Posts tagged pet waste

AMONG THE ANIMALS: Seattle politics on animal welfare

Bamboo in transport crate at WPZ (Photo by Jeanne Barrett)

Bamboo in transport crate at WPZ (Photo by Jeanne Barrett)

by Christie Lagally

Originally published in City Living Seattle and the Queen Anne & Magnolia News

May 2015

(c) Pacific Publishing Company

The Woodland Park Zoo (WPZ) has spent a century justifying its existence as an educational institution for our community, but the evidence of that purpose has never been so barren.

With the ill-conceived decision to move elephants Chai and Bamboo to another zoo, WPZ leaders damaged an already-crumbling societal contract with Seattleites to serve the public interest with our $7 million per year of taxpayer funds and free use of the city-owned zoo facilities.

The history of advocacy against the confinement of elephants at WPZ has been punctuated by the saddest milestones: from baby elephant Hansa’s death from a disease that WPZ knew she could contract (according to the minutes of a May 1998 meeting of the zoo’s Elephant Management Committee), to the December 2012 Seattle Times’ investigation of the abusive lives of zoo elephants. The collapse of elephant Watoto at WPZ from ailments associated with captivity (Crosscut, Oct. 2, 2014) and a subsequent USDA inspection that declared the inadequacy of the elephant exhibit in 2014 (Seattle P-I, Nov. 3, 2104) reinforced the problem.

Then, when WPZ refused to allow the public and media to attend board meetings last December, it only called into question the wisdom of a public-private partnership. By 2015, WPZ’s unrelenting decision to send Chai and Bamboo to another zoo, instead of a sanctuary, was the status quo.

WPZ disregarded the call for sanctuary from the majority of Seattle voters and City Councilmembers; the mayor; many City Council candidates; powerful media voices, including the Seattle Times editorial board; and renowned international elephant experts, including former WPZ director David Hancocks.

“I don’t think that the zoo recognizes the damage they have done,” Hancocks said, regarding the loss of public trust that WPZ has caused with its decisions. “This will color people’s view of the zoo.

“In my view, zoos are outmoded and have not changed since the 1900s,” Hancocks explained, adding we have an opportunity to make significant changes to create a zoo that reflects our values. For a century, conventional zoos have claimed to teach respect for animals and the natural world, yet our treatment of animals in zoos is inadequate at best and abysmal at worst.

“The need for institutions, like zoos, is more desperate than ever,” Hancocks said. He added that we need an institution that intellectually stimulates us with hard questions about ecology, geology and forestry without the confinement of animals.


Political willpower

There appears to be an institutionalized belief that our zoo takes animal welfare seriously when recent decisions are the antithesis. Even our mayor and City Councilmembers (except Councilmembers Kshama Sawant and Mike O’Brien, who fought for sanctuary) would not challenge WPZ leaders. Now that WPZ has spent decades denying the harm of captivity, we have no assurance that similarly poor decisions will not be made again, perhaps with another large mammal where the elephants once lived.

However, Seattleites can change the future of animal welfare policy through our elections. This year, the Seattle Parks District — which taxes Seattle residents to fund our parks, zoo and aquarium — was established, and the City Council now oversees how funds are used. With the new City Council district elections in November, we have an opportunity to reform how our City Council oversees the zoo.

Seattle resident Beverly Marcus is finding out where council candidates stand on the issues. She distributed a candidate survey in March from the Friends of Woodland Park Zoo Elephants, and with 38 percent of candidates responding, all favored sanctuary for the elephants and most supported a council resolution for sanctuary.

Tony Provine, City Council candidate for Seattle’s 4th District, said that we should hold the zoo accountable and usher in better transparency: “[WPZ] didn’t include the taxpayers in this decision” to transferring the elephants. He added that we deserve to have oversight and some say in how our funds and city property are used by the zoo.

However, elections for social change cost money, and people who will work for the welfare of people and animals need support. Hence, local activist Sandy Smith founded the Humane Voters of Washington, a political action committee aimed at supporting candidates and initiatives that implement humane animal welfare policies.

“You can rescue animals 24/7, but unless laws are changed, you will have to rescue again the next week,” Smith said, regarding the need for a political action committee that works on behalf of animal issues. Smith explained that people can give just a few dollars a month, and that money is amplified to help animals through the election of candidates who will implement sound animal welfare policies such as those that govern WPZ.

I can imagine a future when our local zoo is the source of education about the ethical treatment of all animals, instead of the antique model of animal confinement it is today. As Provine and Hancocks envision, a progressive zoo, overseen by a thoughtful City Council, could be the model of civic transparency that educates our community about the practical ways to foster an ecologically sound, humane connection to our environment and animals.

