The ethics of dropping your dog's poop in a neighbor's garbage can

Euclid Ave dog poop note

The world is currently full of big, important questions. This is not one of them.

That said, we all have to get along with our neighbors (to some extent), and that's especially true in places where we live close together.

We were thinking about that when we recently passed this sign -- with, um, evidence -- tacked to a tree on Euclid Ave in Albany. And it got us wondering about the ethics of dropping a bag of dog poop in a neighbor's garbage can.

In defense of garbage can exclusivity

Dogs are wonderful creatures. But they are creatures, thus they poop. (Everyone does.) And that poop is often stinky, even when bagged. Dropping that packet of poop in a garbage will often make said can smell, especially if the weather's warm. And if it's not your dog, why should you have to put up with that? Picking up poop and dealing with it is like a tax for having a dog -- it's not fair to make someone else pay a portion of that.

This rule is true for a garbage can set out at the curb the night before because, again, poop smells and those bags also somtimes fail if squished.

It's especially true for cans that stand empty along the street after that morning's trash pick-up, because now you're consigning the can owner to hold that poop for an entire week.

Another thing: Garbage cans have limited capacity. Adding something to someone else's can is taking space from them, which in some places is not just inconsiderate but could cost that person a fee. (This is not true in Albany -- which currently has more or less unlimited residential garbage pickup -- but that will almost certainly be changing in the next few years.) And sure, a small bag of dog poop doesn't take up much room, but where do you draw the line?

Also: It's just plain tacky to drop your dog's poop off like that. We all have our own shit to deal with in life, so deal with yours.

In defense of dropping it while it's hot

Dogs are wonderful creatures. They bring joy to many people, and they're often good for neighborhoods because they help bring people together. (Despite the question often being asked, can we not all agree on who's a good boy?) If having dog poop dropped in your garbage can every so often is like having to pay a portion of the dog tax, that's not terribly unfair because we all benefit from having dogs around.

Additionally, the smell of bagged dog poop is not that bad. And, really, there are probably things just as foul smelling (or worse) in your garbage already.

You know what is a real, stinky neighborhood problem? Dog poop that isn't picked up. Being OK with people dropping a bag of poop into a garbage can is another way to encourage people to do the right thing, especially when public garbage cans aren't present.

Also: Come on, a bag of dog poop just doesn't take up that much room.

So, where does that leave us...

We lean toward the no-drop side. If your dog dumped it, you should pick it up and dispose of it properly in your own can or a public receptacle. (And if a public garbage can is already overflowing, you should hold onto the bag until you take it home or find a public can with space.) People shouldn't have to deal with someone else's dog poop.

Maybe there's a case to be made for the odd bag tucked in with the rest of someone's garbage when a can has been set out the night before pick up, just because the possible imposition on someone else will probably be small -- especially if the bag is stuffed into a larger garbage bag (to guard against bag failure or leftovering).

But dropping a bag of poop in someone's empty garbage can so that it will sit there for an entire week until the next pick up... that's a bright-line no-go.

Or, to look at this differently: How would you feel if, while tucking that poop into someone else's garbage can, that person walked outside and saw you? Yeah, that would be awkward in most cases. And there's a reason for that. Because you know you shouldn't be doing it.

+ The ethics of the shoveled parking spot
+ It's winter. Your dog has pooped. What now?


There's only one circumstance where I'll dump dog poo in a neighbors trash can. It's the evening before trash day and it's already out at the curb... and everyone in the neighborhood is asleep so no one will see me "doo" it.

I would never toss a bag of poop into someone's empty trash can, But sometimes, when I am far away from home or a public trash can AND if the cans are out along the street AND the garbage hasn't been picked up yet, I will throw my dog's bag into one. I don't feel great about it and don't do it often, but I also don't enjoy to holding onto a bag of poop for 30 min if I don't have to.

