Stock Image: Dog Cute

One of the Philadelphia Water Department’s (PWD) most beloved traditions is returning after a 2020 pause: the annual Spokesdog competition is back, once again featuring adorable adoptable dogs from Philadelphia shelters.

The newest Spokesdog will help city residents understand how important it is to scoop the poop. When not properly picked up, rain and melting snow can wash dog waste into storm drains and local waterways, including the Delaware and Schuylkill Rivers.

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

“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. We are trying to make a pretty gross topic a little more fun by asking you to help us pick the next Philly water Spokesdog and spread the word: just like human waste, dog waste is pollution!”

Each year, a winning Spokesdog is fitted with a special blue cape to match their sidekick, Philadelphia’s Water Woman. After the Spokesdog is crowned, they work to spread the important message (online and off) that pet waste ispollution.

In 2019, Dolphina, a five-year-old pit rescue from Morris Animal Refuge, won the coveted Spokesdog title—and found her way into a loving new home—after racking up the biggest online fan base.

The effort takes aim at a common misconception: many people wrongly believe that dog waste is “natural” and will help plants if left behind in parks or along trails. In fact, pet waste is one the most common urban water pollution sources — and picking up doggy doo is one of simplest ways people can help protect water.

How to Spokesdog  

The Partnership for the Delaware Estuary is spearheading the outreach with PWD, and 2021 Spokesdog shelter partners are Morris Animal RefugePhilly PAWS, and the Pennsylvania SPCA.

All three shelters will have dogs competing for Dolphina’s blue cape and the title of Philadelphia Water Department Spokesdog for 2021.

The most popular aspect of the campaign involves the participation: the people of Philadelphia get to decide the next Spokesdog by hunting through photos of adoptable dogs and picking their favorite.  

Between April 30 and May 26, city residents can go to @DelawareEstuaryand @PhillyH2O on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter to cast votes by “liking” their choice for the 2021 Spokesdog. Votes across platforms will be tallied and the winner will be named on May 28.

Show off Your Scoop Skills with #SpokesdogPHL

Dog owners are also encouraged to show off good behavior by using the #SpokesdogPHL hashtag and and posting video or photos of proper cleanup. Pet waste resources and information about the impact animal waste can have on watersheds can be found on a special PWD pet waste “poo-llution” page, phillyh2o.info/pet-waste

Dog waste is a significant source of urban water pollution. Even small amounts contain enough pathogens and other waste to impact aquatic ecosystems and make people and animals sick.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) says that keeping dog waste out of storm drains is an effective way of improving urban runoff water quality. One study popular study found that just 2-3 days of droppings from 100 dogs can contribute enough bacteria, nitrogen, and phosphorus to temporarily close a bay to swimming and shellfishing.

For more information, check out the Philadelphia Water Department’s pollution resources at phillyh2o.info/pet-waste or go to https://www.delawareestuary.org/manage-dog-waste/

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