By Baltimore County Department of Environmental Protection and Sustainability Staff

Photo of a puppy holding a sign that reads my poop pollutes

It may sound funny, but picking up your dog’s poop is one of the easiest and most effective everyday actions you can take to protect our local waterways and the Chesapeake Bay.

Bacteria from pet waste that is left in yards or on sidewalks ends up getting washed into the nearest storm drain when it rains. In most areas of Baltimore County, those storm drains lead directly into streams—completely unfiltered. Pet waste contaminates stormwater with its harmful pathogens, contributing to bacterial pollution in our waterways. A 2007 study conducted by Salisbury University found that 26 percent of the bacteria found in water samples in the Patapsco River basin was attributable to pet waste.

Have you or someone you know ever gone tubing in the Gunpowder River or swimming in the Chesapeake Bay? Ultimately, that’s where the water from our storm drains and local streams flows, along with any bacteria from pet waste. Did you know that every tiny gram of dog poo contains about 23 million harmful bacteria, plus parasites like roundworm that can sicken people and pets? Who wants to boat or swim in that? And, who wants to eat fish from polluted water?

Au naturel isn’t a good idea

Despite what some folks may think, pet waste is not a good fertilizer. Unlike deer and other wildlife, a dog’s protein-rich diet fosters millions of disease-promoting bacteria, and the low pH and high acidity of pet waste is not beneficial for your garden or lawn.

Another misconception is that leaving pet waste outside is okay because it means using fewer plastic bags. While it’s true that using less plastic helps our landfills and carbon footprint, in this case the best thing you can do for our waterways is to use that little bit of plastic to prevent big-time pollution. Or, you could use biodegradable bags. Just make sure to dispose of the bags properly in the trash. Bagging pet waste is important as a courtesy to trash collectors and for their health and safety.

Do your neighbors a solid!

Pet waste brings down the neighborhood, too. It attracts rats, is unsightly and just plain nasty—especially if you step in it. So, why not do your neighbors a solid and pick up the poo, every stinkin’ time?!

Special thanks to Summer Youth Employment Program participant Margot Deguet Delury, who contributed to this article.