Undergraduate Honors Theses

Thesis Defended

Spring 2019

Document Type


Type of Thesis

Departmental Honors


Environmental Studies

First Advisor

Dale Miller

Second Advisor

Lisa Corwin

Third Advisor

Cassandra Brooks


Dog waste is a problem for Open Spaces because it can spread diseases and increase soil Nitrogen, which facilitates the growth of invasive species. Dog walkers at Palo Alto Open Spaces are required to throw away dog waste, but there is some deviant behavior. I conducted a survey of 115 visitors to Palo Alto Open Spaces (Baylands Preserve, Arastradero Preserve and Foothills Park) to assess visitor compliance with dog waste regulations, visitor environmental values, and visitor awareness of dog waste impacts. I ultimately wanted to understand what factors could predict a person’s dog waste disposal behavior. I found that 35% of visitors self-reported always disposing of dog waste, and 38% of visitors almost always disposed of dog waste. Most visitors (68%) held strong environmental values, but environmental values were not related to dog waste disposal behavior, which contradicted the widely-used Value-Belief-Norm theory. Only 17% of visitors could name one negative environmental impact of dog waste. Knowledge of dog waste impacts was able to predict a 13% increase in proper dog waste disposal (p = 0.023), which aligns well with the ideas in the Norm-Activation Model. To increase compliance with dog waste disposal regulations in Palo Alto, Open Space managers could create informational signs or brochures that detail the environmental impacts of dog waste because this study showed that information was the limiting factor for dog waste disposal in Palo Alto Open Space parks.