Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Pet waste in public spaces a concern for Pincher Creek Recreation Advisory Committee

Toni Lucas - Pincher Creek Veterinary Clinic Veterinarian Kari Grandoni appeared as a delegation before Town council during the regular meeting of Monday December 12 to discuss the dangers of pet waste. Dr. Grandoni was speaking on behalf of the Pincher Creek Recreation Advisory Committee.

The concern presented was the presence of dogs on sporting fields, school grounds, playground areas and parks, and the health risks of the waste they leave behind, as the wastes can contain parasites. "Due to the risk of zoonotic disease, which means transfer to human or actually human to animal. It goes both ways," said Grandoni.  The goal of the Recreational Committee was explained as "What we hope to eventually achieve with this is to have a bylaw passed actually banning dogs from said fields, with the ultimate goal of establishing an off leash park near Pincher Creek."

Grandoni advocated for an off leash area.  "Not only to preserve the benefits to humans, and what pet owners get from exercise, but to recognize they do play a role in socialization, and great benefit to the community." She laid out the concerns and dangers of parasites being transmitted to humans including certain tapeworms, hookworms, and roundworms. The symptoms of parasites range in severity from almost no symptoms in certain stages of their life cycle, to rashes, blindness, organ shutdown, and possible death.

Grandoni explained two of the common ways parasites are transmitted to humans are direct skin penetration through burrowing or skin compromised commonly by cuts or scrapes, and fecal-oral contamination. "Veterinarians such as myself are, however, trained in parasitology and accept the responsibility to safeguard the public against zoonosis, diseases that can be transmitted from animals to people." She said she as a veterinarian encourage pet owners to clean up pet waste and get their animals de-wormed regularly.  She voiced her concern that animal waste in the many parks and pathways around town have the potential of carrying eggs, larvae or worms, which then can come into direct contact to the skin, or be carried to the mouth.

Grandoni explained the life cycle of a variety of parasites, and the severity of symptoms each different parasite could play out in the life cycle of a living human host. If a parasite has developed in an animal host and specifically has a target area of that hosts body, the human host does not have the same physiology as an animal host a parasite.  This introduces the possibility of the parasite could instead migrate to other areas on the body when introduced in a human host. This includes but is not limited to the eyes, lungs, kidneys, liver, heart or brain. Another concern is a person does not have to come directly in contact with recognizable fecal material. The ground can become contaminated with eggs as some parasitic eggs can still be viable for a number of years even after the feces itself has weathered away or decomposed into dirt.

One of the many parasites Grandoni discussed was Toxocara canis known as dog roundworm. "All puppies are born with this worm," she explained.  Hookworms are less prevalent, however they are still a concern, according to Grandoni. "They are prolific bloodsuckers, these hookworms." The hookworm eggs do not survive as well in Pincher Creek due to our weather extremes.

Echinnococus multilocularis is a type of tapeworm Grandoni has concerns about as well. "What is interesting to me, living down here in Pincher Creek is that they estimate rural coyotes... is that 40% of them are positive for this worm. So they are actively shedding this into our environment, out of town, and coyotes are everywhere. I am sure they (the coyotes) come into town as well." This tapeworm has a complex lifecycle which also includes a rodent phase before it goes to a final host. "With their life cycle, it is complex, in that you do need that obligatory intermediate host, so there is a mouse involved. But that is how you can bring a human into it. Swap out the rodent for a human, and away it goes." This parasite can destroy an organ it attaches to anywhere in the host body. She said in Europe this type of worm is more prevalent than in Canada, with approximately 150 cases presented yearly which are in an advanced state of health degradation and no longer treatable.

"I think with all of these, the risk is there on our sporting fields. The risk is low, but I think the risk is real. So I think the first step is to try and ban dogs from these fields, and thus reduce the risk."

"I have an interest in keeping Pincher Creek healthy and safe. I think it's a multi tiered approach. I think the bylaw will help, getting information out there," Grandoni said education about the importance of cleaning up pet waste is something that will help as well as an off leash area. "Other places do it, and have done it successfully, so we are not alone."

"Studies show that if you are going to use an off leash dog park, that your pet is de-wormed on a regular basis, you do have a good relationship with a veterinarian... The studies do show that if you are willing to go to the off leash park, you are also willing to go to your veterinary and deworm." She added it is found that in an off leash park area something is more likely to be said to people who do not pick up the dog waste by the other dog owners, as the area has been made specifically for off leash so it becomes a source of community pride by the pet owners. She said in Calgary they also have a 'spring clean up' organized by the park users.

Councillor Lorne Jackson said he recognized risks of having dogs at the public areas such as animal aggression, tripping, or an annoyance of finding dog waste in the recreational areas, but he did not previously recognize the health risks of the waste could be so severe or wide ranging.

Mayor Don Anderberg thanked Grandoni for her presentation and explained the council will discuss her presentation at a later meeting.


  1. Anonymous20/12/16

    I totally agree that there are some very irresponsible dog owners in this town. I always picked up after my dogs. There is usually dog poop beside the poop bag dispenser - how lazy is this? We often have to pick up dog waste from our lawn. There is little use in creating more bylaws if the current ones are not enforced.

  2. Roxane21/12/16

    Agree totally. There is a huge need for a designated off leash area as well as ENFORCEMENT for not cleaning up after your dog & dogs running at large. There is also a need to review existing by-laws & actually do some serious enforcement.


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