Kilcona Park Waste Bag Dispenser Pilot Project Evaluation

Waste Bag Evaluation Report



Kilcona Park Dog Club Inc.

Waste Bag Dispenser Pilot Project


Environmental and Public Health Issues

Unclaimed dog waste is a serious environmental and public health issue. In 1991, it was labeled a nonpoint source (NPS) pollutant by the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), placing it in the same category as herbicides and insecticides; oil, grease, and toxic chemicals; and acid drainage from abandoned mines.[i]

NPS pollution from land runoff is a leading cause of water quality problems. Land runoff picks up and carries contaminants, depositing them into wetlands, ground water, ponds, rivers and lakes.[ii]

It is estimated that a single gram of dog waste contains approximately 23 million fecal coliform bacteria, which are known to cause include stomach cramps, bloody diarrhea, vomiting and occasionally, fever. The bacteria can also cause infections of the urinary tract, skin and mucous membranes, pneumonia and other respiratory illnesses, and can even lead to death in humans and animals.

Dog feces are one of the most common carriers of other diseases: parvovirus, coronavirus, giardiasis, salmonellosis, cryptosporidiosis, campylobacteriosis, and parasites like hookworms, roundworms, and tapeworms.

The EPA estimates that two or three days’ worth of droppings from a population of about 100 dogs would contribute enough bacteria to temporarily close all watershed areas within 20 miles to swimming and shell fishing.


Pilot Project


In December 2015 Kilcona Park’s official park steward undertook a pilot project to reduce the amount of unclaimed dog waste. Kilcona Park Dog Club Inc. (KPDC) installed bag dispensers, making Kilcona the first park in Winnipeg to provide free waste bags to dog owners visiting the park.


Although Winnipeg’s Responsible Pet Ownership By-law requires dog owners to pick up dog feces everywhere except on an owner’s private property, the law is largely unenforced and often disregarded. Before bag dispensers were installed Kilcona Park had a reputation for being the dirtiest dog park in Winnipeg.

Bag dispensers were installed to address the following issues.

  1. Complaints from responsible dog owners and other park users about excessive amounts of unclaimed dog feces at Kilcona Park was the impetus for the pilot project.

  2. Reports from local veterinarians that dogs exposed to Kilcona’s retention pond water, either by swimming in it or drinking it, were developing serious diseases. Independent testing of the pond water by ASL Environmental confirmed the presence of alarmingly high levels of E. coli bacteria.

Pilot Project – Strategies

KPDC employed three strategies to reduce the amount of unclaimed dog waste:

  1. providing greater access to waste bags throughout the park

  2. launching a public awareness campaign about the health impacts associated with unclaimed dog waste

  3. stepping up a community-building campaign and encouraging dog owners to become more responsible through civic peer pressure.


The one-year pilot project to measure the impact of the bag dispensers ran from December 24, 2015 to December 31, 2016.

Cost, Funding and Logistical Support

The total cost of the year-long project was $6147.57, including dispensers, signs, hardware, installation and bags.

The project was funded by Royal LePage Prime Real Estate, Kilcona Park Dog Club, and City Councillors Russ Wyatt, Jeff Browaty and Jason Schreyer through a City of Winnipeg Land Dedication Reserve Fund grant.

The project could not have been undertaken without the support of Kilcona Park staff who monitored the bag dispensers, kept them filled with waste bags, and notified KPDC when supplies were running low.

Documentation and Evaluation

This report documents the pilot project and evaluates its efficacy. The report is also intended to be a practical “how-to” guide for other stewardship groups and community organizations that may be considering waste bag dispensers as a partial solution to the universal problem of unclaimed dog feces in public spaces.



Kilcona Park

Kilcona Park is in the north-east corner of Winnipeg. At 441 acres, it is the largest of the city’s eight regional parks. Much of the park lies on top of a decommissioned landfill that was capped in 1987. With large expanses of short and tall grass prairie, marshes, and aspen forest; the park has a rustic, rural quality. Kilcona’s retention ponds support a significant population of resident and migrating waterfowl. The park is home to coyotes, deer, hare, beaver, muskrat, songbirds and other wildlife.

Kilcona Park’s off-leash area is one of the original dog parks that the City designated in 1998. At 121 acres, it is the largest of Winnipeg’s nine dog parks.

Figure 1 – Kilcona Park trail before de-vegetation 2007

The Issues

Unclaimed Dog Feces

Kilcona’s off-leash area is a popular spot. The park attracts dog owners from Winnipeg and the surrounding capital region year-round. In recent years, use of the off-leash area has increased exponentially, leading to complaints from responsible dog owners and other park users about excessive amounts of unclaimed dog feces. By December 2015, when the bag dispensers were installed, Kilcona had developed the reputation for being the dirtiest dog park in Winnipeg.

Figure 2 – 2014 Kilcona Spring clean-up


Carrying Capacity, Erosion and Pond Water Contamination

The increase in traffic, combined with poor drainage, prolonged wet periods, and inappropriate trail maintenance practices have resulted in the de-vegetation and erosion of off-leash trails and the heavily-use dog play area. Trail damage was exacerbated during the winter of 2009-10 when a large front-end loader was used to clear snow from the trails. Stripped of vegetation, the trails and play area are alternately dust bowls and seas of mud, depending on the season and the weather.

Figure 3 – Kilcona Dog Park trail after de-vegetation 2011

During the spring thaw, off-leash trails are virtually impassable as streams of feces-laden meltwater flow down the hills, washing out whole sections of the trail network, before emptying into the retention ponds. As the ice melts on the winter pond trails, months’ worth of unclaimed dog feces sinks below the surface.

The City of Winnipeg believes that dog and wildlife feces are the most likely sources of coliform bacteria in Kilcona’s ponds (Chris Kozak, personal communication, March 12, 2013).[iii]

Although this has not been proven, the assumption is not unreasonable. Large urban dog parks like Kilcona have large concentrations of dogs. In other jurisdictions dogs have been found to contribute to unnaturally high levels of bacteria in waterways. [iv]Research into antibiotic resistance in bacterial pathogens (disease causing organisms), microbial communities in the gastrointestinal tract, and multi-drug resistance of E. coli and Salmonella in humans and animals identifies a range of possible sources of E. coli contamination in water bodies. They include human waste, bird droppings, agricultural run-off, and naturally occurring E. coli present in the soil. [v]

Coliform Bacteria

The most basic test for bacterial contamination of a water supply is the test for total coliforms. Total coliforms include bacteria that are found in the soil, in water that has been influenced by surface water, and in human or animal waste. Total coliform counts give a general indication of the sanitary condition of a water supply.

