A Dog’s Life on the Line: Blue-Green Algae Threatens Pets and People

CLF’s top dog calls for action on toxic outbreaks that can kill dogs and sicken people

Henry the Dog

My name is Henry and, as you can tell from my photo, I’m a dog. Most days, you can catch me doing my dog thing: napping, eating, sleeping, snacking, going for walks with my humans. One of my favorite things to do is heading to the Charles River so I can swim and cool off from the heat (which is much worse this summer thanks to climate change, but I digress).

But a couple of weeks ago, I couldn’t jump in the river because it was covered with a bright green slime. That made it unsafe for me to swim.

Turns out the water was full of blue-green algae. It’s scary stuff that looks like a big fuzzy tennis ball in the water. It looks good enough to eat, but dogs have gotten sick and even died from the algae. All it takes is one swim or one lick.

Blue-green algae can turn up in rivers, lakes, ponds – all the best places to doggie paddle.

How did this happen? Here’s what I’ve learned:

Humans built lots of buildings and roads and parking lots where there used to be grass and trees and other good places to roll around in the dirt and mud. The grass and dirt are much more fun. They also absorb water when it rains and snows.

Now, all that rainwater isn’t absorbed. It runs across the roads and the parking lots right into the Charles and other waters. But along the way, it scoops up things like oil and fertilizer and trash (and, well, dog waste, too). All of that gets dumped into our rivers, lakes, and ponds with the water. Gross.

When it’s hot out – like it is now – all of those bad things in the water make toxic blue-green algae. The algae outbreaks kill plants and fish in the water. They also have scary toxins that can make humans and dogs like me sick.

These outbreaks aren’t just happening here. Fellow dogs across the country, from Mississippi to New Jersey to Oregon, can’t get in the water because of the algae.

That’s why we pups need your help. Humans can stop the yucky runoff from getting to the Charles and other waters. The humans at CLF want all those big parking lots and buildings to take responsibility for the polluted runoff they cause. And if they won’t do it on their own, then government agencies need to step in and force them to take action.

Because if they don’t, then these algae outbreaks are going to get worse, in New England and across the country. And that means more dogs and our people getting sick or dying. We’re not cats – we don’t have nine lives to spare (no offense to my cat friends, but I just don’t understand why you hate water so much).

A dog’s life should be simple and free of worry beyond when is our next meal or whose shoe are we going to gnaw on next. We need you humans to worry for us and take action to end blue-green algae outbreaks for good.

Thank you for listening to one dog’s plea.

Henry lives with CLF President Brad Campbell in Boston. We like to think of him as one of CLF’s unofficial mascots. Please help Henry get back in the water.

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