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Tag: E. coli

High bacteria levels lead to dog park’s closing

The City of Austin Parks Department plans to close a popular dog park for six to eight months because of high E. coli bacteria levels in the creek.

Officials blame the bacteria — found during regular water sampling since 2007 — on dog waste at the Bull Creek District Park, one of 12 off-leash parks in Austin.

In March 2008, the city put up signs at the park about the environmental dangers of dog waste, but problems persisted, parks Director Sara Hensley said. The department plans to require leashes at the park beginning Sept. 8. In October, plans call for the dog area to be closed entirely to plant more vegetation to helps keep pollutants from draining into the creek. City officials haven’t determined yet whether leashes would be required when the park reopens in the spring.

Heavy use of the park has worn down existing vegetation there, city officials say, and the drought has led to low, slow-moving waters in the creek where bacteria can thrive, the Austin American-Statesman reported.

Austin’s leash ordinance requires dogs to be on a leash no longer than six feet on public land. The maximum fine for violating that rule is $500.

The parks department is trying to find other spaces that could be turned into off-leash parks, Hensley said.

Debra Bailey, a task force member who formed a volunteer group last year to regularly clean up dog waste at the park, said sewage spills and other trash left in the creek could also be to blame for high bacteria levels. The city should look at other options before closing the dog park or requiring leashes, such as better enforcement and signs related to picking up dog waste, she said.

“They are blaming the dogs and not addressing other issues,” she said.

Licks not particularly likely to pass bacteria

People who let their dogs lick their faces are no more likely than other dog owners to pick up strains of E. coli bacteria from their dogs. Nor are those who let their dogs sleep with them, a Kansas State University veterinarian reports.

None of which is to say you can’t catch diseases from your dog, or vice versa — as the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention points out on its website.

In the Kansas State study, Kate Stenske, a clinical assistant professor at the university’s College of Veterinary Medicine, found that 10 percent of human-dog pairs had the same E. coli strains and that these strains were more resistant to common antibiotics than expected. However, owners had more multiple drug-resistant strains than their dogs.

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Getting (a little) serious about dog poop

Every day in Seattle, where dogs outnumber children, 41,250 pounds of poop exits dogs and lands on the otherwise fair city, according to the Seattle Times.

In a year (who says newspapers don’t cover the important stuff anymore) that adds up to 15.1 million pounds, but it also leads to a lot of confrontations between neighbors, between dog owners and animal-control officers, and between dog owners and passers-by — not to mention steppers-in.

And, actually, it is important stuff.

The non-scoopers among us — and you know who you are — aren’t just contributing to an erosion in the quality of life, but to health problems as well.

When it rains, as it often does in Seattle, dog poop can run into storm drains, and then into lakes and streams and eventually Puget Sound. In Baltimore, it can take a similar route and end up in the Inner Harbor, and other, more frolic-worthy waterways.

Dave Ward, principal watershed steward for Snohomish County in Washington, notes that kids thinking they are playing in a pristine stream could actually be coming into contact with roundworms, E. coli and Giardia.

“Pet waste comes consistently to the top as one of the principal sources of contamination in urban waterways,” Ward said.

The Times story goes on to recount some of the nasty confrontations dog poop has led to in Seattle, where citations ($54 a whack) can be issued not just for failing to scoop poop, but for failure to carry proper poop-scooping equipment.

In 2007, Seattle — home to an estimated 125,000 dogs — issued 65 citations related to dog poop, from failing to scoop in parks to allowing accumulation of feces on one’s property.

(Graphic by Clyde Peterson, official ohmidog! cartoonist)