We here at FiPS have covered the bathroom habits of dogs in previous posts, including the effects of their pee on plants and general sidewalk and street areas. Recently, I've noticed that the battle between dog owners and tree owners has been escalating on 7th Street in the Slope. If you live nearby, you've no doubt seen all of the empty tree pits. In recent days I’ve noticed some dramatic statements in addition to these stumps (see photos).
But does dog pee really kill trees? Rebecca McMackin, a Fort Green- based horticulturist, says yes. In a New York Times column she claims, “While urea is rich in nitrogen, and plants require nitrogen for leaf growth, urea is also rich in salt” - too much of which harms or kills plants.” She goes on to explain how the nitrates in urine impact the soil chemistry and how urea eats through protective bark.
This isn’t to say that all trees die from fido-related causes. But it seems many do, especially if their protective outer layers have been damaged. And here’s why tree owners are passionate: It’s a big deal.
Think about it. If you have a spot for a tree in front of any home or business in the Slope, it’s likely a very small spot, just a few square feet. So there’s basically one shot to get it right. Like a kid or dog, you have to raise it, feed it and maintain it. And if a tree dies, it creates the following issues:
- The trunk, limbs and branches have to be removed. This is a costly process.
- A new tree can't be planted until the stump is gone.
- It's extremely hard to remove a stump, a whole other expense, if doable.
- It takes many years for a dead stump and roots to decay.
Out of curiosity, I spoke with a tree service company, who explained that they try to avoid removing stumps below a few inches of street level. Why? Because they have no idea if the roots, over time, have developed around utilities, sewer lines and whatever else is below our streets. To cut a stump to street level, they charge $200. To go deeper, it’s a whole new ball game, depending on the estimated difficulty of removal.
That’s probably why we see a lot of stumps or pits that have simply been paved over. Attempting to remove a stump and the roots below street level can easily cost thousands of dollars. I neither own a tree or dog at this time, but appreciate both. It seems, however, that dog owners need to make a better effort of steering their dogs toward other places to pee. You might think that you're little Tinkerbell couldn’t possibly piddle enough to kill a big tree, but combined with a steady flow from other dogs, it absolutely can.