Can You Throw Your Dog’s Poop Into Someone Else’s Trash Can?

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Garbage Week

This week, Washingtonian is reporting on one of the least-noticed but most important aspects of urban life: garbage. Read about why we’re doing this.

Doggos are the greatest gift to humanity. Their poop? Not so much. The rules around disposing of dog waste can vary, but most owners know to pick it up. (Don’t get me started on the others.) Assuming we’re all good people who actually scoop the poop, the next question is whether you have to carry that tiny plastic bag of poo all the way back to your door. Is it okay to throw it in a public trash can? Or can we toss it in the first trash can we see, say, in someone else’s front yard?

“It’s not neighborly to use somebody else’s can,” says Julie Lawson, who leads the Mayor’s Office of the Clean City campaign, which works to reduce litter and keep the streets clean. Of course, if Fido’s feces includes a neat label with his parents’ names, someone could feasibly take them to court for illegal dumping. Since that’s not usually the case, most folks can get away with discarding the dog waste pretty much anywhere (or not at all).

Lawson’s office fields complaints every week from disgruntled residents who’ve witnessed (or stepped in) an offending pile of poo. “It’s about a dozen calls a week,” says Lawson. She’s often the one who picks up—the phone, not the waste. Lawson’s office records and tracks them on a map to determine the areas that might need more attention, though there’s no clear standout neighborhoods just yet. But Lawson’s office does not send someone to clean the sidewalk. Let me repeat: If you call this office or 311 to report a complaint, no one will show up to scoop the poop themselves. Their goal is to monitor these reports and develop programming to change that behavior.

Lawson has seen some instances of really, really nice residents leaving out metal trash cans specifically for doggie-waste bags, most recently on the Maryland side of Takoma Park. But if you don’t have the rare will-clean-up-your-shit neighbor, it’s best to find your own receptacle either in a public trash can (which is allowed) or your own.

If you’re in the “disgruntled resident” club (because you’re tired of staring at the sidewalk to make sure you dodge the doo-doo), there’s another way you can report unattended dog waste: the 311 app. Under “Pet Waste Complaint,” you can identify where you (probably) stepped in it and even submit a photograph. We’re not kidding. Happy complaining!

The 311 app allows you to file a complaint for pet waste, with a field to submit a photo.

Rosa is a senior editor at Bitch Magazine. She’s written for Washingtonian and Smithsonian magazine.