Normally, I would agree with taking it home but I live off Pawling Ave in Troy and there are people who leave their garbage cans on the sidewalk all week. If they aren't going to take their garbage cans off the sidewalk than I think their cans are fair game.

I always bring it home. I have a cotton shoulder bag that carries water, poop bags, banadages for cut paws and a spare leash and collar for rescuing getaway dogs. My dog's poop goes in there until I get home. I don't even leave my dog's poop in public park garbage cans. I feel bad for the workers dumping cans filled with 90% poop bags. Hike it home!

Just like hiking or some parks, take it with you and dispose of it at home.

We have yet to find out what bad neighbor is not picking up after their dog, heck one time someone put their doo bag in our leaf bag. I was going to get gloves to toss it out properly and forgot. the town came by and took the leaves and toss the bag on the yard.

This post is a tremendous public service. Thank you, AoA.

I would like to address a related issue. There is a subset of terrible humans who will leave their dog poo bags in your lawn and leaf bags on the curb. This is exceptionally heinous because it not only leaves a bag of poo in front of your house for an indeterminate period of time (pick-up can be irregular), but if forces someone to actually take it out -- either me or the poor DGS worker who picks up the yard waste because that stuff is not going to the landfill; it gets composted.

This is the rare situation In which everyone would be better off if the dog's owner just left the poo on the ground. Not that that's actually a good solution, mind you. People should just not be terrible humans.

It is totally and completely reasonable to put dog waste in an available trash can, so long as it is not a can under someone's open window during a heat wave.

Neither Albany, nor Troy, nor Schenectady goes overboard on making public trash cans available. You could walk a long, long way in these cities, dog turd in hand, before finding a public trashcan. One that is not already overflowing is even rarer. We could decide as tax payers to fund more services, but the recent budget slugfest in Troy suggests that there are plenty of people out there who do not want to pay for services. Just cut the budget. Cut the services. Which brings me back to your trash can.

I would not leave dog waste on your lawn. Or on your drive way. Or on the sidewalk in front of your house. I would not drop it in your mail box or any other mail box. But dogs are important. They brighten our world. And a trash can is just a trash can.

You're all missing the point. The DGS guys only take the big kitchen/contractor bags out of the trash cans. A small baggie of poop will sit in a trash can FOREVER, or until you actually reach down and take it out and put it in a larger bag. Watch the DGS guys take your trash, they pull the large bags and toss them in, they don't scour the bottom of your can for small items, they just move too fast. Even if the trash hasn't been emptied yet, they're unlikely to make a grab for a small bag of poop/whatever and it will fall to the bottom.

Leaving your poop bag in somebody else's garbage can makes it their problem almost 100% of the time. Your dog's poop is your problem and under no circumstance should become somebody else's problem.

"Or, to look at this differently: How would you feel if, while tucking that poop into someone else's garbage can, that person walked outside and saw you? Yeah, that would be awkward in most cases. And there's a reason for that. Because you know you shouldn't be doing it."

AOA drops the mic.

I am with Dot Beech 100%. As a dedicated picker-upper, often picking up poo from other people's dogs and street trash around the neighborhood, I don't feel one bit bad about tossing it in the first garbage can I see.

On my regular 5 mile running route around Albany, I know where every single public trash can is - there are a total of 7. The density of post boxes is greater. I have been known to toss Jeter's waste in a private can, but only if the can is curbside awaiting pick up. More public trash cans would be welcome.

I rarely put my dog's poop in someone else's garbage can, but if I have to I make sure it's double bagged and tied.

Note: You pay for what you get when it comes to dog waste bags. Spend an extra dollar or two and get the thicker bags that are a bit bigger in size. No one wants errant pup poop in their can, especially if the bag is torn or left open. Not to mention the embarrassment of having to leave the dog park with poopie hand 'cause the cheap bag ripped. Ew.

