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Pet Waste Reduction

Our Bureau, in partnership with the Watershed Stewards Academy, aims to encourage local dog owners to help "stop POOllution in its tracks" by scooping every time there's poop.


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Why is pet waste such a big deal in Anne Arundel County?

Anne Arundel County waterways are closed to human contact for 48 hours after EVERY rain storm exceeding 1 inch of rainfall1. This is due to bacteria pollution, much of it from pet waste, that washes into the rivers and streams during each rainstorm. 

A single gram of dog waste can contain 23 million bacteria2. When washed into rivers or streams by rainwater, this bacteria can cause serious health hazards. Pet waste also contains nutrients that can cause dead zones in the Bay.

2-3 days of waste from 100 dogs can contribute enough bacteria, nitrogen, and phosphorus to close 20 miles of the bay watershed to swimming and shell-fishing3.

Results from a 1999 study conducted by the Center for Watershed Protection indicated that, on average, ~46% of the fecal coliform in Anne Arundel County’s waterways is sourced from pet waste4. This was reported by the Maryland Department of the Environment in 2005 to be much higher in extreme cases, such as 68% of bacterial pollution in the Severn River watershed and 87% of bacterial pollution in the Magothy River's Forked Creek tributary5.

Results from a 2017 intercept survey of County residents conducted by our Bureau indicated that...

...79% of households in Anne Arundel County are within 1,000-feet of a mapped stream or shoreline;

...14% of these pet owners reported never picking up pet waste on their property.

...70% of these pet owners reported letting their dog(s) swim in the Bay and/or local creeks/rivers, 

...and 48% of County residents own pets (10% more than the national average, according to the Center for Disease Control6).

All these statistics begin to tell a story - bacteria from pet waste is a significant pollutant in our local waterways, and one simple way we can work to curb this non-point source problem is by scooping every time there's poop.


Pet Waste FAQs

  • "Isn't dog poop basically just fertilizer?"

    This is a very common misconception! Unlike cow manure, dog waste is not fertilizer. A cow’s diet of grass is fundamentally different from the high-protein, meat-based diets of most dogs. Cow manure is well-suited to nourishing plant material. Dog waste is highly acidic, and as a result, is harmful to grass and plants. Dog feces can also contain viruses, parasites, and other diseases that can be transmitted to humans, according to the Centers for Disease Control6.

    Dog poop is different from the waste created by the wild animals that inhabit our communities, such as deer, raccoons, squirrels, and foxes.  These animals are primarily consuming nutrients that are part of the ecosystem where they live. When the nutrients from pet waste are introduced into our local environment as dog waste, it introduces new matter into our ecosystem and disrupts the natural balance.

  • "My dog only goes in my yard, so it's contained...right?"

    Unfortunately, Mother Nature does not pay any mind to property boundaries. When a rain event comes through, it will pick up loose waste in the yard and wash it down the nearest storm drain, directly into your nearest stream or river and most likely without any treatment. The only way to ensure that your dog’s waste stays in the yard is to pick it up before the rain carries it downstream!

  • "What about wildlife and livestock?"

    The data might surprise you! According to a study done by the Maryland Department of the Environment in 2005, pet waste contributed to an average of 46% of the bacteria pollution in County waterways, compared to 35% from wildlife and 13% from livestock5.

    Dog poop is different from the waste created by the wild animals that inhabit our communities, such as deer, raccoons, squirrels, and foxes. These animals are primarily consuming nutrients that are part of the ecosystem where they live.

    There are also way more domesticated dogs in Anne Arundel County than what the natural system is able to process. When the nutrients from pet waste are introduced into our local environment as dog waste, it introduces new matter into our ecosystem, and disrupts the natural balance.

  • "What's the deal with biodegradable/compostable bags?"

    Most “compostable” and “biodegradable” bags still require industrial processing to break down and can still take anywhere from 10 to 1,000 years to fully decompose in landfills7. If you’d like to try out compostable bags, look for corn-based bags (some of which report to break down in a few months after proper disposal) and try to avoid petroleum-based products.

    **Keep in mind that compost made from your pet’s waste should not be used in an edible garden.**

    No matter what bags you use, we always recommend the “back-up bag” method for disposing of pet waste, which means placing bagged pet waste into bag-lined household trash or a local pet waste station (just in case that first bag breaches).


Tips & Tricks for Bay-Friendly Pet Owners

  • Not enough places to drop off doody?

    Request a FREE pet waste station for your neighborhood (to be managed independently by the community after installation) from BWPR. Email us for more information!

  • Not enough time in the day?

    If you have a few dogs, not much time, or just can’t stomach the thought of picking up dog poop, there are local services that will come to your home regularly to remove waste from your yard. Doody Calls, Scoopers, and Southern Maryland Pet Waste Removal are all local options.

  • When is the most important time to pick up?

    If you're not able to pick up *every* time, then what's the next best thing?

    The most crucial time to make sure that your yard is clean is right before a rain event. Of course, it's best to scoop every time there's poop, but if not every day, then make sure you get it before a storm sweeps it into the Bay!

  • Want to see more of your neighbors to picking up after their pets?

    Start a campaign in your neighborhood! You can download/print FREE outreach materials below. County residents can also email us to learn more about becoming a local leader and spearheading this campaign in your neighborhood, for which our Bureau will provide all training and materials to volunteer community leaders free of charge.




Meet the Anne Arundel County "Stop POOllution" Spokesdogs

A countywide contest was hosted via Facebook in Winter 2021 to elect two "Stop POOllution" Spokesdogs to represent the campaign and lead by example in their communities. Get to know a bit about our Spokesdogs, Cher and Lizzy, in their bio's below:

Cher Spokesdog Bio    Lizzy Spokesdog Bio


Download "Stop POOllution in its Tracks" Outreach Materials


1-Page Flyer featuring Lizzy (8.5"x11" PDF)


Abierto en Español


Pledge Card featuring Cher (1/2 page PDF) 


Abierto en Español


Yard Sign Option 1 featuring Lizzy 


Abierto en Español


Yard Sign Option 2 featuring Cher


Abierto en Español


PowerPoint Presentation slide deck example (PDF)


Abierto en Español

Pet Waste "Plinko" Game How-To Guide (PDF)plinko-cover

Talking Points for community leaders (PDF)


Abierto en Español



Previous Public Meetings:


Additional Resources:


Page References:

  1. Waterways and Health Risks. Anne Arundel County Department of Health
  2. Coastal Zone Act Reauthorization Amendments (CZARA) Section 6217. United States Environmental Protection Agency
  3. Van der Wel, B. 1995. Dog Pollution. The Magazine of the Hydrological Society of South Australia
  4. Swann, C. 1999. A Survey of Residential Nutrient Behaviors in the Chesapeake Bay. Widener Burrows, Inc. Chesapeake Research Consortium. Center for Watershed Protection. Ellicott City, MD. 112 pp
  5. Anne Arundel County. 2016. Total Maximum Daily Load Restoration Plan for Bacteria. Anne Arundel County, Maryland.
  6. Dogs - Healthy Pets, Healthy People. Center for Disease Control & Prevention
  7. Bioplastics: Are they really better?

Bogey Spokesdog Contest

(Above) Pictured is Bogey, an Australian Shephard, Severna Park native, and AACo Spokesdog Contest finalist!


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