It is not practical to test for pathogens in every water sample collected. Instead, the presence of pathogens is determined with indirect evidence by testing for an “indicator organism”.

Fecal coliform bacteria exist in the intestines of warm-blooded animals and humans. The presence of fecal coliforms in water indicates that the water is contaminated with fecal waste that may contain harmful pathogens. Because the origins of fecal coliforms are more specific than the origins of the more general total coliform group of bacteria, fecal coliforms are considered a more accurate indicator of the presence of animal or human waste.

Escherichia coli (E. coli) bacteria comprise most of the fecal coliform in fecal material. One gram of dog faeces contains over 20 million E. coli bacteria, ten times as much as a gram of cow faeces. An average-size dog dropping contains 3 billion fecal coliform bacteria, much higher than most other animals.

  1. coli can survive outside the body. The cells can live in pond water for weeks. Consequently, E. coli is the species of coliform bacteria that is the best indicator of fecal pollution. Its presence in ponds indicates that the water is contaminated with fecal waste that may contain harmful pathogens, including bacteria, viruses, and/or parasites.

While most strains of E. coli are harmless some, like the serotype E. coli 0157:H7, can cause serious illness. Infection symptoms and signs include bloody diarrhea, stomach cramps, vomiting and occasionally, fever. The bacteria can also cause infections of the urinary tract, skin and mucous membranes, pneumonia and other respiratory illnesses, and can even lead to death.[vi]

In the interest of public health, Health Canada has established standards for safe limits of total coliforms and E. coli in drinking water and in recreational water. To protect domestic animals, Agriculture Canada has established drinking water guidelines for livestock. Measurements are expressed in “colony forming units per 100 millilitres” (CFU/100ml) of water sampled. (One hundred ml is equal to 3.4 ounces.)

Health Canada directs that when total coliforms or E. coli are present at any level, the water is not safe for human consumption.[vii] Health Canada’s safe limit for primary contact water recreation activities like swimming, surfing, waterskiing, white water canoeing/rafting/kayaking, windsurfing or subsurface diving is 200 CFU/100ml. The safe limit for secondary contact water recreation activities like rowing, sailing, canoe touring, or fishing is 1000 CFU/100 ml.[viii] Agriculture Canada’s guideline for the fecal coliform limit for livestock drinking water is 100 CFU/100 ml.[ix]

Kilcona Park Retention Ponds Water Quality Analysis

In September 2014 Kilcona Park Dog Club contracted ALS Environmental to test Kilcona pond water samples for total coliforms and E. coli. Levels exceeded all government guidelines. At Kilcona’s popular “Dog Launch” on the south canal, the level was 4600 CFU/100 ml, more than 23 times Health Canada’s recommended safe limit for primary contact, more than 4 times the limit for secondary contact, and 46 times Agriculture Canada’s recommended safe limit for livestock.

A second analysis in 2015 indicated total coliform and E. coli levels in the ponds remained alarmingly high.

Health Risk to Dogs

In recent years veterinarians in Kilcona’s catchment area have reported that many dogs have developed gastrointestinal, urinary tract, skin and eye diseases after swimming in or drinking retention pond water.

In response to these reports and the 2014 ALS Environmental’ s pond water test results, Kilcona Park Dog Club’s Board launched a public awareness campaign warning dog owner about high levels of E. coli and associated health risks. The Board also renewed its demand that the City of Winnipeg mitigate the risk to dogs by posting water quality warning signs around the retention ponds.

Figure 4 – Sign warns dog owners to keep pets out of Kilcona’s ponds

KPDC’s research into the possible link between dog feces and E. coli contamination in Kilcona’s ponds persuaded the Board to go one step further. An American study referenced on the website of Mutt Mitts, a manufacturer of waste bag dispensers, claimed that clean-up compliance in 5000 US parks increased by up to 90% when waste bag dispensers were installed.[x]

The claim was supported by the Northern Virginia District Planning Commission (NVPDC), whose staff observed that officially designated dog parks in Arlington and Alexandria were

“…surprisingly free of pet waste. This is especially true in dog parks where fencing, signage, trash cans and pooper scooper bags have been provided as design amenities. Many dog walkers have commented to NVPDC staff, the press and others that these parks foster socialization among neighbors and that positive peer pressure plays a significant role in keeping dog parks free of pet waste. Thus, it is believed that if well-designed and managed dog parks are allowed to proliferate across urban areas, the positive behavior of picking up after pets is likely to spread.

Some groups of dog walkers have organized to informally or formally adopt specific dog parks and keep them clean and well maintained. It follows, therefore, that encouraging greater use of these facilities will improve water quality by reducing fecal coliform loading in the greater watershed.”[xi]

The studies persuaded the Board to purchase and install waste bag dispensers at Kilcona and monitor their impact as part of the club’s Adopt-A-Park stewardship program. The concept was supported by Winnipeg Animal Services COO Leland Gordon and the ward’s City Councillor Jeff Browaty.


Project Costs

All Costs in Canadian Dollars


Number of Units

Per Unit Cost


Mutt Mitt bag dispensers








Poop Fairy signs




Sponsor recognition signs




Anchor Posts








Sub Total










Total Cost


Table 1- Project Costs Including Brokerage Fees and Duties



In 2015 KPDC’s Board and the club’s Platinum Sponsor, Royal LePage Prime Real Estate signed a cost-sharing agreement that would make it easier for all Kilcona dog owners to pick up – those who forget bags, those who simply run out, and those who deliberately flout the law but may comply with pressure from fellow dog owners.

At the same time the Board learned of Jefferson County Colorado Animal Control’s effort to inject some humour into the subject with its light-hearted “Poop Fairy” signs that encourage dog owners to clean up after their pets. Jefferson County Animal Services Manager, Carla Zinati was interested in and supportive of KPDC’s pilot project. The agency provided the original Poop Fairy artwork for Kilcona’s signs.

