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Sharon Marie
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Location: Jeffersonville, IN

Animal Waste

I've read several places that say you shouldn't use pet (dog) waste in the compost pile? Why not? I read on another page where it talks about worms and bad chemicals (for edibles) but I don't have a vegetable garden, just flowers. I didn't really intent to have a compost pile, I just have a place at the back of my property where I toss all my grass clippings and plant waste. I already know not to use it as "real" compost b/c I've put weeds and all kind of other stuff there that I shouldn't have. I guess my main question is... Can I get rid of all of the waste that is there, and start over? Or have I ruined the ground by tossing pet waste into the pile (which I'm sure has made it's way through the bottom and soaked into the ground)
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Zone 6A - Jeffersonville, Indiana

cynthia_h
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The topic of (certain) animal waste in compost piles is controversial. However, almost all sources/experts agree that the manure of herbivores is not only allowable, but positively *desireable* in compost.

So manure from cows, horses, sheep, goats, llamas, rabbits, guinea pigs, hamsters, chickens (if you can stand it...) is good stuff for the compost heap. (I may have inadvertently omitted an herbivore or two: for example, if the circus comes to town, elephant dung would be good, too, but most of us are unlikely to have continuing access to such! :lol:)

It's the dog/cat question which raises argument, both for and against.

I do not use either in my compost, although I live with both dogs and cats. But this is due more to my compost being a slow / "cold" operation than having any qualms, whether aesthetic or health-related, about dog poo in the compost. If I were running a HOT compost heap, I'd probably at least test-compost the dog poo. My own dogs are healthy and do not have parasites. They take no meds which would affect the worms/critters in the compost pile (no, they are not on monthly heartworm preventive; I have them tested once a year via blood test per my vet's advice).

OTOH, if there were a litter of puppies here who had just been wormed, it would be a really *bad* idea to put such waste into the compost pile because of the effect it would have on my composting worms.

But even if I *did* have a HOT compost heap, I personally would draw the line at cat waste. Cats being carnivores, their intestinal flora are completely different from human / dog waste. Cats can also be asymptomatic carriers of toxoplasmosis, and I certainly don't want to give the cysts of this disease *anywhere* to grow.

N.B.: There was a die-off of California sea otters four or five years ago which was ultimately tracked to flushable cat litter. Evidently, treatment at sewage plants was insufficient to kill all the toxo cysts, and the sewage effluent--legally "clean" stuff!--carried the cysts out to the Pacific Ocean off the Monterey coast, where the otters acquired the disease. If even modern sewage-treatment facilities can't kill toxo, my compost pile stands no chance at all.

You will find "experts" all over the map on the question of dog waste, but there a large majority of them discourage the use of cat waste in compost piles. Especially after the results of the otter study. :(

W/regard to your weed seeds: again, a hot compost pile will kill weed seeds. A cold one (like mine, for example) will not. So my pulled weeds--when I've messed up they've gone to seed--go into my yard-waste container and not my compost pile. I do put weeds into the compost when they're young and leafy, though, and they disappear most satisfyingly! :twisted:

I hope this gives you some useable response to your questions; if not, ask again! :)

And welcome to The Helpful Gardener, if I haven't already said that elsewhere.

Cynthia H.
Sunset Zone 17, USDA Zone 9

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Grey
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I agree with Cynthia.

I have two dogs, also not on any medications, and my compost pile is also cold. I tend to toss the mess into the ivy... maybe that's why it's so healthy - but when it comes to my food plants, I don't want the stuff near it.

Ornamentals, I should think, are perfectly fine.

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hendi_alex
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Both parasites and bacteria can form a cyst stage that can stay viable in soil for years, perhaps for decades. Dogs and cats can host a variety of parasites, bacteria, and diseases that can infect humans, and much of that is passed in their feces. That is one thing that I don't like about the doggy dooly instructions. They say that you can take that tankage residue and use it around shrubs or flowers. But who is to say whether or not one of those sites ends getting some strawberries, rhubarb, or other food plant in the future. Also, I'm a hands in the dirt kind of person. Do you really want you hands placed in composted or tankaged dog waste?

