It does . . . and in a bigger way than most pet owners can imagine. The American Pet Association estimates that there are 71 million pet dogs in the United States which produce over 4.4 billion pounds of waste every year. This is enough waste to cover 900 football fields with 12 inches of dog waste. Wow!
Consider also that a day's waste from one large dog can contains 7.8 billion fecal coliform bacteria - enough to contaminate 15 acres of shellfish. With these figures in mind it isn't a big stretch to see how pet waste washed down into our ground water, local streams, lakes, and inlets can make a big impact on the water.
In 2000, the Henderson Inlet and Nisqually Reach created two shellfish protection districts due to shellfish bed downgrades. A recent study in Seattle found that nearly 20 percent of the bacteria that could be matched with host animals were matched with dogs. 20 percent!
In addition to fecal coliform, pet waste also contains disease-causing organisms such as salmonella, campylobacteriosis, toxocariasis (roundworm), toxoplasmosis, and giardia. These organisms tracked into your house from your animals can make humans quite sick. Not to mention parvovirus, which is a highly contagious infection that is contracted through feces and can cause severe illness and even death.
The message is that pooping pets pose a pollution predicament. But the good news is that if each pet owner properly disposes of pet waste we can all help protect our water quality.
Links for more info. on helping keep our beautiful Puget Sound healthy.
Pacific Shellfish Institute: A Survey of Dog Waste in the Nisqually Reach and Henderson Inlet Shellfish Protection Districts