ANIMAL WATCH-Although dog poop was not mentioned as a possible offender in his post, “A Disgusting Day to Breathe-in-L.A.,” in February 2015, EarthJustice Attorney Adrian Martinez warned that large areas of central Los Angeles, the San Fernando Valley, and southern LA communities are breathing levels of particulate pollution that the SCAQMD classifies as “unhealthy,” after years of fighting for clean air.
“… [W]e need to double down on our efforts to control pollution that can harm our health and that of our neighbors,” he advises, sharing a comment by Angela Johnson Meszaros of Physicians for Social Responsibility-Los Angeles, that, “We have summer smog in the winter.”
Thus, it was no surprise that the American Lung Association’s State of the Air 2015 report for California cities ranks Los Angeles #1 in Ozone and #5 in particle pollution in the state. But, it probably isn’t widely known by Angelenos that a recent scientific study reveals that one important way to reduce pollutants in the sky is to pick up your dog’s poop.
The study in Applied and Environmental Microbiology, reported that a team of researchers found the stuff in the air hovering above Detroit in winter wasn’t smog, as they expected, but bacteria from dog poop.
Researchers studied 100 air samples from Detroit and three other Midwestern cities, looking for bacteria in winter air. They found that the most dominant type is the same as that found in canine feces. "This suggests that dog poop may be a potential source of bacteria to the atmosphere at these locations," said lead author Robert Bowers, of CU-Boulder's ecology and evolutionary biology department.
"It may be that this is just as common in other cities like New York or San Francisco. We just don't know," stated Noah Fierer, an ecology professor at the University of Colorado and one of the authors of the study.
This signals that the concrete jungles of our nation don’t absorb or diffuse all our doggie emissions but, instead, deflect some into the sky and the air we breathe.
This is exacerbated by current drought restrictions that prohibit washing down sidewalks, streets or yards where dogs (and cats) walk, pee and poop.
The opportunity for bacterial transmission is also increased in pet-centric LA by the urban phenomena of dog walking, dog parks, and other canine social gatherings, where pets mix freely with others of unknown health background and vaccination status, and by the close proximity in which many live in apartments and condominiums.
Additionally, in Los Angeles the “no kill” movement packs every kennel in city shelters (some dogs being kept for months) and encourages transporting dogs without prior-health records to various “rescue” locations. LA Animal Services GM Brenda Barnette reported to the Commission recently that animal-hoarding -- which can mean dozens or hundreds of animals in one bacteria-ridden residence -- is on the rise.
Rob Knight, one of the researchers in the Midwestern air-quality study and a professor at University of Colorado, stated that the researchers don't know the health effects of this fecal bacteria on humans.
“Researchers have known for centuries that bacteria are everywhere, including in the air. But airborne bacteria have rarely been studied. Yet it's well known that they can cause allergenic asthma and seasonal allergies, which are increasingly prevalent in developed countries,” the researchers said.
The CDC (Centers for Disease Control) advises that just one gram of dog waste (the weight of a business card) contains 23 million fecal coliform bacteria -- almost twice as much as human waste -- along with other parasites and viruses that can be passed to adults and children and other pets. These include: E. coli, salmonella, rabies, giardia, hookworms, tapeworms, roundworms, parvovirus, and canine hepatitis.
Simply walking in a yard or on a sidewalk where dog waste has not been removed, then entering a home, will track bacteria and parasites inside to be deposited in carpets, beds and clothing and can infect anyone in the household -- a special danger to young children, pregnant women, those with suppressed immune systems or the elderly.
The predicted El Niño rains also bring heightened concerns about dog feces left in yards and public parks. Harmful, toxic bacteria seeps into the ground where it can live for weeks or months.
“When dog waste is allowed to remain on the soil for long periods, rainstorms will begin to dilute and break apart the feces and slowly spread the bacteria on other contaminants into local water sources,” the AAPAW warns.
Stormwater Center Surveys found that only 60 percent of dog owners pick up after their pets.