Figure 5 – Jefferson County, CO “Poop Fairy” sign

In November 2015 KPDC and Royal LePage Prime purchased six waste bag dispensers. With the goal of creating convenient “one-stop waste stations”, the dispensers were installed next to litter baskets and underground waste bins.

Since an element of this project involved changing human behavior, KPDC also launched public education campaign to raise awareness that dog owners who don’t clean up after their pets are contributing to a much larger public health problem.

KPDC installed a Poop Fairy sign at each waste station, and used social, broadcast and print media to inform park users about the pilot project and to encourage all Winnipeg dog owners to comply with the city’s “pooper scooper” by-law.


Kilcona Park Dog Club chose Mutt Mitts dispensers and flat-pack bags, manufactured by Kentucky-based Intelligent Products Inc., for several reasons:

  • Mutt Mitt dispensers are made of heavy gauge weather-resistant aluminum, which are more durable than poly resin or plastic units. Poly resin stations tend to fade, crack and suffer more damage, intentional or unintentional, than aluminum units.

  • Mutt Mitts dispensers have key-locking access doors, resulting in less bag loss than non-locking dispensers.

  • Mutt Mitts large capacity dispensers hold approximately 400 bags.

  • Mutt Mitts waste bag stations have a separate post, dispenser, and waste bin. They provide better value and more flexibility than one-piece valet type units because it’s easier to replace components if necessary. With a one-piece unit there are fewer options.

  • Mutt Mitt bags have proven to be a very sturdy, reliable product; they are used in over 5,000 parks in the United States.

  • The manufacturer, Intelligent Products Inc. advertised Mutt Mitts as biodegradable.

  • At $67.00 per unit, Mutt Mitts dispensers were among the most affordable on the market.

  • Mutt Mitt bags could be purchased directly from the distributor instead of through retail outlets, thereby reducing cost.

  • The manufacturer shipped most bag orders within one day and did not charge a handling fee.

  • An important consideration for sponsorship was that Mutt Mitts can be custom printed to include a variety of design elements such as a sponsor name and logo.

Waste Bags

There are two types of waste bags on the market: roll bags and flat pack or “mitt-style” bags, also called single-pull bags.

  • Roll bags are commonly used in the produce section of grocery stores. A continuous roll with a perforation between each bag enables users to pull out and tear off as many bags as they desire/need.

  • Flat-packed or single-pull bags are packaged flat in a stack, with a built-in tab that is designed to dispense one bag at a time. The bags hang from rods or prongs inside the dispenser.

While roll bags are less expensive, studies indicate that visitors tend to pull on a roll and take more bags than they need. This increases overall costs. Since it is easy to pull all the bags out of a dispenser at once, roll bag dispensers are easily vandalized.

Although single-pull bags are more expensive than roll bags, bags are dispensed one at a time. This usually reduces bag usage and waste, making prices competitive with the roll bag system.

KPDC chose Mutt Mitts single-pull bags. The bags are a solid puncture-resistant, 1-ply construction.

At 23 cm x 24 cm x 33 cm (9 in x 9 in x 13 in) when fully opened, Mutt Mitts are larger than commercial dog waste bags. And unlike regular bags, Mutt Mitts have a flat, seamless, gusseted bottom so there’s no chance of an accidental breakthrough when picking up a large amount of feces. Some dog park users have taken advantage of the flat bottom, re-purposing a Mutt Mitt as a disposable water dish.

Figure 6 – Royal LePage Prime and KPDC install first shipment of Mutt Mitts

Bag Materials

Dog waste bags may be manufactured from polyethylene plastic bags that do not decompose; they may be made of reclaimed or recycled plastic; or they may be made of materials that are degradable, biodegradable or compostable.

One of the main reasons KPDC selected Mutt Mitts waste bags was that  they were widely advertised as an environmentally friendly product, made from oxy-biodegradable recycled plastic.

Oxy-biodegradable plastics contain additives that cause them to decay more rapidly in the presence of light, oxygen, moisture and heat. The disadvantage of biodegradable bags is that they require special care in storing and handling to prevent pre-mature degradation.

  • They must be stored in a dry and dark (no direct sunlight) facility.

  • They must be used within one year of purchase.

  • When purchasing a large supply of bags, consumers are advised to use up old stock first.

The original Mutt Mitts were made of TDPA®-treated recycled plastic. According to the manufacturer of TDPA®, the additive increases the rate waste bag degradation by several orders of magnitude – i.e. 100’s to 1000’s of times faster.  Under optimum conditions – adequate oxygen, sunlight, heat and water TDPA®-treated products disintegrate within a few weeks to 1-2 years, depending on the formulation and the disposal environment.[xii]

However, Mutt Mitts are no longer biodegradable. The change came as a result of 2012 modification to the US Federal Trade Commission’s (FTC) Green Guides. The guides help businesses market products accurately by providing direction on environmental claims. The FTC now requires a biodegradable product to completely break down into its natural components within one year after customary disposal.

The FTC took issue with the fact that most dog waste bags are customarily disposed of in landfills and that landfills are designed to compact rather than degrade materials. The processes of compacting and burying waste in landfills are designed to ensure the absence of oxygen and light. Therefore, biodegradation is minimal to non-existent.

The FTC ruled that since the original TDPA® -treated, recycled plastic Mutt Mitts were customarily disposed of in landfills, they were no more biodegradable than ordinary recycled plastic. Following the FTC ruling, Mutt Mitts stopped adding TDPA to its formula and began manufacturing bags from ordinary recycled plastic.


The City of Winnipeg required KPDC to hire a City-approved vendor to install bag dispensers. KPDC awarded the contract to Winnipeg-based Guardian Traffic Services (GTS).

For a small not-for-profit corporation like KPDC, important efficiencies were realized by awarding the contract to GTS; it meant working with one vendor instead of several. GTS not only had the capacity to install dispensers, it was an authorized distributor of Mutt Mitt products. The company also had the capacity to manufacture and install “Poop Fairy” and sponsor recognition signs. The dispensers were installed on November 24, 2015.

