier for our families. And it's really smart to do it this way because it's fun and also engaging and it's a great way to educate people," Weston says.
As posters featuring Mika appear around Shorewood and residents meet the dog at guest appearances, organizers hope more dog owners will take the environmental hazards of pet waste in waterways seriously.
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