America's estimated 83 million pet dogs produce 10.6 million tons of poop annually, according to LiveScience.com. (Adding the litter of 90 million cats, the combined effluence fills more than 5,000 football fields, ten-feet deep each year.)
Studies have traced 20 to 30 percent of the bacteria in water samples from urban watersheds to dog waste. Dog poop that washes into water supplies can also harm or kill wildlife.
Dog poop is not usually a political issue. Like many annoyances in life, you don’t give it much thought until you step in it!
Mayor Eric Garcetti has ignored the stray-animal problem and mismanagement of LA Animal Services until recently -- when it was raised in City Watch, questioned by Councilman Marqueece Harris-Dawson in a motion, and screamed by accusing protesters at the Mayor’s house.
Those carrying signs want all strays picked up, but also demand that the shelter not euthanize any animals. The two goals are realistically opposed.
There are no homes for all the stray dogs in the City, many of which were born feral; many are seriously ill or injured, and some are dangerously unpredictable or aggressive. Estimated at 30,000 (three times the number in the Detroit air-quality study), these dogs all poop in the streets.
There are also homeless dogs that are “adopted” by homeless people for companionship and/or protection. These dogs (and their humans) by necessity use the streets for bathroom functions. Many stay in or near downtown.
This will now get Garcetti’s attention -- if it hasn’t already! Poop on the sidewalk and in the sky, threatening to obscure the City’s high-rise profile, and the stench of concentrated human and dog urine (often marking the same spots) will be embarrassing issues to the Mayor as he discusses attracting NFL sports fans to posh downtown hotels and other local attractions.
Garcetti has promoted high-end over-development of Hollywood and the Civic Center, displacing thousands of low-income tenants in rent-controlled units. And, undoubtedly, recently attracting more homeless from outside LA with his promise of $100 million for housing and services.
Garcetti was warned in May 2010, by the LA Times article, “More Dogs in Downtown LA — and More Complaints Too.”
“Just a few years ago, the proliferation of dogs was heralded as proof that a Westside hipness had arrived downtown. But now a growing number of people say the population has reached critical mass,” wrote Kate Linthicum.She adds that the human population soared from 18,000 in 1999 to nearly 44,000 in 2010 and an estimated 40% of downtown residents owned dogs. She interviewed the owner of an art gallery at 6th and Spring, who told her, "It's the poo...All day, pee and poo. It's nonstop."
Another business owner, who claimed she is a “dog fanatic,” said, “I love them, but I'm afraid it's going to be a dog epidemic. I've never seen so many unspayed or unneutered dogs…And we don't really have any place for them to go."
A former quasi-dog park at 426 S. Spring St., now only allows dogs in a narrow area at the back and has a security guard. Locals told me hundreds of dogs were brought just to urinate and defecate and the stench was unbearable even outside the fence. But, it was the activities of the homeless -- often with children present -- that made it absolutely necessary to restrict what happened there. They directed me to the former-lawn behind the LAPD building at 2nd and Spring if I needed a dog park.
On January 17, 2016, the New York Times published an op-ed, “Showers on Wheels,” by Allison Arieff, showing piles of human poop on a sidewalk and discussing San Francisco’s “Public Toilet Project Masterplan:
“This past fall, a project started called (Human) Wasteland, which maps reports of human waste throughout the city of San Francisco. Yes, a disproportionate amount of poop on the streets is not from dogs but from humans.”
Mayor Garcetti’s failure to have objective, independent management audits by experts in animal control (not friends of a City official) performed on LA Animal Services may now ‘bite’ him.
Dogs of all sizes and economic strata are an integral part of (especially) downtown night life. From the giant Irish Wolfhound and friends tied in front of Starbucks on Spring St. yesterday to those pushed in tattered shopping carts by owners ravaging through trash, when they (and their humans) gotta go, they gotta go!
(Animal activist Phyllis M. Daugherty writes for CityWatch and is a contributing writer to opposingviews.com. She lives in Los Angeles.) Prepped for CityWatch by Linda Abrams.