Here's an epic poo story for you:

A neighbor of the food establishment I owned was observed putting his dog's poo bag in our big outdoor trash can (that we payed to have picked up). When I asked him not to do so, he put it in the small trash can right outside our door. When I explained that was gross & why, and asked why he couldn't literally carry to the poo home, right next door, he started putting all of his poo bags in our front garden (& possibly enlisted others to do so, as there were multiple bags of poo there every morning). We never caught him doing it, however, and this continued for at least 6 months. I wasn't comfortable confronting him about the topic again. We did notify our beat cop, but never got proof of who did it, although suspecting our neighbor didn't seem far-fetched. No happy ending.

Tacking a bag of poo to a tree is littering. Offender should be fined accordingly.

I don't think it's asking much to bring it home & dispose of it. If you don't pass any public trash cans on your walk, chances are you're not going on that long of a walk anyway. There's no need to dump your problem on someone else.

I live downtown and don't think twice about using public trash cans. There's plenty of gross things that go in/around them like cigarette butts or the lingering stench of them, or chicken wing bones and half-eaten takeout containers.

I'm more bothered by the number of people who don't pick up after their dogs and give the rest of us a bad name. As an active kid it wasn't a law (or wasn't enforced) and I stepped in plenty of it, so a little part of me feels slighted to have to scoop it now as an adult. But it really isn't a big deal. I just wish everyone would do it so those high-horse ew-gross dog-haters would have one less thing to be miserable about :)

I don't put poop in neighbors' trash cans, but in my 20s I used to on trash night and in the cans that were left curbside long term. I still don't think this *should* be a problem, but I recognize that it is and do what is polite.

If this is really bothersome to you, though, an angry sign is probably not the most effective answer. This sign has been up for weeks. There's another sign in this yard that points to a video camera in place apparently solely to catch people who let their dog poop in this yard. It's intended for all dog walkers, not just those who don't pick it up. You gotta pick it up, no arguments there, but it's both socially acceptable and completely legal to let your dog poop in someone's yard. Those six feet on either side of your sidewalk? Dogs poop there. All the time. Get over it.

I agree with JB above. In Troy, you are required to bring your cans in on "non-trash pickup days". If you leave yours out all week, consider them public trashcans. If you bring them in, good on you, no one should touch them. If they're out for garbage night on the proper night, it's fair game.

My dog likes to do his business when we get to the park, right by the poo bags (in case you forgot to bring one) and the trashcan, so we never have to think about it. Easy pickup and disposal. Such a good dog.

The thing that kills me is when people bag the poo and leave it on the ground, in the park. I don't understand the logic when the nearest trashcan is one minute or less in any direction.

I think about this every Friday morning while carrying my dog's poo home past the neighbors full trash cans and I always decide that it's not cool. It never seems worth possibly upsetting someone. The only exception I have is my next door neighbors who have 4 dogs and are our close friends. Their garbage is already full of poo.

The worst is putting plastic bags full of poo into a LAWN BAG which happens on my street constantly in the spring, summer and fall. Plastic DOES NOT go in lawn bags.

One of my neighbors confronted the couple who does it and they screamed at her that they work for the City and its fine. So, that's fun.

Another dog poo story.

Last year, I was walking my boyfriend's mother dog and the dog did her business. I bagged it well, but we had company and I didn't want to carry the bag through the entire house to reach the trash can by the garage. So I hung the bag on the shrub by my stoop just long enough to put the dog inside, I was in the front hall for maybe thirty second, but when I came back out to retrieve the bag, it was gone.

A little later, I ran into a neighbor who said she hoped I didn't have anything important in that bag. She said that some guy walking by saw the bag and grabbed it. I told her what was in the bag, she threw up her hands, and said, "Who steals a bag of poop? What's the world coming to?"

I usually put it in a paper bag, set it on fire, ring my neighbor's doorbell and run like hell....


"H" nailed the real issue : DGS pulls the bags out of the cans and throws them into the garbage truck... thus leaving your poop bag behind... now making it the homeowner's problem. Your dog's poop = your problem.

