Pets

Are our pooping pets bad for the environment?

Emmanuel Cabrera Muñoz properly disposes of his dog’s poop at Kennedy Dog Park in Coconut Grove, Florida, on February 7, 2018
Emmanuel Cabrera Muñoz properly disposes of his dog’s poop at Kennedy Dog Park in Coconut Grove, Florida, on February 7, 2018 cmguerrero@miamiherald.com

Q: I was thinking about this on Earth Day and had no one to ask. Do you think pets are bad for the environment?

A: It’s true that pets have a carbon paw-print, as it were. Here are some stats I’ve collected for you:

  • Dogs alone are responsible for 10 million tons of waste a year. (Excrement, feces, dung, poop … you get the picture.)

  • In total (dogs and cats), half a billion pounds of waste are estimated to accumulate daily.

  • The world supports approximately one billion pet dogs and cats who eat billions of pounds of canned animal protein per year. And, unfortunately, animal products are the most energy intensive ingredients on the planet.

  • It’s not just the food. It’s the stuff, too. Pet-keeping is a huge business. Pets have even their very own sub-industries, including clothing, toys, gear, gadgets, etc. Not to mention the negative environmental impact of veterinary and grooming services (among others).

  • Then there’s the songbird devastation cats can wreak. One UK study estimated that the average British cat will take down 25 bits of prey every year, which adds up to more than 200 million little wild animals consumed per annum. Some dispute the number but wildlife experts agree that free-roaming cats can do serious damage, especially to sensitive ecosystems.

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Dr. Patty Khuly has a veterinary practice at Sunset Animal Clinic in South Miami.


It’s undeniably true that pets contribute to our planet’s decline. But I’ll counter that the real source of our planet’s problem doesn’t walk on four paws. It runs on four wheels and walks on two feet. But I digress …

There is something you can do, however, to mitigate your pets’ environmental impact:

  • Keep your cats indoors. Or put a bell on them to alert their prey.

  • Feed chicken or fish, not beef (it’s more energy intensive). And don’t overfeed!

  • Don’t flush the cat litter. Bad for pipes and our waterways.

  • Switch from clay litter to a biodegradable litter.

  • Do you really need all that pet stuff? Tutus, hats, processed treats … Pets don’t really need all that.

  • Scoop the poop so it doesn’t end up in waterways. All that nitrogen is really no good for our wet ecosystems.

So do we really need pets given their outsized carbon paw prints? Might as well ask, do we really need kids? but if you’re feeling really guilty, maybe you should think about getting rid of your car first. That’s my advice.

Dr. Patty Khuly has a veterinary practice at Sunset Animal Clinic in South Miami. Her website is drpattykhuly.com. Send questions to khulyp@bellsouth.net.
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