A few years ago, I remember listening to a story on National Public Radio about a group that monitored air quality by taking readings from a plane. The details are sketchy, but I do remember that the people involved in the study were surprised by the spike in the amount of nitrogen in the air over parks and suburban neighborhoods.
Their conclusion? People were not picking up their dog’s waste.
This wasn’t surprising to me. I see it, sometimes step in it and always get irritated by folks who feel no responsibility to dispose of their dog’s poo.
But it isn’t only dog poo that disgusts folks and makes them angry.
Earlier this year, after a couple of national advocacy groups got into a pubic argument over the Trap-Neuter-Return (TNR) program — a method of trapping feral cats, spaying or neutering them, and releasing them to the same location where they were collected — I asked readers their opinions on the program.
TNR advocates say the program is a humane way to deal with the problem of homeless cats as opposed to killing them to reduce their numbers.
Opponents say TNR condemns feral cats to outdoor lives of disease and danger, where they become deadly threats to birds and other animals. Opponents say euthanasia is sometimes the only solution for cats that are too wild to adopt and are living in bad conditions.
I still insist that I do not advocate for or against TNR, but I wanted to know how many of my readers agree with the program.
Yards as litter boxes
In retrospect, what shouldn’t have been so surprising to me was the overwhelming number of respondents who said they didn’t give a fig about how feral cats or birds fared. They were just plain sick and tired of their neighbors’ pets using their lawns and gardens as litter boxes.
Conversely, I am not aware of even one community in the surrounding area that allows dogs to run loose, which ideally (in most cases) prevents them from making deposits in the next-door neighbor’s yard.
Cats on the other hand can make it difficult and dangerous for people to spend time in their gardens, my readers told me — not to mention the disgusting smells the cats leave behind.
Now, I ask you, why do cat owners believe they have the right to allow their pets to roam, putting their beloved pets in danger of predators and vehicles and keeping folks awake at night with their midnight romantic pining?
OK, I admit that I believe this is an argument that I cannot win. Cat advocates will say cats have had free-roaming rights longer than man has been alive.
Well, so did my dogs’ ancestors. It doesn’t stop lawmakers from telling me that I must abide by laws that protect my neighbors such as required dog licensing, rabies vaccines and leash laws. Oh, and if your neighbor’s dog barks for an extended period of time? You can call authorities and complain they are breaking the law.
Caterwauling? Good luck with that.
While the argument that cats usually spread diseases only to other cats may be valid, it is a roaming pet cat that is in danger.
But there is a more pressing concern with pet feces, as described by Sandy Barbic, education specialist for the Summit Soil and Water Conservation District: Uncollected animal waste washes directly into our water supply.
And that CAN make us sick.
Barbic’s been urging people to take action to protect the environment with a “conservation crusade” to prevent pet waste from ending up in waterways by contacting their local governments and asking for action to correct the problem.
“It doesn’t matter if your pet is large or small, all pet waste contributes to water pollution if it is not cleaned up,” she said.
“When it rains, pet waste that has been left on lawns, trails, sidewalks or streets is picked up and washed into storm drains,” Barbic said in a recent news release.
Storm drains lead to streams and rivers and lakes.
“Pet waste contains harmful organisms such as Giardia, Salmonella and E. coli, which contributes to the high bacteria levels that make rivers unsafe for swimming and fishing. These bacteria cause intestinal diseases marked by stomach cramps and diarrhea and are easily transmitted to humans and other animals through contaminated water, soil and food,” said Barbic.
So, to all you dog walkers out there: Please clean up your dog’s waste. Leaving it on the street or sidewalk does not make you a model citizen. Others step in it and eventually, it can come back to make you and your children sick. Clean up pet waste in your yard daily. If not on a regular basis, at least pick it up when rain is forecast.
Cat lovers? Keep your cats safe and inside your home. They are your pets, not your neighbors’.
Responsible adults should be just that.
Other pet news
• Akron Zoo — 500 Edgewood Ave., will celebrate Veterans Day with free admission to all military personnel and veterans Nov. 11-17. Veterans or people currently serving in the military will have to show a military ID to receive the discount. On Nov. 1, the zoo began winter hours, opening from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. each day and with a discounted $6 admission fee per person. Children under two are free. Parking is $2. www.akronzoo.org, 330-375-2550.
• Cleveland Metroparks Zoo — 20th anniversary celebration of the RainForest, 3900 Wildlife Way, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Nov. 17-19. Special events include activities, such as enrichment demonstrations, giveaways, music and crafts. Meet the keeper sessions Nov. 19 with special guest Radio Disney and free admission to the RainForest. The zoo is easily accessible from interstates 71, 90 and 480. www.clemetzoo.com, 216-661-6500.
• Portage Animal Protective League — The Fairways at Twin Lakes, 1590 Overlook Road, Kent, will hold Paws to Taste, 6-9 p.m., Dec. 1. The fundraiser will feature First Flight wines and Great Lakes Brewery beers to sample and purchase for holiday gift giving. There will be hors d’oeuvres, a silent auction of holiday gift baskets and music from pianist Jack Hurd. Attendees must be 21. Admission is $40. Send payment to Portage APL, 8122 Infirmary Road, Ravenna, OH 44266.
• Petco Foundation— Petco’s Third Annual Pet Food Dive is set to end Sunday. Petco stores nationwide have teamed up with local food banks to combat hunger with its Pet Food Bank Program. Food collection bins are located in more than 1,150 stores nationwide. Last year, more than 338,000 pounds of pet food was collected nationwide.
Kathy Antoniotti writes about pets for the Akron Beacon Journal. She is unable to help locate, place or provide medical attention for an individual animal. If you have an idea or question about pets, write her at the Beacon Journal, P.O. Box 640, Akron, OH 44309-0640; call 330-996-3565; or email to firstname.lastname@example.org.