By Letter to the Editor on May 11, 2019.
Southern Alberta Group for Environment (SAGE) shares concerns regarding uncollected dog scat in the Oldman River valley (“Shoreline pollution a concern in city,” April 15). SAGE volunteers have participated in doggy doo-doo pick-up events to raise awareness of the problem among dog-walkers and inspire responsible behaviour.
In October 2017, 70 kilograms of poo was collected along 600 metres of trail and in May 2018, 18 kg of poo was collected along 350 metres of trail in the Scenic Drive Dog Park. That’s a lot of scat concentrated within 10 metres of the trail – and that wasn’t all of it! There was ample media coverage of the events, signage and flags marked each collection spot for several weeks, as a reminder.
Dog feces contain bacteria, protozoa, viruses and parasites that pose risk to the health of other pets, people and the environment. According to user statistics gathered by Parks in 2017, there are over 150,000 visits annually in three public dog parks in Lethbridge – Scenic Drive, Peenaquim and Popson. These popular dog parks are in the Oldman valley where there is potential for contaminated water to drain directly into the river during rainfall and snowmelt events.
Most dog park users pick up after their pets given that there are signs directing them to do so, and bags and waste receptacles are available. Dogs can be trained to do their business under an owner’s watchful eye at the start of a walk. Understandably a dog owner will occasionally miss catching their dog in the act. However, the large amount of accumulating scat leads us to conclude that some dog owners either don’t understand that it is the law to remove your dog’s defecates from public property or don’t care.
Visits to the Scenic Drive Dog Park this spring indicate poop pick-up is again needed. Before putting more volunteer effort into this unpleasant task, SAGE is seeking information about effectiveness of such events in shifting behaviours and about enforcement effort by Lethbridge Animal Services bylaw officers in our dog parks.
We are also researching what other communities have done. For example, dog parks have been shut down in Denver, Boise, Chicago and Seattle because of water contamination concerns.
Dog owners in Lethbridge are fortunate to have scenic areas of public parkland designated for off-leash exercising of their pets. Our challenge as a community is to find a pet-friendly and environmentally friendly solution to the problem through widespread understanding and enforcement of the need to scoop the poop.