Here is a section from a web site. Don't know anything about the quality of the web site, but this info in consistent with my accumulated knowledge on the matter.

"There are many parasites that can be transmitted to humans via dog feces.
Of course I'm sure you are aware that many kinds of worms can easily be
transmitted to humans from dogs, such as roundworms and tapeworms, and
occasionally toxoplasmosis (harmful to unborn children if the pregnant
mother is initially exposed to it while pregnant). Unless a dog is
indoor-only, one would have to constantly worm one's dog in order to ensure
that the dog didn't have these parasites. Another nasty parasite is
Cryptosporidium, which is easily passed on to humans from stools via
unwashed food.

Other terrible pathogens that can and ARE transmitted to humans via dog
feces are e.coli bacteria, staph infections, salmonella, and listeria, to
name just a few. E.coli is present in all feces, even the cleanest of dogs
(and people!) is going to pollute the ground with e.coli bacteria."

https://www.gardenfoundation.com/pets/veggiepoopquestion.htm

I have also read precautions related to the exposure of pregant women to dog waste, composted or otherwise, as pathogens can be absorbed and passes to the child.

I'm not paranoid about dog waste and don't think that there is some huge risk of getting infected from such a source. But on the other hand, IMO, it would be inconisitent to be an environmentalist, a naturalist, and a person who employs organic gardening principles, and the other hand contaminate the gardening environment with such materials. I'm in the process of setting up an opening on the outside of the house, such that our dog waste can be emptied directly into our septic tank.
Eclectic gardening style, drawing from 45 years of interest and experience. Mostly plant in raised beds and containers primarily using intensive gardening techniques.
Alex

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smokensqueal
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I personally wouldn't use it in my compost pill at all. I prefer not to run into some of that, that's not done. Plus all the nasty stuff that everyone one else says. As I've looked at this before I found that for non food plants it should be okay but unless you can guarantee that you compost pile gets so hot for so long you are not to use it in a vegetable garden. And still who know if you got all of it.

As far as the weeds in the compost that's not a problem. I throw weeds in mine all the time. Ya i get the occasional burst of weeds where I use my compost but then I just pull them when they are small and throw them in the compost again.

rot
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Well, I'll take the defense then

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Our dogs are already leaving presents in the backyard. Other dogs leave presents in the front and all over the neighborhood. No matter how throughly I pick up after, the stuff is very very present. Frankly, I worry more about what I might step into walking across the street or in a parking lot that walking across a gifted lawn.

As far as the environmental consequences go, which is better, uncomposted dog dumps in the waste treatment center or the septic tank or in the local land fill or would composted stuff be more benign? Septic tanks don't have a good environmental stewardship rep. Waste water treatment plants can't seem to handle it. And steeping in a landfill just strikes me as not good if not negligent.

Further, there is another way of looking at composting rather than a method of making pretty good dirt but as a bio-remediation process. That is, remediation of organic material that would otherwise end up in the waste stream. Looking at it as doing something with the waste rather than just chucking it into the curbside dumpster or flushing it down the toilet and forgetting about it is doing something. Contributing instead of taking away or leaving it for someone else or some other generation to deal with.

Working with the hot process, you'll want 150 F for a short period of time to deal with the gift of the dogs. For cats, 160 F for ten minutes per the CDC does in the toxoplasmosis. Lower temperatures, but not too low will need to be sustained for longer periods of time. Problem: How do you make sure you get all the bad stuffed cooked? Answer: By monitoring the temperatures and adding moisture while turning as necessary. I don't want to turn that stuff. It's kind of disturbing. I'm lazy. It also effectively contaminates everything you use to turn your pile with. Not good.

Plan B: https://www.jenkinspublishing.com/humanure.html#

The gifts or our dogs go into a slow bin. I've formed 3 x 3 x3 bins using pallets. I start with a good 6 inches of high carbon material for the biological sponge. Then I build up shallow walls on the outside with a good carbon/nitrogen mix - for me, usually grass clippings mixed with shredded paper. In the middle I add the gifts - a couple of buckets collected over two weeks with shredded paper (I don't have a good source of sawdust or other similar material) for cover. Once added, I cover with more browns and some nitrogens. Add water and it makes it's own sauce. By watering a little once a day, I maintain temperatures around 130 f for better than a week. After two weeks, I repeat with another two buckets. Over time it builds up then reduces. At some point it seems to reduce about as rapidly as I build. The worms move in and they finish the job. Worm digestion does a number on the pathogens too. After 6 months or so, I stop feeding and I water for the next 12 to 18 months. Then I apply the result to fruit trees and the lawn.