CHRISTIE LAGALLY is a writer and editor of Living Humane (, a news site on humane-conscious lifestyles. To comment on this column, write to


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AMONG THE ANIMALS | Waste in Seattle

Nicki and Bill Walters from The Pooper Troopers

By Christie Lagally

Oct. 9, 2012

Originally published in City Living Seattle

(c) Pacific Publishing Company

People, pavement and streams. This is a toxic combination, according to Dave Ward, regional stewardship program manager for the Puget Sound Partnership.

“We work on programs that address the impact of our day-to-day actions on the environment,” Ward said. And one action that benefits the environment is picking up your dog’s waste.

Most cities require you to “stoop and scoop,” but many cities do not tell you what to do with it. Does it go in the trash, the toilet, a composter?

In Seattle, the directions are clear: Pick it up, bag it, tie it off and throw it in the trash. Any questions? Ask Ward.

How to get rid of it?

“The volume of dog waste in Puget Sound is roughly equivalent to 300,000 people using outhouses,” Ward said.

Ward explained that pet waste left on the ground contaminates rainwater with bacteria. The bacteria is concentrated as rainwater runs off onto pavement and finally into Puget Sound, where it can harm orcas, salmon and even children and pets.

Unlike animal waste deposited by a bear or a deer in the forest, where the bacteria in rainwater is filtered by soil in an undisturbed ecosystem, most of Seattle’s pet waste occurs in neighborhoods where pavement prevents rainwater from being filtered.

What about flushing the waste? This is a question Ward has heard before, and Puget Sound Partnership looked into all the waste-disposal options.

“Dog waste is basically no different than human waste,” Ward said.

As long as you live in areas where you are connected to a waste-treatment plant, you can flush dog waste. But Ward found that septic systems, such as those found in rural areas, did not have the capacity to handle both human and dog wastes.

What about composting? Ward’s team looked at this issue, as well. Some folks they interviewed maintained composting units that were either commercially sold or built in their yards. A small number of citizens used a commercial enzyme to break down the bacteria at a cost of $7 per month.

But the risks are high for a compost system like this, and especially for a municipal agency to recommend such a system. Failure by residents to maintain the composter or, worse, if residents simply bury the waste, would be the equivalent of thousands of broken septic systems, according to Ward.

Haven’t I been taught to avoid adding to the landfill? In Ward’s search for the right way to deal with dog waste, his team contacted landfill operators and waste haulers to get their reaction to taking approximately 20 tons of dog waste per day per city.

Ward reported that both the operators and the haulers said, “We won’t even notice.” It turns out that the major source of volume in landfills is actually paper and construction waste; pet waste plays a minor role at most. Furthermore, landfills manage their liquid runoff, thereby, containing the bacteria.

A little extra help

So now I’m convinced that we must bag it and trash it, but what if you don’t have time or can’t do it yourself? In Seattle, you can get help.

Nicki and Bill Walters own The Pooper Trooper, a company that offers waste removal for dog owners, as well as commercial pet-waste services. Their staff visits your home regularly, pick up the waste in your yard and dispose of it properly. The company also installs and maintains dog-waste stations for public areas and special events, such as hotels hosting a dog show.

Being where the dog poo is also gives the Pooper Troopers a chance to keep an eye out for dogs in need. According to Walters, while their clients are responsible dog owners, her staff may see lost dogs in the neighborhood or neglected dogs in adjacent yards. Troopers work in conjunction with several local animal groups to help animals in tough situations and also donate their time and funds to help dogs in need.

Alongside Pooper Trooper, there are several other such businesses in our region. The Happy Pooper Scooper, run by Tom Arena in Seattle, provides both cat litter-box cleaning and dog-waste collection. Arena, a former truck driver-turned-entrepreneur, donates 10 percent of his profits to King County Animal Care and Control to help care for animals in our regional animal shelter.

So what’s the lesson to learn for today about animal waste? Bag it, trash it and do it right away, before it rains. If you can’t do it yourself, find someone who can.

According to Ward, with 40 percent of the nearly 4.5 million people in the Puget Sound region owning dogs, disposing of your dog’s waste properly is an easy, day-to-day action that benefits everyone in and out of Puget Sound.

For more information about the Puget Sound Partnership, visit

The Pooper Trooper and The Happy Pooper Scooper websites are at and, respectively.

To learn about King County Animal Care and Control, visit

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