Not on my lawn: If it’s your dog, it’s your poop

by Nedra Rhone

When I became a dog owner, I invested time and energy in making sure I understood best practices for dog parenting — especially when it comes to disposing of dog poop.

This was an area of focus for me, largely because I had been on the receiving end of actions from people who don’t seem to give a crap about where their animals take a crap.

One neighbor would routinely let her dog use my mailbox as a pooping post and leave his special delivery waiting for me.

Another time, I arrived home to find three strangers standing on my lawn (not the sidewalk) while they talked and let their dogs go poo. Only one of them bothered to pick up the waste. I stood in shocked silence as they walked away without a hint of shame.

There are a few things that most of us dog owners should agree on as a matter of etiquette. If your dog poops in public places or in any place that does not belong to you, you should pick it up.

But what to do with dog waste once it has been properly picked up and bagged has become a point of contention in many metro Atlanta neighborhoods.

The topic makes frequent appearances on neighborhood chat forums. Someone usually kicks off the conversation by posting a variation of the question: Is it OK to leave a bag of dog poop in your neighbor’s trash bin?

I map my dog walking routes based on where I know there are public trash cans. And, when I don’t take those routes, I carry the poop bags back to my house. I don’t understand the many arguments people make to justify using someone else’s trash can for their dog’s poop. If it’s so offensive that you can’t wait to dispose of it at your house, why would you think I want it at my house?

On a recent thread, one neighbor said he takes his dog on hour-long walks and doesn’t think he should have to carry a bag full of poop for that long, so he drops poop bags in residential trash cans along the way.

He tells neighbors who don’t have dogs and may not want dog poop in the trash bin to get over it or call their congressman.

It may seem a trivial debate — one person did refer to the thread as “first world problems” — but a lot can go down before that dog poo makes it out of someone else’s trash and into the city dump.

Leakage could result in a dirty and smelly trash can that its owner now has to clean up. Or those tiny plastic bags of poop may get stuck in the trash can, leaving the resident with another week of dog poop in the trash.

One person argued that it’s is better to drop the poop in someone else’s trash than to leave it on the ground, as if the option to carry it home to his own trash can doesn’t even exist.

Some have the faulty logic that it’s OK to drop dog waste in someone else’s trash if the cans are sitting at the curb awaiting trash pickup. But residential trash bins do not suddenly become public trash bins because they are sitting there.

Then there are those people who drop dog poop in yard waste bags because they think it is compostable. Dog poop can only be composted in the right conditions, and those conditions do not exist in a paper bag filled with leaves.

Unfortunately, no one is governing this gray area of dog waste management, so I searched for someone with knowledge on the topic.

Eric Degen, owner of Scoop Soldiers in Alpharetta, agrees that if you want to have a pet, you need to deal with the waste in a way that doesn’t impact other people.

Degen’s company recovers dog waste and hauls it to the dump for residential and commercial clients. Despite his vested interest in dog poop disposal, he’s a credible expert.

His reasoning goes beyond the rudeness of leaving these droppings wherever you want. Dog waste is filled with parasites and dangerous bacteria, so you definitely don’t want to leave it sitting in the grass (or sidewalk, or someone else’s driveway) where it can run into storm drains, or worse, be tracked indoors.

One proposed solution to prevent dropping dog poop into other people’s trash is to install more public waste receptacles. But Degen warns there is more to consider than just adding more trash bins to city streets.

“It’s one thing to have hardware,” Degen said. “It is another to have biweekly trash service to come out and professionally maintain it.”

In Atlanta, public trash cans, which cost $400-$1,200, are generally purchased with private dollars collected by individuals, groups, neighborhood organizations or Neighborhood Planning Units, according to a story from Canopy Atlanta.

The Department of Public Works then gives the final approval and services the trash cans.

But this issue isn’t really about solid waste management.

It’s about respecting your neighbors and their property. And about not making your problems everyone else’s problems.

If it’s your dog, it’s your poop. Keep it to yourself.

Nedra Rhone is a lifestyle columnist for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, where she has been a reporter since 2006.