Q: I have a disagreement with my neighbor I hope you can help settle. He walks his dog on our street, and the dog frequently poops on my front lawn. When I brought it up to him nicely he said that his dog was allowed to defecate on the swale since it’s community property. We don’t have a neighborhood association that regulates this, but isn’t stool a public health hazard? Apart from being messy and smelly, I’m sure dogs can spread diseases this way. Am I wrong?
A: For the record, your neighbor is probably legally in the right … but ethically in the wrong. While most U.S. municipalities haven’t passed ordinances specifically outlawing this practice (you can check into yours by looking online), it’s considered downright unneighborly to allow a dog to defecate on community property unless it’s a) marked for that purpose, b) not frequented by humans, or c) picked up by the owner.
You’re not alone in your frustration. Pet poop counts among the most egregious pet peeves that people share about their neighbors. In fact, in a 2010 Consumer Reports survey, dog feces tied for sixth on a list of Americans’ daily indignations. Which makes sense seeing as there’s a lot of dog stool out there. Consider:
According to the American Veterinary Medical Association, more than 43.3 million U.S. households keep almost 70 million dogs. Annually, it’s estimated that their owners fail to scoop more than 4 million tons of dog poop each year (this statistic courtesy of PoopBags Inc.). Which means the average dog deposits 114 pounds of poop a year, much of it in public places.
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So of course it’s not right for your neighbor to subject you to a perilous walk to the mailbox. But is it unsafe from a public health standpoint?
Not necessarily. If your neighbor protects his dog from intestinal parasites by administering regular preventative medication, the chances that you’ll be subject to any disease-causing organisms is minimal. But that’s a big if. Moreover, there are several scenarios I can envision where an immunocompromised individual might contract a bacterial or parasitic disease after coming into direct contact with pet stool.
Overall, I’d say you’re definitely in the right. But that doesn’t mean you’ll get anywhere with your neighbor. Some people are simply not neighborly.
Dr. Patty Khuly has a veterinary practice at Sunset Animal Clinic in South Miami. Her website is drpattykhuly.com. Send questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.