Figure 7 – GST employees install dispensers

Number of Dispensers

The US Environmental Protection Agency estimates that the average dog excretes three quarters of a pound of waste per day—or 274 pounds per year. [xiii]

There are few references available regarding the number of bag dispensers that should be installed in an off-leash dog park.  Mutt Mitt’s current manufacturer, Zero Waste USA, recommends one dispenser every 500 feet OR one for every 50 dogs that pass by a given dispenser each day. For example, a park visited by 500 dogs a day would need 10 dispensers.

KPDC did not adopt Zero Waste’s recommendation because there is no accurate data on the number of dogs that use Kilcona Park. Instead, KPDC chose six of the highest-use locations. One of the criteria was that the dispensers be located next to existing waste bins. Figure 8 shows the locations (X) – one by the parking lot play area, one at each of the three high-capacity underground waste bins, one a short distance from the trailhead on the north-south service road and one near the entrance to the on-leash area.

Figure 8 – Location of Kilcona Waste Bag Dispensers

Number of Bags

In other jurisdictions, usage is reported to be between 500 and 2000 bags per month, per dispenser. For KPDC the range was too wide to be of practical use.

During the year-long pilot project, Royal LePage Prime purchased 58,000 waste bags, an average of 4800 bags per month. Usage, as might be expected, was lower in the winter months and higher on summer weekends and public holidays.




From Number of Bags Price CDN Brokerage/ GST/Duty Total CDN Price per bag CDN
December 23, 2015 GTS 4000 569.43 included 569.43 0.142
February 16, 2016 Intelligent Products Inc. 6000 620.25 included 620.25 0.103
April 25, 2016 Intelligent Products Inc. 24000 1369.86 108.02 1477.88 0.062
September 7, 2016 Zero Waste Pet Solutions 24000 1407.45 185.82 1593.27 0.066

Table 2 – 2015-16 Kilcona Waste Bag Procurement


Procuring Bags and Servicing Dispensers

From the beginning, KPDC, Royal LePage Prime, and Kilcona Park staff recognized the importance of establishing a reliable system to ensure that there was a constant supply of bags at the park maintenance compound so that park staff could keep the dispensers full. Reports from other jurisdictions indicate that intermittently empty dispensers create user inconvenience, which encourages non-compliance.

Procurement Processes

In response to changing conditions over the course of the pilot project, the partners developed and refined procurement processes to ensure a sufficient supply of bags was on hand.

  1. Park staff monitored the dispensers and re-filled them on a regular basis, alerting KPDC’s Director of Marketing when stocks ran low.

  2. KPDC’s Director of Marketing contacted the manufacturer and ordered new bags.

  3. Mutt Mitts shipped bags to Winnipeg.

  4. A customs broker cleared the shipment at the border and delivered it to KPDC’s Director of Marketing.

  5. KPDC’s Director of Marketing contacted the Park Foreman and delivered the bags to Kilcona Park.

  6. KPDC paid for the product, shipping and brokerage fees, and taxes and tariffs.

  7. KPDC invoiced Royal LePage Prime.

  8. Royal LePage Prime reimbursed KPDC.

Procurement Process Modifications

The original plan was to purchase Royal LePage Prime-branded Mutt Mitts locally from Winnipeg-based Guardian Traffic Services (GTS). However, the initial GTS order took six weeks to arrive. The dispensers, installed in the park on November 24, 2015 sat empty until December 24. As a result of the delay, KPDC placed subsequent orders directly with the manufacturer.

Having made the decision to order directly from the manufacturer, KPDC and Royal LePage Prime then decided to substitute un-branded for branded bags. The decision was made because branded bags were significantly more expensive because they needed a thicker 2-ply plastic to stand up to the branding process. The per-unit cost for branded bags was 24 cents versus 6 cents for 1-ply unbranded units.  An additional advantage to unbranded bags was a shorter delivery time – one week versus four to six weeks for branded bags.

At the beginning of the pilot project KPDC could not accurately estimate what the bag consumption rate would be. The initial order of 4000 bags was inadequate. KPDC was unprepared for the fact that half the bags would be consumed immediately when the bag dispensers were filled for the first time. The club quickly ordered three more cases.

To expedite the re-supply process KPDC made several important decisions. In February 2016, the Board opened an account and began purchasing Mutt Mitts directly from the US-based manufacturer. While direct shipment shortened the shipping time, it didn’t eliminate all the re-supply issues. Mutt Mitts’ all-inclusive pricing, which included shipping and brokerage fees with US-based United Parcel Service of America, Inc. (UPS) resulted in high import tariffs.

In April 2016 KPDC’s Board made two more important decisions designed to lower procurement costs. While KPDC continued to pay Mutt Mitts for shipping, the club established an account with a Winnipeg-based international customs broker, AD Rutherford. The decision to change brokers had an immediate impact, significantly reducing Canada Border Service Agency import taxes and tariffs.

In August 2016, Zero Waste USA acquired Mutt Mitts. Mutt Mitts’ Kentucky facilities were closed, and operations moved to San Diego, California. In a press release, Mutt assured customers,

“Joining the Zero Waste USA family of dog-waste products will be a great boost for Mutt Mitts and for our loyal customers…Please rest assured that prices, terms and customer service levels will remain exactly the same. The telephone numbers, fax numbers and email addresses remain the same. The high-quality Mutt Mitt products that we have been supplying nationwide since 1989 will never change.”[xiv]

In spite of the assurance, the change in ownership and shipping location had significant impacts on the September 2016 shipment of waste bags destined for Kilcona Park. Shipping was delayed because the order disappeared from company records. A follow-up phone call from KPDC a month later revealed the order had been lost. The company also attempted to increase the original quote for shipping, a move that KPDC successfully challenged.


Evaluation Criteria

Monitoring and evaluation were critical elements of the pilot project. KPDC’s Board employed the following techniques to determine the effectiveness of waste bag dispensers in reducing the amount of unclaimed dog feces at Kilcona.

  • Reports from park staff – visual surveillance of amount of dog waste along main trails.

  • Comments and complaints from responsible dog owners and other park visitors.

  • Amount of dog waste collected at spring/fall clean-ups compared to previous years.

  • Responses to two surveys of Kilcona Dog Park users.

  • Reports from dog owners that use other off-leash areas in addition to Kilcona.

  • Feedback from other dog park stewardship groups.

  • After the project ended the Board solicited input from users of other dog parks regarding the post-pilot project anomaly that is described later in this paper.