It does take management but on an 18 to 24 month cycle it is pretty much a low labor endeavor. It is definitely not for people who want to keep the endeavor casual.

I don't want cat litter in my compost so I don't process the gift of the cats. Maybe when the organic litter gets cheap enough and the little buggers will use it, then I will consider it.

So, I'm digesting the stuff that is already all over the place and I'm not leaving it for someone else to clean up. I'm reducing the ever-present pathogen count considerably. It gets used and, 15 miles down stream, no surfers are getting sick off of our dogs. And I do it with out breaking my back.

What's not to like?

Oh. That's 4 big dogs and it means dedicating the space for four 3 x 3 bins.I'm sure some efficiencies could be gained from there but, I'm lazy.

two cent
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smokensqueal
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rot, you didn't say anything about an aeration system. :lol: That's what we have. No city sewer to take our stuff away. Not sure where you heard that about the septic tanks but where I'm at almost everyone has them and I know of no issues. We had to use an aeration system because of the high water table. I'm trying to convince my wife just to take the dog "stuff" and drop it in there (better then flushing because you're not wasting water) but she doesn't really like that idea. She just throws it out in the farmer's field. That's where the coyotes go any way why not our dog's doings.

rot
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not so ubiquitous 'round here

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Most toilets 'round here flush into a municipal water treatment system. Most municipal water treatment systems are old and are used beyond capacity. They are neat science experiments and the treatment is less than effective so what happens is you end up with resistant strains of pathogens. Couple that with all the antibiotics that get flushed down the toilet and, you get drug resistant pathogens. There is speculation going around that the next superbug is growing in one of those sewer water treatment plants across the country.

Septic tanks are anaerobic and that's why they smell like septic tanks. Anaerobic decomposition is much slower and less effective. A good example is some scientific survey was being done in landfills in New Jersey not too long ago and found they could still read fifty year old newspapers found there. In other words, stuff just wasn't breaking down, decomposing. That might be neat for archeologists but it also means all the weird kinds of things people toss in those landfills over the years aren't breaking down either. That stuff is just laying around, percolating. eventually leaching into the ground somewhere and maybe into some water tables and so on.

I'm not sure what efficacy aeration of septic tanks might provide but a septic tank strikes me as not a very diverse place of microorganisms or materials to feed a wide variety of organisms. In fact, I would expect the broadest diversity of life in septic tanks to come in the form of pathogens. Throw in some antibiotics and drain cleaners or other household chemicals that you need to keep the children away from and then let's speculate on where all that goes.

A big local political battle erupted not too far from here in Santa Barbara county because the environmentalists pressed the local gummint to press a small community right on the coast to get rid of their septic tanks and put in a sewer system. It seems the water on the coast around there was extremely unhealthy. Red tides, bad shellfish, sick marine life and the PR misfortune of sickly surfers. The locals tried to claim it was pet waste but that didn't fly and the septic tanks are coming out.

Anaerobic decomposition with fun happy human pathogens, weak antibiotics and, household chemicals. Not a recipe I want to mess with. I know jack about septic tanks but I believe one key feature is a leach field. Leach what exactly? Leach into what? Where?

Check out the link above and they go into things with a lot more detail and a lot more information. I believe the section titled: 'The Life of a Turd' in the handbook should cover the issue. I'm far from sold on the efficacy of septic tanks even if they are ubiquitous in some parts and have been around for a while.

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rot
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In the farmer's field?

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She just throws it out in the farmer's field
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The suspected source of that e coli contamination in packaged salad vegetables is from feral animals defecating in farmer's fields. Possibly it was just cattle too. Now they're supposed to fence things off - especially creeks and drainage. I hope not too many critters need to get to the water there.

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