Conservationists say dog waste harms Lake Tahoe’s clarity
May 6, 2005
Once covered in feet of snow, an entire winter’s worth of abandoned dog waste is emerging along Lake Tahoe’s trails, parks and sidewalks. The piles not only leave an obstacle course for other pedestrians, but conservationists claim the excrement harms the lake and spreads disease.
Last year, a lake-wide volunteer cleanup day retrieved 65 pounds of dog droppings at Cove East alone. Dogs often relieve themselves at or near the beginning of a trailhead, within 50 feet of where “mutt mitts” – plastic bags shaped specifically for cleaning up dog waste – are often provided.
“A lot of folks have that attitude of being in the mountains and that you can do what you want. It takes some help for them to understand there are other people and their usage affects those other people,” said Rick Robinson, California Tahoe Conservancy’s resource manager.
Community awareness, however, is getting better, he said.
South Lake Tahoe city code says dogs may not defecate in a public place or while trespassing on private property, but a citation will not be issued if the owner immediately picks it up.
Douglas and El Dorado counties do not have ordinances requiring owners to pick up their pet’s droppings.
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The conservancy uses a flier distributed at trailheads to encourage owners to pick up after their pets. Tahoe’s 15,000 dogs produce 81 metric tons of nitrogen and 17.5 tons of phosphorous each year, the conservancy says. These chemicals are nutrients that can feed algae growth in Lake Tahoe.