Park Visitor Complaints

For the duration of the pilot project KPDC’s Board of Directors did not receive a single complaint about unclaimed dog waste at Kilcona. Nor were there any complaints on the club’s Facebook page or on related social media sites where grievances are often aired.  This was the first time in seven years that unclaimed dog waste at Kilcona was not an issue.

Park Staff Feedback

Kilcona’s Park Foreman, Brent Maxwell, confirmed on several occasions the he and his staff perceived the entire park to be cleaner than it had been in the past. Mr. Maxwell attributed the change in dog owners’ behaviour to the bag dispensers.

Parks staff made two additional observations related to waste bag consumption. In the course of their travels through the park, they observed people taking more bags than they needed, possibly because they were taking them home. In addition, Kilcona’s bags were showing up in other city parks that the crews maintain.

Park Clean-Up Events

In previous years, park staff needed to make several trips with a front end loader to haul hundreds of bags of dog waste that clean-up volunteers collected.

At the 2016 spring and fall park clean-ups it was apparent that much less dog waste was being left behind. Even before the clean-up events, park visitors and volunteers remarked on the change. Volunteers barely managed to collect two litter baskets of garbage and dog waste on each occasion.

Dog Park User Survey

In November 2016, KPDC surveyed over 900 members and park users, asking for feedback on the effectiveness of the waste bag pilot project. The feedback was positive.

  • 85% of respondents reported they pick up after their dogs all the time and 14% picked up most of the time. Only 1% reported picking up sometimes.

  • 18% of respondents reported picking up more often because of the convenience of the bags.

  • 71% of respondents perceived that people were doing a better job of picking up after their dogs.

  • 80% perceived the park as being somewhat or much cleaner.

  • 85% of respondents brought their own bags, relying on the dispensers only in an emergency.

  • 57% of respondents believed that the light-hearted Poop Fairy signs were effective in encouraging people to pick up after their dogs.

Sample of Survey Comments:

  • “I think the dispensers are a great idea and the culture of dog clean up seems to be permeating the dog owner population. I rarely see anyone not carrying a bag or not picking up their dog’s mess.”

  • “I have noticed a huge difference in the cleanliness at the park! Also, I am more willing to also pick up absent offenders’ poop, given that it costs me nothing but a minute of my time. I’m thrilled with all the efforts the club is making to improve the park. Bravo!”

  • “I think this is a great addition and do feel it has made a positive difference.”

  • “I believe the bags have helped keep the park cleaner. Bags available for ppl that forget bags at home and in the car.”

  • “Bag dispensers are a huge benefit. Sometimes one finds themselves without and they’re great for emergencies. Also I would think it encourages those who are not prepared to clean up after their dog. No excuses.”

  • “I appreciate having the dispensers there, but I also think people bring their own bags, too, and leave the provided ones for people who actually need them at that particular instant. For example, if one was to run out, or lose or forget to bring one’s own bags.”

  • “Reminders via signs AND free bags I think best. People often FORGET to have their own and a REMINDER to Pick Up AND – Here – take one or two works as well as anything. ALSO teaches NEWBIES how to do it/how easy it is.”

  • “Although I do bring my own bags, if the dispenser is handy, I will take one or two to clean up other poops I find, as I don’t just clean up my own.”

  • “Bag dispensers definitely help keep the dog park clean!”

  • “I am glad that there are dispensers in the park. If I only brought 2 bags and I needed another. It’s good to know that there are bags available.”

  • “Keep up the dispensers love them”

  • “I bring my own bags, but if I need more, then I use the dispenser”

  • “Every time I’m there with my dog, I pick up at LEAST one other poop left behind by someone else. That would be a useful campaign. There will always be people who don’t pick up, but we can all help keep it clean by picking up one extra each time.”

  • “I hope there will also be more garbage cans for the poop bags…the only thing worse than poop on the ground is poop, preserved in a bag, laying on the ground forever.”

  • “I think the dispensers are a great idea. Now there is no excuse! If you think to take your dog for a walk, you should automatically think to take a bag for clean-up. It gives all dog owners a bad name when the walker doesn’t pick-up.”

  • “In the on-leash section of the park there are no dispensers and the number of waste bins has gone down. Lately I’ve seen poop bags thrown about and the amount of poop left lying around had gone up. I think these things are connected.”

Multiple Dog Park Users

For the duration of the pilot project, anecdotal evidence from dog owners that were using several of the city’s off-leash area indicated that Kilcona’s bag dispensers were making an impact. Kilcona was considered a model park, its tarnished reputation as the dirtiest park in the city now restored as one of the cleanest.

Feedback from Dog Park Stewardship Groups & Community Organizations

Several dog park stewardship groups and community organizations contacted KPDC after observing or hearing about the improved cleanliness. They expressed interest in installing dispensers in their own dog parks and other public spaces.

Post Pilot Project Anomaly

Three weeks after the pilot project officially ended, its efficacy was called into question when large amounts of unclaimed dog feces surfaced at Kilcona. The immediate cause was an unseasonable January thaw.

There were public protests on a scale not seen before. Angry park visitors aired their grievances on neighbourhood social media sites and responsible dog owners complained to Kilcona Park Dog Club’s Board of Directors. In response, KPDC’s President published an open letter, appealing to the Kilcona Dog Park community to come together to address the problem by educating, encouraging and, if necessary, reporting irresponsible dog owners who continue to ignore the law.

The Board was at a loss to explain how a project that appeared to have been so successful could have fallen off the rails so badly. To get at the cause, the Board conducted a second survey of members and non-members.

Sample Responses:

  • “If it’s about poop that is not right by the pathway…I think it may not have been picked up as the snow is so deep and you’d sink knee and sometimes hip deep to get to it, so I know I didn’t pick it up. What I did do is that I would try to pick up another poop in my travels to make up for it, if I could. As for the poop close to the pathways, I have no clue what the issue is there. I have tried to pick up some on my travels but with the melt/freeze, a lot of it froze to the ground.”

  • “I remember being very impressed with the improved cleanliness of the park last fall.  My only guess about the change this past January is that because of the particularly cold and snowy December, people got lazy.  Then when January came with a bit of a reprieve from the weather, people noticed the poop more.  Did we get a period of thaw in January?  Not sure, just trying to think…”

  • “Maybe due to the extreme temperature swings we seeing more of it revealed in small spurts then having it covered by snow after.”

