Scoop the Poop or Risk a Fine. Is Pet Waste Disposal a Crime?


With over 90 million pet dogs in the United States, dog waste is an unavoidable byproduct. Many dog owners believe a common myth that it’s illegal to throw dog waste in the trash. However, while there are laws around proper disposal, it’s not prohibited to throw away dog poop.

This myth likely stems from the fact that some municipalities require dog waste to be disposed of in specific trash receptacles. Additionally, laws prohibit leaving dog feces on public or private property. But when disposed of properly in a trash can, throwing dog waste away is perfectly legal in most areas.

Laws Around Proper Dog Waste Disposal

Many municipalities have laws requiring dog owners to properly pick up and dispose of their dog’s waste when in public areas. According to the EPA, over 100 municipalities in the US have some form of “pooper-scooper” law mandating pet waste cleanup [1]. For example, New York City requires that dog owners remove any feces left by their dog on any sidewalk, street, or public area and dispose of it properly [2].

These laws typically require having a bag or other means to collect the waste and transport it to a trash can. Many areas designate certain trash cans specifically for pet waste disposal. The penalties for violating these laws range from fines of $50 – $200 in most areas. The goal is to enforce responsible pet ownership and keep public areas clean and sanitary.

Environmental Impact

Dog waste that is not properly disposed of can have severe consequences for the environment. According to the EPA, dog waste contains nutrients and pathogens that can contaminate water sources if allowed to wash into storm drains or flow into streams and lakes (EPA). These pollutants encourage algae growth which depletes oxygen levels that fish and aquatic life depend on. Dog feces also contains bacteria and parasites like giardia and salmonella that can infect humans and other animals.

Specifically, dog waste contains nitrogen and phosphorus which act as fertilizer in water sources and lead to excessive algae growth called algal blooms. As the algae dies and decomposes, it uses up oxygen that fish and aquatic species need. This process is called eutrophication and can severely lower oxygen levels leading to “dead zones” where life cannot be sustained.

Furthermore, the pathogens in dog feces like e. coli can wash into drinking water sources and lead to health issues if ingested by humans or animals. letting dog waste flow into storm drains or water bodies can spread disease and toxicity, demonstrating why proper cleanup and disposal is critical (Doody Calls).

Health Risks

Dog waste can pose a serious health risk to humans if left on the ground and not disposed of properly. According to the Rhode Island Department of Health, pet waste contains harmful bacteria such as Salmonella, E. coli, and other infections that can make people sick (Health Risks: Pet Waste). When dog waste is left on the ground, the bacteria can be washed into waterways or leach into groundwater, contaminating water sources. Rain can also cause dog waste to wash into storm drains, leading directly to lakes and rivers used for recreation and drinking water.

person walking dog on leash in park

Furthermore, a study published in the National Center for Biotechnology Information found that dog feces can contain microorganisms that are pathogenic to humans and resistant to antibiotic treatment (Environmental Contamination by Dog’s Faeces: A Public Health Problem and a Public Health Failure). These include bacteria like Campylobacter, Cryptosporidium, E. coli, Giardia, and Salmonella. Coming into contact with dog waste, especially in children, can lead to illness and infection.

The Super Scoopers pet waste removal service also warns that waters containing high levels of fecal coliform bacteria from dog waste are unsafe for swimming or drinking. Pet waste should always be picked up and disposed of properly to minimize health risks (The Serious Dangers of Dog Poop).

Proper Cleanup and Disposal

When it comes to cleaning up after your dog, the most environmentally friendly and hygienic method is to immediately pick up the poop with a plastic bag or pooper scooper. Wearing gloves can help prevent contact with bacteria and parasites. Turn the bag inside out over your hand, pick up the poop, then tie the bag closed. Make sure to avoid squeezing the bag and releasing any contents.

The sealed waste bag should then be disposed of in the garbage bin, not the recycling bin. Most garbage collection services can properly dispose of dog waste. Do not throw dog poop directly into storm drains, sewers, or compost piles, as this can contribute to environmental pollution. Backyard composting of dog waste is not recommended.

Some dog owners prefer using biodegradable bags that can decompose in landfills faster than plastic bags. Just make sure any biodegradable bag is sturdy enough to hold waste without tearing. Dog waste should never be left unbagged on public or private property.

With proper pickup and disposal, we can reduce the spread of parasites and bacteria from dog feces. It’s every dog owner’s responsibility to clean up after their pet.