I propose a sticker system: Dog owners who don't mind letting other dog owners use their trash can could put a sticker on the can. Perhaps a cartoon of a doggie doo bag with a big check mark. Dog walkers would see the sticker and know that they can drop off their odorous package without offending anyone.

I suspect that most dog owners would not mind letting other dog owners use their cans -- I certainly would not. It's neighborly to help one another out.

As a former dog owner I always thought: my dog's poop is my responsibility and thus goes in my trashcan (unless I walked by a public trashcan). Really pretty lame to drop it in someone else's.
That being said, (and I think I've commented this before), it is ridiculous that we pick up dog poop (an organic compound that will eventually break down) and put it in a plastic bag (a non-organic compound that will never break down) and throw it away where it will sit in a landfill forever. And yes, I grew up in the days where you had to watch where you walked so you didn't step in some errant dog poop.
The solution? Oh, I don't have one.

I marvel at this: Humans are exceptionally good at coming up with justification for behavior that is in their own self interest.

Putting dog poop in someone else's trash should not be done.

On a slightly unrelated note: now I feel bad for throwing a bag of vomit in someone's garbage on a camping trip. But I would have felt worse leaving it in my Dad's brand new car. Decisions....

If you have to walk a half hour with a bag of dog poop, walk the half hour with the bag of dog poop. Or move to a place where it's not an issue. Or don't have a dog.

These are the responsibilities of dog owners. Don't want them? Don't be a dog owner.

Given the interest in this controversial topic, I sense an opportunity for some local enterprising business person to develop a doggie cloth diaper service.

I'll put it in someone else's can if it's garbage night, but not if they're already collected the trash. That being said, Albany needs more trash cans, as evidenced by the trash left all over the sidewalks at some bus stops (corner of New Scotland and Academy!!). I'll clean up after my dog as it's the responsible thing to do... maybe the humans need to clean up after themselves more often.
And if it's two days after the snowstorm, and you still haven't shoveled your sidewalk, and my dog chooses your lawn, I consider it even.

Herbage men will not throw out small bags of poop. You need to put your pool bag and another bag. Reason people are annoyed because then they have a bag of poop sitting in the garbage can for and who knows how long.

I have to agree with spencer. However offended the poo recipient was he (or she) relinquished any right to complain the minute the pooh was affixed to the unoffending tree.

Unbelievable. Pick up your poop. Carry it home. Put in your own @%&# trash can.

What a valuable article! Thank you! Some very interesting and thoughtful comments...especially the one about lighting the paper bag on fire! One of my Dad's old time stories!

Um.. not everyone thinks dogs bring "joy" to the world... any more than everyone thinks kids are wonderful. If you choose to have a baby, you don't leave the stinky diaper in the bathroom can at a friend's house... you take it home (if you have class). And certainly, if we were out for a long city walk and my toddler had to poop, I never encouraged doing so on someone's lawn, no matter how "emergency" it was!

There are many ways to justify selfish behavior, but this is beyond comprehension: "...completely legal to let your dog poop in someone's yard"!

Regardless, this homeowner doesn't dislike dogs- just their poop. I don't buy your dog food or pay the vet bills, you took that on when you got a dog. And all of the work that goes with being a responsible dog owner.

Having to mow the lawn in washable crocks vs. good sturdy shoes is unacceptable. Virtually every time I mow I am stepping in the stuff left behind. Why should I have to ruin good shoes?

The camera and signs (by the way, there is now a 24/7 recorder, and the camera is excellent quality) were a necessity due to all of the poop that was left in my yard.

All of my immediate neighbors with dogs are considerate and responsible, and shocked themselves at this tasteless lack of etiquette. It is the longer walkers- visitors to the street- who are behaving this way, and not just on my lawn. It is just plain nasty.

