Seattle loves dogs — but not picking up after them

With more than a million dog owners in Seattle, the city consistently ranks among the most pooch-friendly metropolises in the nation. But some irksome concerns come along with that love.

Among them: Seattle has been named the second-worst city in the country when it comes to complaints about dog poop on Twitter, according to pet insurance web company Protect My Paws. The company released the report in honor of International Pooper Scooper Week at the beginning of this month.

The tribute week was added to the calendar by a trade association for professional pet-waste workers, and is intended to “recognize a year-round problem” by educating owners on the importance of cleaning up after their dogs in a nation with 71 million pets dogs producing an estimated 4.4 billion pounds of waste annually.

The problem is a regional one, and other Puget Sound cities are having their own battles over it. Three years ago, Kirkland launched a campaign to encourage more residents to scoop their dogs’ poop by cataloging sites where unscooped animal waste was found and marking them with flags.

Over a three-week period, the city documented more than 250 “findings” at Juanita Beach Park and Hazen Hills Park, and for a time, hundreds of yellow flags dotted the parks’ green fields.

“The flags show that it’s not just your dog doing this,” Aaron Hussmann, Kirkland’s environmental education and outreach specialist, told The Seattle Times in 2019. “And it shows that someone is watching.”

In Seattle parks, the problem persists but is getting no worse, despite what the city’s pet-waste rankings may suggest, according to Rachel Schulkin, a spokesperson for Seattle Parks and Recreation.

“Is there occasional poop? Yeah, but it hasn’t risen to the level of something that needs to be dealt with,” Schulkin said. She said picking up poop, along with emptying trash bins and cleaning bathrooms is simply part of the city’s routine park maintenance.

She acknowledges, however, that things could look a little grimmer out on the sidewalks and parking strips, where she sees evidence that folks aren’t picking up after their pets “all the time.”

From the city’s perspective, the bigger problem with dogs is the number that go unleashed, or play on ballfields, play fields and shores.

“Off-leash dogs are everywhere and that continues to be a major struggle for us,” Schulkin said.

Dogs should never go onto ball fields, beaches and play areas, because even when owners clean up after them there, fecal material remains behind.

“Then later that afternoon there’s soccer practice and kids are sliding around on the field and that is not OK,” she said. “People think they are the only ones who are doing it and they are not.”

The city has more than a dozen off-leash parks. Please use them, Schulkin said.

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