Penalties for Not Picking Up

Most states and municipalities have laws that require dog owners to clean up after their pets when in public areas. Failing to do so can result in fines or other penalties.

For example, in New York City it is illegal to leave dog waste on public property or streets. Violators can receive fines up to $250 for each violation (see NYC311 – Dog or Animal Waste). Private properties may also impose fines for not cleaning up.

In California, many cities have municipal codes prohibiting leaving pet waste. In Los Angeles, the fine can be up to $1,000 for repeat offenders. Other California cities like Sacramento impose fines around $100-500 per violation.

sign showing fine amount for not picking up dog poop

Most states have similar laws authorizing local governments to impose penalties. Even if an area doesn’t have a specific statue, owners can potentially be charged under littering laws or public nuisance/health laws if they don’t clean up.

Common Misconceptions

There is a common myth that throwing away dog poop is illegal. This misconception likely originated from a few factors:

First, some municipalities have ordinances against leaving dog waste in public areas like parks, sidewalks, streets, etc. However, these laws do not apply to properly disposing of dog poop in trash receptacles.

Second, there are regulations around properly handling and disposing of human waste, which may have led to confusion around dog waste. But the same stringent requirements do not apply to pet poop.

Finally, the idea that it’s illegal may stem from social norms and wanting to avoid offending others. While some people may find it rude to place dog bags in their household bins, this does not make the practice illegal.

So in summary, while there are rules around cleaning up after dogs in public, there are no blanket laws making it illegal to throw away properly bagged pet waste, despite the common myth.

Dispelling the Myth

Despite common beliefs, in most areas it is perfectly legal to dispose of dog waste in trash receptacles that you have permission to use, such as your own trash can or public trash cans. Some people mistakenly believe that it is illegal to throw away dog poop in any trash can other than your own. However, this is generally not true.

For example, the Washingtonian states, “According to the District’s municipal regulations, as long as the receptacle isn’t on private property or in a public space like a park, it’s 100 percent legal and acceptable to toss your pup’s waste.”

The key is having permission to use the trash can and properly disposing of the waste in a sealed bag. As long as you are not littering or dumping illegally, using trash receptacles to dispose of dog poop is perfectly legal in most jurisdictions.

Being a Responsible Dog Owner

dog owner picking up dog poop in plastic bag

Being a responsible dog owner goes beyond just properly picking up and disposing of dog waste. It’s about being conscientious of your community and taking steps to minimize your dog’s impact on shared public spaces. Here are some tips for being a responsible dog owner:

Always clean up after your dog when out in public, and dispose of waste properly. Carry extra bags with you on walks in case you need more than one. Never leave bags on the ground or hanging from trees, as this creates additional litter.

Keep your dog leashed when required by local laws, and maintain control of your dog at all times. Allowing a dog to run freely or dig in landscaping can create issues.

Avoid allowing your dog to urinate on private lawns, gardens, or around the entryways of homes and businesses. The salts in dog urine can damage grass and plants.

Minimize excessive barking both inside and outside your home, which can create noise complaints. Consider training techniques to curb excessive vocalization.

Follow all local regulations for where dogs are allowed off leash, such as dog parks. Make sure your dog is properly socialized before letting them off leash.

Be aware of areas sensitive to wildlife, like nature preserves, and keep your dog out of these areas. Dogs can disrupt local ecosystems.

Respect your neighbors by not leaving your dog outside for extended periods when you’re away from home. Their barking and noise can become a nuisance.

Consider your dog’s impact on your community, and take proactive steps to minimize any problems while also providing exercise and enrichment. Responsible owners make for happy dogs and neighborhoods.

happy dog playing in backyard


To recap the main points, throwing away dog poop improperly can lead to environmental pollution, pose health risks to humans and animals, and even incur penalties in some areas. However, the idea that it’s universally “illegal” to not pick up dog waste is a myth and exaggeration.

Proper cleanup and disposal involves picking up all dog feces, sealing them in plastic bags, and placing them in designated trash receptacles. Never place bagged or unbagged dog waste in storm drains or leave it on the ground, as the bacteria can contaminate waterways and soil. Additionally, many municipalities require that pet owners carry bags and clean up after their dogs in public areas.

While some local ordinances impose civil fines for failing to pick up dog poop, there are no universal statutes that outright criminalize this act across all jurisdictions. However, every responsible pet owner should make proper disposal a habit – not just to avoid penalties, but to protect the health and cleanliness of their communities.

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