Dog Waste, the Environment and the Law

“Dogs are such agreeable friends.  They ask no questions, they pass no criticisms” — George Elliot

Following up from our November newsletter, Media Borough residents are responsible pet owners and know that proper disposal of dog waste is very important for environmental, health and aesthetic reasons.  They are respectful of local law; They pick up after their dogs. This is no small deal, as, statistically speaking, there could be as many as 1,100 dogs living in our borough, producing over 300,000 pounds of dog poop annually.  And yet, Media Borough has few problems with dog waste pollution.  

Can we breathe easy?

Apparently not.

As an op ed in the LA Times pointed out a few years ago, methane from dog poop in landfills is 30% more powerful a greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide.  Looking at factors such as the amount of meat that pet dogs eat, authors Brenda and Robert Vale claim that a dog’s ecological footprint is twice that of the average SUV.  Do we follow the suggestion of the title their controversial 2009 book, “Time to Eat the Dog?” 


First of all, the dogs have as much right to their ecological footprint as humans do.  We co-evolved, after all. And besides, theirs is way smaller than ours.

Second, if the environment is our concern, we can work to reduce our dog’s greenhouse gas footprint, just as we can also work on our own:  

  • For instance, dogs can eat lower on the food chain and thrive on a healthy vegetarian diet
  • Dog waste can be flushed; in fact, the EPA recommends flushing as the best method for disposal
  • Flushable (and compostable) dog poop bags are readily available for purchase (must make sure to take the leaves and sticks out…) 

Thirdly, dog poop in Media Borough’s trash does not sit in a landfill, emitting methane.  It all goes to the Covanta incinerator, a waste-to-energy facility, where it is burned. The real environmental concern here is the efficiency of the Covanta incinerator at capturing polluting emissions.  

How do other urban areas compare to Media Borough?

Apparently, not well.

In cities around the world, 38% or more of dog owners do NOT pick up after their dogs.  

In Spain and England, some cities hire private detectives to photograph dog owners who do not scoop, allowing officials to locate perpetrators and exact fines worth hundreds of dollars.  In Madrid, repeat offenders face required community service.

One “dog waste management company” offers a science-based, FBI-protocol, comprehensive dog waste management system using DNA cheek swabs for pets that can be matched with 99% accuracy to offending wasteOminously, their system requires registering your dog on a “DNA World Pet Registry.”

Could this happen in “Everybody’s Hometown”???  

Not with the conscientious citizenry we have.  Besides, Media favors more creative and less intrusive solutions to encourage interest in civic compliance.  We would be more likely to follow the example of Cambridge, Massachusetts. There, an MIT engineer was funded to create an attractive piece of interactive conceptual art called “Park Spark” and install it in a neighborhood dog park.  The artwork doubles as a methane digester. When park patrons insert dog waste into an opening it is transformed into a power source for an adjoining streetlight.  

For more information see:  

And thank you for picking up after your dog!