  • I noticed it too, but also the warm spots drive tons of people to the park on those days to run the dogs, so maybe both are to blame.”

  • “I use the dog park very regularly and I agree that the amount of dog waste left behind seems to be at an all-time high. One reason for this may be that in previous years, over the course of the winter, snow covers it up and we don’t see it until spring. This year, however, we had frequent melts that exposed the waste so we saw it all winter long.”

  • “Of all the years I’ve been coming to Kilcona, the dog crap situation this winter is, without question, the absolute worst.  On the service road heading north, a literal carpet of crap existed within the first 8’ from the road edges prior to the recent thaw. I walk in the mornings and have never witnessed anyone failing to pick up, but will keep my eyes open nevertheless.”

The survey responses led the Board to suspect that extreme weather may have had a significant impact on the pilot project. The winter of 2016 marked a significant departure from Winnipeg’s historical weather patterns.

Winnipeg is a city that is known for cold but not for snow. Normally snow cover begins to build in November and is deepest during late January and February. On average, the mid-winter snowpack is approximately 18 cm (7 in) deep.


Centimetres Inches
2015 21 8.3
2014 1 .4
2013 10 3.9
2012 18 7
2011 1 .4
2010 Data missing Data missing
2009 4 1.6
2008 14 5.5
2007 15 5.9
2006 7 2.8
2005 Data missing Data missing
2004 4 1.6
2003 Data missing Data missing
2002 12 4.7
2001 12 4.7
2000 30 11.8

Table 3 – Christmas Day Snow Depth at Winnipeg Airport – 2000 to 2015 [xv]

In terms of snowfall, 2016 was a very different year. Following Winnipeg’s warmest ever November, winter made its appearance in December with a record amount of snow.  According to Environment Canada, the city received three times the average December snowfall of 23 cm (9 in)

A total of 68.8 centimetres (27 in) of snow fell in December 2016. On December 30 Environment Canada estimated that there was approximately 50 cm (20 in) of snow on the ground, more than in any other Canadian city.

Figure 9 – Deep snow at the dog park

Overall it was the snowiest calendar month in Winnipeg in almost 60 years and the second snowiest December ever. The last time the city had seen so much snow was in December 1909 when a record 101 cm. (40 in.) fell.

Figure 10 – December 2016 record snowfall

What was especially unusual was that the December 2016 record was achieved mainly because of two single events. Major Colorado Lows occurred from December 6 to 8, and on the 25 and 26. Each storm dumped approximately 25 to 35 cm (10 to 14 in) of snow on Winnipeg and the surrounding area. The storms were accompanied by sustained winds of 35 to 50 km/h with gusts to 60 km/h that reduced visibility. Although it is not uncommon for southern Manitoba to be hit by major Colorado Lows, it is rare to be hit twice in a single month by storms of that severity. It has only happened twice since 1872.

Figure 11 – Snow and blowing snow reduces visibility

Storm conditions were severe. At Kilcona Park and other places outside the city, drifts of one to two metres accumulated. Most major highways were closed, and flights were delayed or cancelled at Winnipeg’s international airport.[xvi]

Figure 12 – Severe weather closes highways

Speaking on behalf of Environment Canada, senior climatologist David Phillips told CBC News, “It’s quite remarkable that there is nobody alive that has seen so much snow in Winnipeg in the month of December.”

The month ended with an Alberta Clipper that dropped another 10 to 15 cm of snow on the city. December’s record snowfall cost the City $39 million, wiping out the municipality’s $11 million snow clearing budget.

Figure 13 – Record snowfall wipes out municipal snow clearing budget

January was ushered in by the fourth storm to hit southern Manitoba in a month. It dropped another 15 cm on Winnipeg, and was accompanied by northwest winds gusting up to 60 km/hr, extreme cold and dangerous whiteout conditions that closed highways.

Figure 14 – Prolonged period of extreme wind chill

The storm was followed by a more severe blizzard that roared through southern Manitoba ten days later, causing Environment Canada to issue a warning for prolonged period of extreme wind chills — in the -40 C to -45 C range – for Winnipeg and the surrounding area.

Northwest winds of 60 to 70 km/h with gusts of 80 to 90 km/h caused blowing snow, which reduced visibility in open areas like Kilcona to less than a kilometre. Once again highways were closed, and flights were delayed or cancelled. Extreme temperatures and whiteout conditioned caused power outages, forced school closures, and cancellation of postal service and municipal garbage collection.

Figure 15 – Extreme weather conditions continue

Then the cold-snap snapped. The third weekend in January brought an unprecedented stretch of above-freezing temperatures, which created extraordinary spring-like conditions.

At 4am on Friday, January 20th, the temperature at Winnipeg airport, where official temperatures are measured, rose above freezing and stayed above freezing until 11 pm Sunday evening January 22nd. This is an exceedingly rare occurrence. The stretch of 67 straight hours above freezing set a new record for the longest January thaw, eclipsing the old mark of 44 straight hours on January 8th and 9th, 2002.[xvii]

Table 4 – Longest Winnipeg January Thaws – 1953 to 2017 [xviii]

The 3 day thaw also set new daily record high minimum temperatures in Winnipeg. Normal lows for January are near -23C; these lows were almost 25C above normal.

Table 5 – Record daily minimum temperatures from January 20 to 22, 2017[xix]

Winnipeg, a city cocooned in a blanket of early morning fog, was about to be transformed.  As temperatures rose, the heavy snow that had fallen over past six weeks began to melt, leaving behind gravel-laced snowbanks, slush and giant puddles of meltwater. The mild weather, although welcome, turned snow-packed streets into rivers and forced the closure of city rinks and river skating trails. On January 22, in the dead of a Winnipeg winter, 2.9 mm of rain fell. It was the second highest January rainfall since 1873.

Figure 16-  January’s spring thaw and record rainfall

As temperatures rose and the rain began to fall, Kilcona Park’s snow- packed trails turned to slush –  and six weeks of dog waste came to the surface.

