Research

The following information can be useful in making a case for pet waste transformation in your community. You can refer to them when considering a project, applying for grants or advocating for public funding, and policy or regulation changes.

Few large, well-designed, science-based studies with definitive answers are available for individuals and communities that want to repurpose pet waste.

20 August 2022
Comprehensive management of dog faeces: Composting versus anaerobic digestion
Different experiments have been carried out: i) two laboratory/pilot scale experiments (self-heating and composting tests) and one, on a commercial scale; ii) two AD experiments. Journal of Environmental Management, November 2019

12 August 2022
Pathogen Die Off in Vermicomposting Process
This study concluded that vermicomposting human faecal matter is an effective method of pathogen reduction and the resulting compost is of good consistency and texture and can be safely used in the garden as soil amendment. Bajsa O*., Nair J., Mathew K. & Ho G.E.,  Environmental Technology Centre, Institute for Environmental Science, Murdoch University, WA 6150

Dealing with municipal dog waste

The City of Surrey (B.C. Canada) commissioned a Dog Off Leash Area Strategy that features dog waste management solutions 

Comparative Analysis of Dog Waste Processing Methods for Metro Vancouver, B.C. (August 2018) is an in-depth study of various municipal dog waste treatment options that have spun off Vancouver’s successful program. The survey considers the pros and cons of anaerobic digestion (AD), composting, and AD followed by composting.

A Pacific Shellfish Institute feasibility study, Anaerobic Digestion and Other Alternatives for Dog Waste Management and Education in Thurston County, provides an overview of current academic, governmental and commercial efforts to divert dog waste from landfills.

A 2006 City of Toronto (ONT Canada) waste audit, the city found that dog waste is the largest litter stream by weight in its parks 

Anaerobic Digestion and Other Alternatives for Dog Waste Management and Education in Thurston County (WA USA) reviews four case studies of anaerobic experiments for dog waste in the U.S. and abroad 

Volunteers at Notre-Dame-de-Grace Dog Run in Montreal (QB Canada) successfully composted dog waste on-site for five years, a program documented in a Concordia University study Design, Testing and Implementation of a Large-Scale Urban Dog Waste Composting Program.

Details on Canadian composting, biodigestion and water treatment, along the communities using them, included in a 2019 Pet Waste Recycling report prepared for the Halifax Environment and Sustainability Standing Committee

Dog Waste Diversion Options prepared for the City of Fort Collins by Abigail Zlotnick, case studies of pros and cons of various community options.

– An early plan to solve the City of Ottawa’s dog waste problems – POOP, SCOOP AND COMPOST, Proposal to Explore the Feasibility of Composting Dog Waste in Public Parks, “A Doo-Able Project” – was prepared by Lyn Taylor, Director, National Capital Coalition for People and Dogs, September 16, 2004.

How to compost dog waste

Composting Dog Waste is a USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service and  Fairbanks Soil and Water District (AK USA) study providing detailed instructions for on-site dog waste composting at sled dog kennels. 

Composting vs. biodigestion

Comprehensive management of dog faeces: Composting versus anaerobic digestion
Different experiments have been carried out: i) two laboratory/pilot scale experiments (self-heating and composting tests) and one, on a commercial scale; ii) two AD experiments. Journal of Environmental Management, November 2019

Vermicomposting

Got Cats? Get Worms! – a methodical two-year study using vermicomposting to transform cat waste. In addition to viability, the study covered the effects feline anti-parasitic medications on worm health and bacteria level of the resulting compost. (Sidebar: As of September 2021 the jury is still out on the effect of specific pet meds and their doses on vermicomposting worms.)

Pathogen Die Off in Vermicomposting Process

This study concluded that vermicomposting human faecal matter is an effective method of pathogen reduction and the resulting compost is of good consistency and texture and can be safely used in the garden as soil amendment. Bajsa O*., Nair J., Mathew K. & Ho G.E.,  Environmental Technology Centre, Institute for Environmental Science, Murdoch University, WA 6150

Composting for Animal Shelters and Kennels

Instructions cover composting basics, pathogens, regulations and ordinances, designing a system, proper mixture and maintenance, Composting for Animal Shelters and Kennels, Matthew Stevens, 2001

Are current pet waste composting programs working?

Cat Litter and Dog Feces: Compost or Waste? is an R&D project prepared for the City of Halifax (NS Canada) and funded by the Nova Scotia Resource Recovery Fund Board. Author Jason Hofman, Ph.D reports that Canadian regions and facilities that compost cat litter and dog waste appear to “have no issues related to this and can serve as examples for those that do not.”

Pathogen Die Off in Vermicomposting Process studied human fecal samples spiked with pathogens. The material was vermicomposted over a period of nine months. Pathogen levels declined steadily and were sufficiently reduced by the fourth month to the quality of class A or B composts. Report by Bajsa O*., Nair J., Mathew K. & Ho G.E., 2004

Biogas potential

“Dog waste can be combined with other plant and animal wastes to enhance its viability for biogas production. It is in no way an inhibitor.”  Comparative Study of the Potential of Dog Waste for Biogas Production, E.C. Okoroigwe, CC.N. Ibeto, and G. Okpara, University of Nigeria 

Environmental hazards of abandoned dog waste

Bacteria from fecal material—particularly, dog waste—may constitute the dominant source of airborne bacteria in (urban) wintertime air. Sources of Bacteria in Outdoor Air across Cities in the Midwestern United States, Robert M. Bowers, Amy P. Sullivan, Elizabeth K. Costello, Jeff L. Collett Jr., Rob Knight, Noah Fierer, 2011

“While dog waste has been identified as a significant factor contributing to bacteria and nutrient loading within receiving waters…the impact…on urban fish populations has never been directly investigated.” Exposure to a common urban pollutant affects the survival and swimming behaviour of creek chub (Semotilus atromaculatus)Christopher M. Bunt, Bailey Jacobson, 2021

Dog waste N and P fertilization rates substantia and may  considerably influence biodiversity, ecosystem functioning and restoration outcomes. Nutrient fertilization by dogs in peri-urban ecosystems, Pieter De Frenne, Mathias Cougnon, Geert P. J. Janssens, Pieter Vangansbeke, 2022

Research  – what else?

What we need to know – so many questions that research can answer.

  • Is there a way to quickly eliminate pet waste pathogens without heat or other slow biological processes?
  • How do we assure consumers that finished compost containing pet waste is safe and productive?
  • Do communities that transform pet waste improve pick-up rate?
  • Does finished pet waste compost have unique benefits for specific plants?
  • Does vermicomposting pet waste result in a safe finished product?
  • Does biodigestion alone result in a safe finished product or should the digestate be composted as a second step?
  • Can we develop an accurate home pathogen testing kit for do-it-yourself pet waste compost?
  • Does pet waste disposal affect water treatment plant outcomes?
  • How do we assure commercial composters that pet waste can be safely and efficiently processed with other organics?
  • How does the amount of pet waste compare to other waste streams? How do we conduct an authoritative audit?
  • What will it take to get all government agencies to recognize pet waste as a waste stream requiring practical solutions, 2004?

Dog Owners Dog Waste Survey
Survey results of Australian dog owners’ awareness, knowledge, attitudes and behaviours regarding dog waste. Responses were collated from 1559 dog owners representing 2,663 dogs in December 2019 and May 2020. 

Addressing dog waste bin contamination
A specially designed bin, the Australian made Doggie Dunnie has been trialed in a number of places. This report provides some details of a 12-week dog park trial and a 14-day family beach trial.