@Rebecca: "dog poop (an organic compound that will eventually break down)" I don't think that's entirely true though. I mean yes, it will break down, though it can take up to a year, but this is not cow manure -- its content is very acidic and will have a negative impact on its surrounding, be it plants, flowers, etc. Unless it's composted properly?

I'm going to add a data point, now that I've moved to Denver. There are *far* fewer public garbage cans to be found here (Uptown). I've even seen signs next to garbage cans at bus stations discouraging people from dropping poop bags there. This left me scratching my head for a while. From what I've been told, it is A-OK to put your poop bag in private cans. The important difference here is that they live outside, 24/7. You can find them neatly aligned, any day of the week, in the many many back alleys.


I just searched far and wide for a city rule that states that I can't my dog poop in someone's front yard (and pick it up right after). I did find a city ordinance which states that dogs can't "Be within 25 feet of a playground or any area containing playground equipment," but nothing about dog poop. I also found this, in NY State Law: "in cities with a population of four hundred thousand or more persons and in the cities of Yonkers and Albany, it shall be the duty of each dog owner or person having possession, custody or control of a dog to remove any feces left by his or her dog on any sidewalk, gutter, street or other public area." In other words, if your dog poops, you gotta pick it up. The presence of this law says to me that there's nothing wrong with the poop, just the owners who don't clean it up.

I stand by my original statement: "You gotta pick it up, no arguments there, but it's both socially acceptable and completely legal to let your dog poop in someone's yard. Those six feet on either side of your sidewalk? Dogs poop there. All the time. Get over it."

Don't pick apples from your neighbors' trees without permission.

Don't put your dog poo in your neighbors' trash cans ever.

Side note - just because my trash can is put away in my stairwell doesn't mean you can throw your actual garbage down my stairwell, poo or no poo.

Why are people so rude??

I don't mind people dumping dog poop in the my trash can after all, trash is trash; it's going to smell either way. However, I mind when people do not pick up after their dogs.

Doesn't surprise me that dog owners have to be told what is and what is not polite. I'm sure a decent number of people with dogs actually do take care of their animals at all times and are responsible for their pets every step of the way, but in my experience most are just inconsiderate or lazy or both. Pick up after your animal, take it home, and dispose of it properly. The fact that this is something that needs to be said tells me something is seriously wrong with people.

This is the sign I put on my city provided, 4 foot deep trashcan that can only be accessed at the bottom my either diving into head first or pouring out the disgusting, water soaked contents, then plucking the solids out of the liquids:

Dear Doggers, I love your dogs, but I do not love their poop. If it is hot, the bags of poop stick to the bottom of the trash can, until it rains. Then the poopy slurry becomes my job to separate and clean. Please be a good neighbor and take your doggie's poop home. I know you are doing a good deed by picking it up, but I do not want to the the other half of the deed by cleaning up the mess left behind. Thank you.

I think it's fairly obvious it is wrong to put dog feces in someone else's garbage, but I think dog owners slowly delude themselves into thinking it's OK because no one wants to walk around with a bag of warm poo (understandable). Eventually they just can't see how wrong they are. So is there a point in explaining?

Most fundamentally, it's someone else's garbage can, not yours. I don't park in my neighbors driveway, right?... Furthermore, dog poo smells MUCH worse than household garbage, poop does NOT just blend in with the rest of the trash.

There are also other factors that conveniently get ignored - every day after pickup, I have to rinse the garbage and compost bins, and I often find leaking plastic bags full of dog poop at the bottom my compost bin, so I have to fish these out.

Also, where I live we get a tiny 16 gallon garbage can for 7 adults (the city is going for zero-waste), so we don't even have enough space for our own garbage, let alone others' garbage.

The problem is that in order for trash to get picked up, people are forced to put their private garbage cans in a public space, and poop droppers take advantage of this vulnerability, and rationalize the bad behavior away.

(BTW, the argument that it's OK 'because dogs make the world a better place' reflects a limited and selfish perspective. Not everyone likes dogs and some people are terrified of them.)

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