By Alex DeMetrick

BALTIMORE (WJZ)—Dogs do it naturally. Maryland is hoping it becomes second nature for owners to clean up after their pets.

Alex DeMetrick reports what’s left behind has a way of getting into the state’s waterways and bay.

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A walk in the park or through a neighborhood has an immediate effect when owners don’t clean up after their pets.

“This unmanaged pet waste problem is really becoming unbearable. You take a step outside, you try to plant flower beds, and it’s just a mess,” said Phyllis Fung, Fells Prospect Community Association.

The mess doesn’t just stay on land.

A dog doesn’t have to be this close to a waterway to have an impact, not when rain washes everything downhill.

“Pet waste is about 24 percent of the bacteria we find in our streams and rivers and in urban areas, so it’s a big source,” said Bob Summers, Secretary of Maryland Department of the Environment.

And it’s led Maryland’s Department of Environment to ask owners to take the pledge to scoop the poop.

“Back when I was younger I never thought to do it. People are catching on now,” said Nick Simon, of Baltimore.

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In Maryland, there are 1.3 million dogs, generating a lot of waste.

“And if we don’t clean it up it just runs right off into the streams, river, reservoirs and the bay, of course,” Summers said.

Get high enough levels of that bacteria and beaches are closed down by state and local health departments.

If accidentally swallowed, water can cause illness.

“The bacteria would also get into open wounds and sores, causing some sort of infection at those sites,” said Gerard Zitinl, Anne Arundel County Health Department.

Pledging to scoop the poop means more than a free bandana for your dog. It also taps into the efforts of community groups, distributing everything from flushable bags to specially marked trash cans,

“So you don’t have a smelly trash can,” Fung said.

“We try to have bags in the ark so that owners really don’t have an excuse not to scoop the poop,” said Jennifer Arndt Robinson, Friends of Patterson Park.

Because it really isn’t the dog’s responsibility; it’s his best friend’s.

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Parks and neighborhoods aren’t the only focus of the campaign, so are backyards and any place a dog calls home.