$1.77M settlement reached over false marketing of dog waste bags

Picture of a dog toliet, bags for dog droppings and a trash can, taken in Muottas Muragl - a good 2500 meters high - in the canton of Graubunden, Switzerland, 20 July 2017. Picking up one's own dog's waste is par for the course even in fields, meadow

Four companies will pay over $1.77 million in fines as part of a settlement with 23 California district attorneys' offices over allegations that the companies sold dog waste bags falsely advertised as being environmentally friendly.

Alameda County District Attorney Nancy O'Malley announced Wednesday that Chewy Inc., Petco, PetSmart and Target would pay, $600,000, $375,000, $500,000 and $300,000, respectively.

The settlement also bars the companies from making similar false claims in the future.

Prosecutors alleged that each of the companies made misleading or false claims about their pet waste bags -- such as that the bags were biodegradable or plastic-free -- to market toward customers who might pay more for environmentally friendly products.

"Dog lovers who care about the environment are often targeted by deceptive advertising about the environmental benefits of certain single-use plastic bags," O'Malley said in a statement. "These settlements are a win for California consumers who want accurate information about the environmental impact of the plastic bags and other plastic products they buy."

In reality, O'Malley's office said, plastic dog waste bags are typically thrown into landfills where the lack of sunlight, moisture and oxygen prevent biodegradation from happening. Even the dog waste itself isn't compostable in municipal or industrial facilities because it often contains harmful contaminants such as E. coli or other bacteria.

Some of the bags marketed as plastic-free were in fact made with plastic, prosecutors said.

In a statement, the District Attorney's Office said the four companies were cooperative, after being contacted about their products, and have all agreed to change their processes in order to be compliant with false advertising prohibitions moving forward.