Health Risks: Pet Waste

Pet waste left on the street or lawn does not just go away or fertilize the grass. Rain washes pet waste down storm drains and into waterways like rivers, bays, and beaches. This can make people sick from salmonella, E. coli, and other infections. Pet waste is very toxic—the Environmental Protection Agency estimates that waste produced by just 100 dogs in two or three days (or one weekend) can contain enough bacteria to temporarily close a bay to swimming and shellfishing. Pet waste also provides a nitrogen source for algae blooms, which deplete the water of oxygen and can make people and animals sick.

What You Should Do

Keep a supply of bags handy

When walking your pet, take a bag with you for quick waste pick-up. It helps to keep a supply of bags near your dog leash and to tie the bags on the leash if you don't have a pocket or pack. Consider re-using plastic newspaper bags or bread bags. Use the bag to pick up the waste, and tie it closed. When at home, long-handled “pooper scoopers” available at pet stores make it easy to pick up after pets without stooping over.

Dispose of pet waste properly

Place sealed bags of pet waste in the trash. It may help to double bag dog waste or kitty litter. Do not throw waste near or into storm drains, and do not dump kitty litter outside. Do not flush pet waste down your toilet.

Follow local rules and signs

  • State beaches do not allow dogs during the on-season from April 1 to September 30. (more)
  • Town beach rules may vary, but they are generally posted at the beach.
  • State parks and picnic areas require pet owners to clean up and properly dispose of animal waste. (more)
  • Some cities and towns have fines for not picking up waste on streets, in parks, or in dog parks.

Help others remember to scoop the poop

Don't let your pet pollute, and encourage those around you to be responsible pet owners, too.

What We Do

  • Monitor water quality at beaches and assist beach owners and managers with finding and eliminating sources of contamination. (more)
  • Collaborate with the University of Rhode Island and the Environmental Protection Agency to research and address pet waste contamination of Rhode Island beaches.
  • Monitor reportable infectious diseases, manage cases, and control disease outbreaks. (more)