A sign at Lake Tye Park in Monroe reminds pet owners to do their “doodie” — er, duty — and clean up their pet’s waste. The city even offers free bags to help scoop the poop. You may still have to watch your step. The law does not cover the droppings of myriad goose and duck visitors who, after all, are no one’s pet. (Herald photo)

A sign at Lake Tye Park in Monroe reminds pet owners to do their “doodie” — er, duty — and clean up their pet’s waste. The city even offers free bags to help scoop the poop. You may still have to watch your step. The law does not cover the droppings of myriad goose and duck visitors who, after all, are no one’s pet. (Herald photo)

We’ve got the scoop on 63 tons per day of poop

Nearly every city in Snohomish County has a law requiring pet owners to pick up their pets’ waste.

Feces. Manure. Waste. Offal. Excretory matter. No matter what term is penned by code writers, it stinks — literally.

And along with being just plain gross, pet waste can contaminate water quality and harm plants.

Co-worker Sue Misao wondered: “Does this town have pooper scooper laws?”

She was talking about Everett. But no matter where you are in Snohomish County, the answer is almost universally “yes.”

Most local nuisance or animal control ordinances have provisions that require pet owners to properly dispose of animal waste, especially when it’s not on their property, according to the Municipal Research and Services Center, a nonprofit that helps local governments in Washington with legal guidance.

Apparently we need a stick (and not for fetching).

Dogs produce more than 63 tons of poop a day in Snohomish County alone, according to county estimates. Local laws aim to make sure all that poop isn’t left lying around (or stuck to the bottoms of our shoes).

In many cities, it’s now even explicitly illegal not to carry a bag, scoop or other means of collecting your pet’s poop when out-and-about.

That includes Arlington, Bothell, Darrington, Edmonds, Everett, Gold Bar, Granite Falls, Lake Stevens, Marysville, Mill Creek, Monroe, Mountlake Terrace, Mukilteo, Snohomish, Stanwood and Sultan.

Brier, Index and Lynnwood also have laws requiring pet owners to scoop, though they don’t require the means to be in hand. (I guess the ends could be in hand? … Sorry.)

The Snohomish County Code requires owners to clean up after their dogs when in a county park, while the Snohomish County Health District Sanitary Code contains the county’s more formal pooper scooper law, which states that pet waste must be “stored and disposed of in a manner … which does not create a public nuisance or pollute surface waters.”

Only one spot in Snohomish County does not have a pooper scooper law.

The town of Woodway references disposing of livestock manure. But that’s it.

While it doesn’t have a law, the town does have dog waste bags and trash cans in public areas, Administrator Eric Faison said.

Pooper scooper laws date to 1935, when London prohibited owners from allowing their dog to “deposit its excrement” on a public sidewalk, according to a CityLab article on the history of cities’ battle with dog poop. “Curb Your Dog” signs went up around the same time in New York City.

Modern pooper-scooper laws started showing up in the legal nitpicking of the late 1970s amid health concerns.

More creative efforts, catalogued by CityLab, have included a vacuum-equipped motorbike to suck poop off Paris streets (didn’t work too well) and a contest in a Madrid park that labeled four temporary pet waste receptacles with each of Spain’s four main political parties (who would want to win?). Then there was the deal in Mexico City: exchange your pet’s poop for Wi-Fi access.

But as Woodway has found, simply asking often works.

In a Chicago-area study in the late 1970s, researchers observed only 5 percent of dog owners pick up after their dogs. The feces left behind on one section of a city block weighed in at over 19 pounds after one week. After education efforts and explicit instructions and modeling of how to scoop the poop, over 80 percent of dog owners cleaned up their act — even before it became law.

Around here, pooper scooper laws aren’t frequently enforced — there are bigger fires to put out. But the laws do get attention.

Sometimes serious attention …

The Snohomish Health District received seven complaints about pet waste not being picked up in the last year. Staff went out, spoke to property owners if they were home and left educational material if they were not.

And sometimes hilarious attention …

A 2011 music video, “Dog Doogity,” is a spoof of Blackstreet’s 1996 hit “No Diggity.”

I like the way you walk it

Dog doogity

We’ve got to bag it up

Everett is among the video’s featured locations where singer Martin Luther McCoy and various dancers show viewers how to scoop the poop.

Now that I’ve mentioned “poop” enough times to send my kids into a tizzy of giggles, let me end with one more fun fact.

“Poop” is not found in any of the local ordinances.

No, um, wonder.

Where to put it?

You’ve scooped it. Now where do you dump your dog’s dump?

Yes: Trash … Landfills are designed to safely keep pet waste contained, monitored and out of local streams.

No: Compost … Yard waste bins and compost piles don’t get hot enough to destroy harmful organisms.

No: Flush … An old recommendation that’s no longer considered practical, and will overload a septic system.

No: Bury … Even using anaerobic digesters, this still allows pathogens and excess nutrients to contaminate soils and streams.

Source: Snohomish County Surface Water Management

More info: www.petwaste.surfacewater.info

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