Then, at 11pm on January 22, the mercury began to drop. By midnight, the temperature was once again below freezing. At Kilcona, the rain turned into an impenetrable ice glaze that transformed trails into skating rinks. Along the trails, entombed in ice, was a winter’s worth of newly exposed dog feces.

Figure 17 – Chiselling frozen dog waste out of the ice at Kilcona Dog Park

On January 21 the first wave of complaints appeared in posts on two social media sites: Kilcona Dog Park Winnipeg and North Kildonan-Your Neighbourhood, Your Priorities.

“It’s really disheartening to see how many people don’t clean up after their dog. With the recent warm weather Kilcona Dog Park has literally become Poop Soup Park. It’s actually quite disgusting. It only takes a minute and bags have also been provided for you all around the park. It’s scary to think what’s in store for dog owners who enjoy using the park come spring time.”[xx]

Social media exploded with reports that what had happened at Kilcona was happening all over the city.

It’s also really bad in Kildonan Park, especially along the river and by Rainbow Stage parking lot.”

“The sidewalk from Chief Peguis Trail on Henderson Highway, north towards McIvor (on the east side) is bad too, especially the humans that fail to pick up after their large breed dogs.”

“I walked down Red Oak Drive and same thing.”

“The foot path down Gateway Road is disgusting too!”

“I see a lot of poop on the sidewalks. If you can’t pick up don’t own a dog.”

On January 20 Little Mountain Park Dog Club President, Kristy Greening posted on the club’s Facebook page,

“It was an exceptionally filthy week…Very disappointing. We’re asking for increased off-leash space and park users can’t even clean up after themselves? Ridiculous!”[xxi]

Figure 18 – Bags of feces collected by Little Mountain volunteers

On a single visit to Brenda Leipsic Dog Park, the park stewardship group’s founder, Kevin Kushnier, estimated that a small, normally clean patch of grass next to the off-leash parking lot was covered with around 250 “landmines” (K. Kushnier, April 22, 2017, personal communication).

On January 22 Maple Grove Park Dog Owners Association’s Director of Communications, Bev Shafirka posted,

“Funny (not!)  Maple Grove users are saying the same [as Kilcona users]. It was pretty good until it snowed but now, as someone else said, it seems worse than ever before.”[xxii]



As the Kilcona waste bag dispenser pilot project drew to a close on December 31, 2016, KPDC’s Board concluded that the bag dispensers were responsible for a demonstrated improvement in park cleanliness, and that the bag dispensers were well worth the cost and effort to maintain them.

The Board also concluded that the anomaly that occurred in January 2017 was caused by combination of weather-related and seasonal factors.  The conclusion was based on feedback from Kilcona Dog Park users, park staff, other off-leash stewardship groups and advocates, social media posts from the public, and KPDC’s Board of Directors’ personal observations.

The combination of extreme cold weather and deep snow may have made dog owners less vigilant than usual. Shorter hours of daylight in December and January, extreme cold weather clothing like face protectors and parkas with vision-restricting hoods may have made it more difficult to notice when dogs were defecating and to locate feces.

Figure 19 – Extreme weather clothing and reduced visibility

Deep snow drifts that were dense enough to support dogs but left people floundering knee deep discouraged many dog owners from picking up in the fields.

Snow plowing practices may have inadvertently contributed to the problem. When snow is as deep as it was in December and early January, plowing creates a high ridge of snow along the trails that people need to climb over to follow a dog that leaves the snow-packed trail. The ridges made it difficult if not impossible to do that.

Waste disposal is also a factor. Kilcona Park does not have enough waste receptacles. As a result, they are spaced far apart and the spacing is not uniform. A related issue is that the receptacle locations periodically change. [xxiii]

In extremely cold weather it is awkward and uncomfortable for people to carry dog waste bags long distances. Even responsible dog owners have been known to abandon a filled waste bag because their hands were freezing. The irregular spacing and long distance between many of the litter baskets also makes it difficult for new park users to tell where the nearest accessible receptacle is.

Sample survey comments

“More garbage cans along the paths, not everyone wants to carry a bag of poop as some paths don’t have any garbage cans!”

“In the on-leash section of the park there are no dispensers and the number of waste bins has gone down. Lately I’ve seen poop bags thrown about and the amount of poop left lying around had gone up. I think these things are connected.”

“I hope there will also be more garbage cans for the poop bags…the only thing worse than poop on the ground is poop, preserved in a bag, laying on the ground forever.”



According to the US Environmental Protection Agency, the biggest limitation to controlling pet waste is the reluctance of many people to handle dog feces.

KPDC’s waste bag dispenser pilot project and similar initiatives in other jurisdictions demonstrate that communities that make the tasks of picking up and disposing of dog waste easier foster greater compliance with “pooper scooper” laws. The following recommendations are made with that compliance objective in mind.

  1. Waste bag dispensers

The pilot project demonstrated that waste bag dispensers were effective in reducing the amount of unclaimed dog feces at Kilcona Park.  KPDC, Royal LePage Prime and park staff should continue to maintain the dispenser system and provide waste bags at the current level.

  1. Census

The number of people and dogs using Kilcona Park is still unknown. KPDC and the City of Winnipeg should conduct a census of park users to collect baseline data that can be used for modeling waste management practices and for determining the quantity and type of waste management facilities.

  1. Waste receptacles

One of the barriers to compliance with “pooper scooper” laws is the awkwardness (or physical discomfort in extreme temperatures) of carrying a waste-filled bag for a long distance. Since the City of Winnipeg considers the provision of waste receptacles and waste removal as basic off-leash dog park amenities and service, [xxiv] the City should ensure there is an adequate number of conveniently located waste containers.

  1. KPDC Responsible Pet Ownership Program

Individuals that don’t clean up after their dogs are contributing to a much larger public health problem. To address this issue and with the goal of changing behavior, KPDC should continue to provide information and devote resources to education through its Responsible Dog Ownership Program.

Civic peer pressure may be the most effective long-term strategy. kPDC should continue to encourage responsible dog owners to “lead by example”, offer neighbor-to-neighbor encouragement, carry extra bags for those in need, and report those that flout the law to Winnipeg Animal Services.

  1. Pond water testing

KPDC should continue testing the park’s retention pond water for total coliform bacteria and E. coli to determine what, if any, impact the availability of bags throughout the park has on fecal coliform levels over time. For consistency, baseline and follow-up monitoring procedures, time periods and sampling frequencies should be consistent.

