Skip to page contents
City of Bellingham, WA
Contact Us Site Map
You are here: Home) Services ) Environment) Stormwater ) Reduce Pollution ) Pet Waste

Pet Waste Belongs in the Trash

Girl and pathogens from dog waste

Pet waste is raw sewage

Disease-causing organisms can be transmitted from pet waste to children. Many of these pathogens can survive for days or months in soil and water waiting for a host. People can pick up these organisms while playing in grass, gardening, swimming, fishing or boating, causing serious illnesses.

Harmful levels of fecal coliform bacteria have been found in many of Bellingham's urban creeks. These high levels indicate the presence of other disease-causing organisms, including Giardia, Salmonella, E. coli, Cryptosporidium and roundworms, and Toxoplasma.

High fecal levels can also cause illnesses in pets and wildlife, and closures of recreational areas and commercial shellfish beds. In addition, the nutrients in pet waste can create harmful algal blooms in lakes, turning the water green, cloudy, and unappealing for swimming and boating. Algal blooms can also cause fish kills.

Dogs at Home

Pick up dog poop at home at least weekly, bag it, and place it in the trash. When it's rainy, pick up poop as soon as possible to prevent disease-causing organisms from being washed into streams. On short winter days, use a flashlight to help you find droppings after dark.

Make the Scoop the Poop Promise today and your dog will be featured in outreach materials around Bellingham! If you submit your dog's photo after you make the promise, your dog will be included on the community banner, bus ads, and our Facebook page!

Dogs on Walks

When out on walks, take plastic bags with you to pick up the poop, and put it in the trash when you get home. Some parks and trails provide poop bags and trash cans, but it is your responsibility to come prepared and remove your dog's waste at all times.

Volunteer for Hounds for Healthy Watersheds to encourage your neighbors to properly dispose of their dog's poop. Some volunteers maintain bag dispenser stations in their neighborhoods or at their favorite trail. Others walk the trails rewarding dog walkers who have bags with coupons to local pet stores, and handing out bags to dog walkers who are unprepared. To volunteer or for more information, contact the Environmental Education and Outreach Coordinator in the Natural Resources Division at 360-778-7800 or

Outdoor Cats & Other Contributors

Outdoor cats can be trained to use a litter box. Cat waste and used litter should be put in a sealed bag and then in the garbage. The sewer system is not designed to handle cat litter or cat waste.

Wildlife, such as deer, raccoons, and geese, can also contribute unhealthy levels of waste if their populations are concentrated. Avoid attracting wildlife to your home or parks. Never feed wildlife and keep trash and pet food well sealed. Healthy watersheds are able to handle natural levels of animal waste without damage to water quality.

Other sources of fecal coliform bacteria include leaking sewers, failing septic systems, and homeless encampments.

The City's efforts to lower fecal coliform levels in our urban streams include the pet waste management program; regular clean-up of mapped homeless encampments as well as efforts to match homeless community members with appropriate social services; the Urban Streams Monitoring program; and habitat restoration studies and projects.

Top of Page ^ Top of page