Living Green 365: Pets

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Living Green 365

Living green with dogs and cats

Dog waste

Dogs and cats need special care--to protect their health and the environment. Your furry family members can participate in Living Green 365 too, by training you to do the following. 

Pick up the poop. Leaving dog waste on the ground allows harmful bacteria and nutrients to wash into the storm drain and eventually into local water bodies. Some cities have experimented with special poop collection programs, like San Francisco’s poop-to-methane digester. In Minnesota your best bet is to:

  • Trash it. Seal the pet waste in a plastic bag and dispose of it in your trash can. Biodegradable bags are fine, but they won't break down in a landfill so our vote is to go reused, rather than new and biodegradable.
  • Flush it. You can flush plain dog poop down the toilet and it will be treated at a waste water facility or septic system. If you do this, never include a bag or any other extra material with the poop.
  • Do NOT put dog or cat poop in your backyard compost pile. The temperatures in backyard compost piles do not get high enough to kill bacteria that can make humans sick.

Keep cats inside. Domestic cats that roam outside kill billions of birds in the U.S. each year and are at risk of getting hurt by cars, dogs, wild animals, and infectious diseases. Keep your cat indoors for its sake as well as the birds.

Avoid sidewalk salt. Salts and deicers hurt dog’s paws and can make them sick if they ingest too much. Wipe your dogs paws after winter walks to keep them from licking salt off their feet. Then read about alternatives to salt or watch this short video about winter maintenance from the Mississippi River Management Organization.

Clean up antifreeze leaks or spills. Antifreeze is toxic and potentially deadly if ingested by dogs and cats. If your pet licks antifreeze, contact a veterinarian. Antifreeze is one type of household hazardous waste (HHW). Hazardous products require special storage and should be disposed of at a HHW facility.


Use a leash in natural areas. Dogs that run off-leash in natural areas can spread invasive plant species because seeds collect on their fur and get distributed to new places.  Dogs can also disturb sensitive plant species, ground-nesting birds, or other wildlife. Unless a park is specifically designated as an off-leash dog park, keep dogs with you on the trails and paths.

Make an emergency plan for your pet. In recent years, we’ve seen more hot days and bigger storms. Emergencies like these can impact your pets. Use this advice from the Humane Society to make a plan for heat waves, power outages, or times you just can’t get home to your pet.

Limit extras. Pets need food, bedding, litter, and toys—all of which use resources to produce and distribute. When you select products for your pets, look for durability and recycled content. Consider creative ways to give your pet love and attention rather than new toys and gadgets.

Non-toxic lawn

Grow a non-toxic lawn. Pesticides can be poisonous and pose a danger to animals and people, especially children and pets. Learn to grow a low-impact lawn.

Never flush pet medications.  Pet medicines need to be carefully stored and disposed of. Look for medicine collection events in your area and follow the same recommendations provided for human medications.

Spay or neuter. Spay or neuter your pets to avoid overpopulation. Low cost options are available through the Spay Neuter Assistance Program for qualified households.   

Adopt your next pet. Choose a pet from a shelter to reduce demand for more animals. Check to find animal shelters near you.

Go on a walk. Walking—with or without a dog—brings us outside where we will get exercise, meet neighbors, walk places instead of driving, and keep an eye on our neighborhood. Great benefits for our health and community!

Community events and resources

Iron Range residents can enjoy the Energy Symposium Speaker Series by Energy Efficient Ely (E3). Upcoming topics include energy saving grants and loans and extending the growing season, February 21 and 28, 5:30-7 p.m., Vermillion Community College (Ely).

The Minnesota Zoo's Our World Speaker Series will introduce you to experts in local and global wildlife conservation and environmental issues. Upcoming topics include Minnesota moose populations and global food production, February 21 and March 5, 6:30-8:30 p.m., Minnesota Zoo (Apple Valley).

Goodwill's annual Bridal Showcase features new and once-worn gowns, including top designer names, as well as mother-of-the-bride and bridesmaid dresses. The event includes music, refreshments, wedding experts on hand, and free alteration consultations, February 23, 9 a.m.-3 p.m., Goodwill Main Office (St. Paul).

Join gardeners from across the Twin Cities for the 9th Annual Community Garden Spring Resource Fair and get connected to the resources to make your growing season a success, March 9, noon-5 p.m., Metropolitan State University (St. Paul). 

Thank you for reading Living Green 365. This newsletter is a publication of the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency. Please send questions or comments about living green to the address below.


Britt Gangeness and the Living Green Team