How Pet Owner Actions Influence the Environment

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by Michel Selmer, DVM, CVA

Pets are turning into an irreplaceable feature in our culture. They enrich our lives in so many pugways. They provide us with companionship, protection, improve health, reduce stress, are a source of entertainment at times, and even give us a reason to get out and meet other people. However, dogs, cats, rabbits, reptiles, birds and many other wonderful household pets all create one common problem for their owners—what to do to keep the home and environment clean.

It is interesting to note that environmental concerns targeted at protecting the planet for the future well-being of humans, impact pets as well.

Although pets will cause greenhouse effect regardless of who owns them, responsible pet owners can reduce and manage how much detriment their beloved best friends inflict on the world around them through these steps:

Dispose of feces properly.

Picking up and disposing of pet feces properly prevents pollution of air, rivers, streams and other water sources. Some pets’ feces can be composted along with food waste for garden fertilization. Even the most conscientious poop-scooping dog owners might be picking up their dogs’ feces with a plastic bag, creating serious problems as the degradable poop is sealed inside a non-degradable bag that will spend something close to eternity in the landfill along with a couple million tons of similarly enshrouded cat litter. Therefore, use eco-friendly bags for pick up and disposal of waste.

While dog feces can be safely disposed of in the toilet, used cat litter should never be flushed. Modern waste treatment doesn’t kill a pesky organism known as toxoplasma gondii. When water containing this parasite enters the ocean, it sickens and kills sea otter populations. Toxoplasma also causes disease in humans, especially the immune-compromised and those that are pregnant.

Guided disposal of drugs, shampoos and chemicals.

People rarely dispose properly of their own unused medications and garden pesticides, and this is no less a problem when it comes to drugs and chemicals used for pets. Unwanted residues are known as “emerging pollutants of concern” or “microconstituents.” When they enter the environment, even at very low levels, they help contribute to the development of drug-resistant bacteria; affect the central nervous systems of animals exposed to them; contaminate ground and surface water; and harm aquatic life, such as fish and frogs.

Spay or neuter pets.

Spaying or neutering pets is one of the easiest and most effective ways to prevent further overpopulation.

  • Vaccinate pets to protect them from disease or make sure they have been titered. 

Proper and preventive vaccination of pets can protect them from different forms of diseases and help prevent them from infecting others.

Pet owners that are more aware and conscientious not only love and nurture their pets but also take responsibility for keeping a low carbon “pawprint” so that humans as well as their furry, feathery and finned companions can enjoy the Earth we all live on.

Dr. Michel Selmer is a Certified Veterinary Acupuncturist and is currently pursuing a master’s degree to become a master practitioner of Traditional Chinese Veterinary Medicine. His practice, Advanced Animal Care Center, is located at 260 Evergreen Ave., South Huntington. For more information or to make an appointment, call 631-FOR-PETS (367-7387) or visit

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