  1. A global issue

Pet waste disposal is a problem facing not only Kilcona Park but the world. There is a massive collection of pet waste in landfills, most of it trapped in plastic bags.

While it is outside of the scope of this report, the authors recommend that Kilcona Park Dog Club and the City of Winnipeg explore alternatives to the current method of dog waste collection and disposal, and encourage research into waste disposal issues and solutions.

Pet waste disposal is a work in progress; existing options are all problematic.

  • Waste bags

As noted in this report, there is nothing environmentally friendly about using plastic bags to collect dog waste. Even biodegradable bags cannot degrade in landfills because of landfill management practices are designed to exclude sunlight and oxygen.

  • Toilets

Flushing animal waste down toilets creates an additional demand for water that is incompatible with water conservation efforts – and bags still end up in landfills. There is also the deterring “yuck” factor of disposing of the leftover bag and/or residue left on the bag’s surface.

  • Composting

Composting pet waste has had limited success because the process is difficult and requires specific conditions. It is a much more difficult effort than composting food waste. While composting kits are available commercially, composting’s appeal has been limited.

Ottawa is experimenting with pet waste composting methods and systems; the City’s 93.000 dogs produce an estimated 45,000 pounds (20,500 kilograms) of waste per day.  [xxv]

  • Incineration

Incineration of pet waste may be an answer but not all commercial waste collection companies have access to incinerators and there may be other environmental and cost considerations resulting from the process..[xxvi]

  • Anaerobic Digesters

Anaerobic digestion occurs when waste decomposes without any oxygen present. One of the by-products of the breakdown is biogas or methane, which can be combusted to create useable energy – electricity and heat, or processed into natural gas.

The concept of installing anaerobic dog waste digesters in parks is still in its infancy; however, in May 2017 the City of Waterloo became the first Canadian city to use the technology. It has installed anaerobic digesters in three municipal parks, including an off-leash dog park, as a pilot project to divert approximately 60 tons of dog feces from the local landfill.

Dog waste will be converted into renewable energies that the City will sell back to the grid. The City estimates that over a one-year period the amount of dog waste collected from one container will provide enough energy to heat 26 homes. Remaining waste will be turned into liquid nitrogen for fertilizer.[xxvii]

Figure 20 – Sutera underground waste receptacles used in three Waterloo parks.


[i] Toxic Dog Waste. (n.d.) Retrieved from

[ii] United States Environmental Protection Agency (n.d.) Polluted Runoff: Non-Point Pollution. Retrieved from

[iii] Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (October 14, 2014). Kilcona Park pond water making dogs sick, say pet owners. Retrieved from

[iv]Tampa Bay National Estuary Program. (n.d.) Retrieved from!-frequently_asked_questions_about_dog_waste.html

[v] Johnson, Timothy. (2014) “E. coli in our lakes: What does it really mean? Retrieved from

[vi] British Columbia Water Stewardship Division. (2007). Total, Fecal & E. coli Bacteria in Groundwater: What are Total, Fecal and E. coli bacteria? Retrieved from

[vii] Health Canada. (2012)  Guidelines for Canadian Drinking Water Quality. Retrieved from

[viii] Health Canada  (2012). Guidelines for Canadian Recreational Water Quality, Third Edition. Retrieved from

[ix] Olkowski,  Andrew A. (2009) Livestock Water Quality: A Field Guide for Cattle, Horses, Poultry and Swine. Retrieved from

[x] The study is no longer accessible. According to Mutt Mitts Customer Service Department, “Our website changed in early August of last year (2016), when the company underwent an ownership change, and we do not have access to the previous website’s information. Email from Andrew March 17, 2017 12:29pm

[xi] Northern Virginia Planning District Commission. (n.d.) Dog Park BMP Pilot Project: Making the connection between dog waste and bacteria contamination in streams. Retrieved from

[xii] EPI Environmental Technologies Inc. (n.d.) “How Does Oxo-biodegradable Plastic Work?”

[xiii] USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service.  (2005). Retrieved from

[xiv] Woodall’s Campground Management. (2016)  Mutt Mitt Merging With Zero Waste USA. Retrieved from

[xv] Paola, R. (2015) Deepest Christmas Snowcover in Winnipeg in 15 years” Environment Canada Meteorologist Rob Paola featured on Rob’s Blog: News and views on Weather in Winnipeg and Southern Manitoba [Blog post]. Retrieved from

[xvi] Paola, R. (2017) Two Snowstorms Push December to Second Snowiest since 1872. Environment Canada Meteorologist Rob Paola featured on Rob’s Blog: News and views on Weather in Winnipeg and Southern Manitoba [Blog post]. Retrieved from

[xvii] Paola, R. (2017) January thaw melts records in Winnipeg. Environment Canada Meteorologist Rob Paola featured on Rob’s Blog: News and views on Weather in Winnipeg and Southern Manitoba [Blog post]. Retrieved from

[xviii] Paola, R. (2017) January thaw melts records in Winnipeg. Environment Canada Meteorologist Rob Paola featured on Rob’s Blog: News and views on Weather in Winnipeg and Southern Manitoba [Blog post]. Retrieved from

[xix] Paola, R. (2017) January thaw melts records in Winnipeg. Environment Canada Meteorologist Rob Paola featured on Rob’s Blog: News and views on Weather in Winnipeg and Southern Manitoba [Blog post]. Retrieved from


[xxi] Greening, K. (2017, January 20)

[xxii] Shakira, B. (2017, January 22)

[xxiii] Spearman, Dean. (2011)  Kilcona Park – Off-Leash Pathway Remediation. Unpublished report prepared for the City of Winnipeg Parks and Open Space.

[xxiv] Spearman, D (2013) Guidelines for Off-leash Dog Parks in the City of Winnipeg.

[xxv] Vancouver Parks Board. (2008). Strategy for Dogs in the Urban Environment.

[xxvi] Hillsborough County Pet Waste Research Report. (2009).

[xxvii] Brown, J. (2017, April 28) The 180 with Jim Brown [Audio podcast]

Can dog poop power our homes?  Interview with Waterloo Mayor Dave Jaworsky. Retrieved from