At Canine Parks, the Clear-Up Bag is a Should

A pair of dogs named Apollo at the Old Mill Dog Park.

At the Old Mill Dog Park in Mount Vernon, Apollo, a light-colored Great Pyrenees, met another dog named Apollo, a Rhodesian Ridgeback, and she

ran around until Penny, a collie mix, showed up, and then all three were in a chase game. The deck at this dog park was made of small stone gravel and cleaning bags were available, but the trees took up any scent-marking leg raises the dogs had to hand out. So it is in 10 counties “off leash” dog parks across the region.

This dog park is well used, but no “accident” was seen in the park. “People are pretty responsible,” said Susan, the owner of the Ridgeback. Somebody forgot to bring a bag on the way to the park and dog litter isn’t one of the things that goes away with the next storm.

JUDY PEDERSEN The Fairfax County Park Authority is keeping up with developments in the parks and has not had many problems. “We did not find any significant effects on the vegetation around a dog park. Dog owners need to pick up after the dogs, so we believe this practice will mitigate the potential impact, ”Pedersen said.

Because a dog’s diet is not a plant-based diet like cows and horses, dog litter is not ideal as a fertilizer and “unsuitable for soil enrichment,” said DoodyCalls, an animal litter cleaning service started in Northern Virginia in 2000 by Jacob and Susan D. ‘Aniello. Of course, the dog’s size determines the amount of waste, but on average, Doody Calls says a dog produces around 274 pounds of waste a year. If it’s on the ground, especially in a fenced yard, it could create a smelly mess that can take a while to absorb into the ground and then it’s not good for grass or trees, DoodyCalls said.

Gardeners might go out and buy a bag of manure for the garden, but not all garbage is created equal. Whether or not a particular animal’s litter is beneficial to the soil depends primarily on the diet of the animal. As a rule of thumb, in order for waste to be used as an effective fertilizer, it must consist primarily of digested plant matter. That is why the sacks of cow dung are not so good for the garden and dog waste. “Cows and horses are herbivores, which is why their waste is ideal as fertilizer. In contrast, a dog’s diet consists primarily of animal products, so their waste is unsuitable for soil enrichment, ”said DoodyCalls.

Just throw it in the compost heap, right? That’s not the answer either, they said. It doesn’t break down at the rate it would build up, it could lead to “a number of potential health hazards for families and their pets,” DoodyCalls said. Her recommendation is to bag it, tie the bag so it doesn’t leak, and throw it in the trash.

There are garbage digesters in the ground, but these aren’t that easy either. For one thing, they require moving about once a year, and heavy clay soils, like in some parts of Fairfax County, often prevent fermenters from draining properly.