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May 02, 2021

Philadelphia Water Department looking for adoptable dog to help combat urban pollution

Residents can vote through May 26 on which shelter pup should be the 'spokesdog' for the city utility's public awareness campaign

Environment Pollution
Philadelphia Water Department dogs Source/Delaware Estuary

Dolphina, a five-year-old pitbull mix from Morris Animal Refuge in Philly, was the winner of the 2019 'spokesdog' competition.

The Philadelphia Water Department, alongside the Partnership for the Delaware Estuary, is asking for the public's help in selecting a "spokesdog" for its annual initiative urging dog owners to clean up after their pets.

The 2021 competition features adoptable dogs from three local shelters: Morris Animal Refuge, Philly PAWS and the Pennsylvania SPCA.

The winning pooch will don a special blue cape and be tasked with helping both organizations combat bad pet waste habits across Philly. The "spokesdog" will also help educate residents on the importance of cleaning up after their dog and that pet waste is a major contributor to urban water pollution.

The public awareness campaign specifically takes aim at the notion that pet waste is natural and can help plants if left behind in parks or along trails. When not properly cleaned, rain and melting snow can send dog waste into storm drains and waterways such as the Delaware and Schuylkill Rivers, according to the Water Department.

“After a year of staying at home, there’s been a huge surge in new dog owners," Philadelphia Water Department Commissioner and CEO Randy Hayman said. "We want these new pandemic-pup walkers — and anyone walking a dog — to dispose of pet waste the right way."

“Dog waste should always be picked up. It is bad for people and bad for the environment when not thrown out, and you can face hefty fines," Hayman continued. 

Voting for this year's adoptable dog began Friday and will run through May 26. The public can participate by visiting the Philadelphia Water Department and the Delaware Estuary's social media accounts and liking the photos of their favorite dogs. The winner will be unveiled May 28.

Dog owners are also encouraged to post videos or photos on social media demonstrating proper cleanup with the #SpokesdogPHL hashtag.

Dog waste contains enough bacteria and pathogens to impact aquatic ecosystems and make both people and animals sick, according to the Water Department. A study cited by the Water Department found that just 2-3 days of waste from 100 dogs can contribute enough bacteria, nitrogen and phosphorus to temporarily close a bay to swimming and shellfishing.

But keeping dog waste out of storm drains can be an effective way of improving urban runoff water quality, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency said.

More information on the impact of dog waste on urban water pollution can be found on the Philadelphia Water Department's website.

The annual competition was not held last year due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The most recent "spokesdog" selected was a five-year-old pitbull mix named Dolphina from Morris Animal Refuge in 2019.

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