It’s quite interesting that even though there are laws in areas where people reside side by side in towns and cities where people are required to clean up after their pets, there are no consistent guidelines around the issue of pet waste on wilderness trails, in the mountains, in campgrounds, or on or near lakes. In town, having to pick up your dog’s faeces is mandatory, and subject to a fine if not observed. Still, many dog owners neglect to do this. And when you’re out of town, perhaps taking a hike up Malkow Lookout, in the mountains, skiing the dog trails, you probably don’t even think about it (even though the Malkow Lookout trail traverses private property and there is a sign asking owners to pick up after their dog and Hudson Bay Mountain ski resort requests the same). Skating on Tyhee Lake, Lake Kathlyn or Seymour Lake? Hey, the dogs are likely squatting somewhere behind you as you speed around on one of the loops being kept open by a few community minded lake residents.
People might think that dog waste is “natural” like the waste from wild animals, but their poop is very different . Due to a dog’s stomach enzymes and their diets, their faeces are one of the leading sources of E. Coli contamination in our lakes and rivers, with just 1 gram of waste containing over 20 million E. Coli bacteria, which are known to cause cramps, diarrhea and serious kidney disorders in humans (Canadian Public Health Association). Letting your dog poop without subsequently cleaning it up is equivalent to pouring a toxic substance on the ground or in the water. In fact, the Environmental Protection Agency in the USA has classified pet waste as a dangerous pollutant in the same category as toxic chemicals. Pet waste can spread parasites like hookworms, ringworms, tapeworms, salmonella and roundworm whose eggs can remain in the soil long after the faeces have been washed away into our lakes and rivers.
More and more people have dogs. At last count, the dog population in Canada was 7.6 million (as of 2016), translating to over 2.5 million kg of dog waste per day (Municipal World, 2018). Dog waste and its disposal has become one of the leading challenges faced by many communities.
Over Christmas last year, hundreds of people came to skate around Smithers’ nearby lakes and many brought their dogs. Some cleaned up after them, but many did not. It was left up to some concerned residents living nearby to try to clean up after those who neglected to do so. Given that many lakeside residents and other users drink the lake water and use it to brush their teeth or bathe their children, letting dog waste stay on the ice is like watching someone pour poison into the well. Swimming in contaminated water is certainly not very healthy either. All three lakes are very popular spots for Bulkley Valley residents to take a dip or paddle. We need to protect these waters, not contaminate them and hasten their death.
Representatives from Tyhee, Lake Kathlyn and Seymour Lake met last January with Mark Fischer, our regional district representative. We discussed dog waste issues, as well as dogs not kept under control, resulting in other skaters frequently being knocked over. The neglectful dog owner is a very serious threat not only to the health of the lakes, but to other humans as well.
Seymour Lake and Tyhee Lake now have dog waste dispensers and receptacles installed at the public access points on the lakes. Seymour Lake will also place buckets for waste disposal on the ice this season to see if this action further helps to serve as a reminder to collect waste. If there is skating this year, community and lake residents will no longer have an excuse not to clean up after their pets or keep a close eye on their running dogs. Please look after your dog!