Wedding of your Dreams

Tips to Protect and Preserve the Places We Love – Wedding of your Dreams

Pets and parks go together like peanut butter and jelly – it’s a natural fit. We can all appreciate a fun adventure with fur children, but there are important steps we need to take collectively to protect and preserve parks (for all future barks). As visitation skyrockets in Delaware State Parks, we’ve sniffed out some unhelpful trends that are making park visits a little less enjoyable. Check out the info below to learn more about being a Doggy Doo-Gooder in parks!

Two park users hike on a paved trail on a rainy winter day, laughing to themselves. Their black and white mid-sized herding dog is walking on a leash in the center of the photo, alert to movement off of the trail to the right.

Know Where Your Dog Can Roam

Whether you’re in Delaware State Parks or another natural area in your neighborhood, be sure to know and follow guidelines for the space. Some areas have seasonal restrictions on open areas to protect wildlife or special rules to follow while visiting. These rules aren’t there to annoy you – they’re developed intentionally to welcome your pet into a space in a way that’s safe for you, other visitors and the greater ecosystem.

You can find our pets in parks guidelines here.

A person places a bag of dog waste in a bag into a pet waste receptacle along a gravel trail. Her tan, white and brown Staffordshire dog is on a leash and looking into the distance to her left on the trail.

Pack Out Your Pet Waste

On a recent sunny-Saturday hike, the author of this blog picked up 19 bags of poop on a single trail in White Clay Creek State Park (!!!). We get it – objectively one of the worst parts of having a pet is poop. It stinks, is generally icky, and happens at the most inopportune times (like 15 feet into a 3-mile hike). You may be tempted to leave it where it lays or bag it and toss it into the woods. But leaving waste behind is simply not an option when you know its impacts – below, we’re busting a few common misconceptions about your pet’s poop.

Misconception #1 : Pet waste bags are biodegradable, so I can leave them.

There are thousands of options for pet owners when it comes to purchasing pet waste bags. They’re labeled organic, compostable, biodegradable, scented; they have pretty designs or fancy dispensers. But bags which claim to break down in nature don’t – they are tested and designed for commercial composting or waste facilities with very specific conditions. When we toss them on the side of a trail, they don’t break down – they break apart, are buried or carried off by wildlife. For months and years to come, those bags become the problem of other park visitors, park staff and the park’s ecosystem.

Misconception #2 : Pet poop is natural and will just break down.

Why can a fox poop in the woods, but your pet can’t? Simple: a fox eats food from the woods, lives in the woods and its’ excrement breaks down to be part of a closed-loop cycle (nothing new in, nothing new out). Your pet eats processed foods nutritionally designed to support their domestic life and receives medications or treatments that don’t occur in the wild. When your pet’s waste is left in nature, it adds something new to the cycle which nature doesn’t have a way to process. Pet poop adds extra phosphorous and nitrogen which cause algae blooms in water and provide perfect fertilizer for overgrowth of weeds and invasive species. The bacteria and parasites your pet carries in their gut don’t occur in the wild either, and can be passed on to wildlife who are exposed to their poop. Does the waste itself break down in the wild? Sure, after a long while – but it does a lot of damage along the way.

Instead, bag & take your pet waste along with you to toss in your garbage – or use trash receptacles available near trails where available.

A charcoal and white mixed breed, short haired dog trots along a gravel path on a leash. The dog's tongue is out and ears are flopping with the motion. To the right, the legs/sneakers of a handler are visible.

Be Conscientious of Other Trail Users

Our trails are multi-use, meaning they’re designed for lots of different types of activities. While enjoying them with your pet, be mindful of other people using the trail. Keep your dog under your control on a maximum 6-foot leash at all times. Every season, we see countless injuries from unsuspecting trail users tripping over or being knocked off a bike by pet leashes extending across a trail. It’s totally fair to indulge your pet’s need for sniffs and explorations – just stay alert to other users in the area and respect their space.

And remember: just because a dog is friendly does not mean interactions are always welcomed by other pets or people – give space and get consent before letting your dog interact with others while out and about.

It’s our collective doo-dy to take care of natural spaces! Next time you’re out in parks with your Furry Best Friend, remember these tips and encourage others to be Doggy Doo-Gooders, too.

This article is part of the Parks Better series, designed to help park visitors understand how to be good stewards of the parks we love. Check out other articles in this series, here.

Special thank you to Brandywine Valley SPCA for sharing their joyful pups and skilled handlers with us for a photoshoot showing other how to be the best doggy-doo-gooders around! Check out the great work the organization is doing in Delaware and beyond at their website.

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