Dog owners who refuse to pick up their dog’s poop could finally be stopped, thanks to DNA testing.
Using DNA testing to identify the dog that belongs to the pile of poop left behind is not new, although it’s just now gaining traction. It was first introduced in The New York Times Magazine in October 2005 by “Freakonomics” authors Stephen J. Dubner and Steven D. Levitt.
They suggested in their article, “During the licensing procedure, every dog will have to provide a sample of saliva or blood to establish a DNA file. Then, whenever a pile of poop is found on the sidewalk, a sample can be taken to establish the offender’s DNA. Once the fecal DNA is matched to a given dog’s DNA file, the dog’s owner will be mailed a ticket.”
Sounds easy enough, right? But it’s not, and even they knew that.
“In order to match a pile of poop with its source, you will need to have every dog’s DNA on file – and in 2003, the most recent year on record, only 102,004 dogs in New York were licensed. Even though a license is legally required, costs a mere $8.50 a year and can be easily obtained by mail, most dog owners ignore the law, and with good reason: last year, only 68 summonses were issued in New York City for unlicensed dogs,” said Dubner and Levitt.
The Clue is in the PooPrints
Fast forward to 2011. Dubner and Levitt’s idea for curbing poop that is not properly disposed of is finally seeing fruition. A company called PooPrints, a registered trademark of BioPet Vet Lab in Knoxville, Tenn., has created a program that matches samples of dog waste to DNA collected through mouth swabs. When a dog relieves himself, some of his epithelial cells (like skin cells) are naturally deposited in the feces. PooPrints uses the DNA code from the epithelial cells to identify the dog so his offending parent can be tracked down.
According to cnn.com, Debbie Violette, property manager at Timberwood Commons in Lebanon, New Hampshire, is one of a growing number of property managers at large apartment complexes implementing the program in their rental contracts.
First-time offenders who get caught will get a warning, and they will have to pay a $60 fee to cover the cost of the DNA testing. If they are caught a second time, it is a leasing violation and the offender and their dog could be asked to leave.
Violette discovered PooPrints when she learned of another residential community in Boston doing the same thing.
“They have a choice to rent here or not. If you live in that community you have to live by those rules and regulations. It’s a privilege,” she said.
Violette admits that the service could get costly to both her and the residents, but she also has at least 30 dogs on her property ranging in size from small dogs to large breeds. You see the dilemma.
She said, “It’s really not about the money for us, it’s about having a nice place to live.”
At the Village of Abacoa, in Jupiter, Fla., pet parents will be required to pay a one-time fee of $200 to keep their dog’s genetic information on file at the DNA Pet World Registry, an online resource for pet parents.
Matthew Brickman, president of the condo association, told abcnews.go.com that he got tired of irresponsible pet owners not cleaning up after their dogs, costing the association and non-pet residents thousands of dollars in disposal fees.
He said, “Now we collect them and send them off. We know which dog it was and only that one owner gets fined.”
Reducing Your Dog’s Carbon Pawprint
Eric Mayer, director of franchise developments with BioPet Vet Lab, says that the service isn’t just about catching dog parents who do not pick up poop, it’s also about reducing the dog’s potential environmental threat. PooPrints estimates a single pet creates 276 pounds of waste a year. They also report that 40 percent of 20 billion pounds of dog waste is not picked up, and that dog waste contains harmful diseases that could harm everyone’s health. These diseases include salmonella, E. coli, campylobacter and leptospira.
The PooPrint website clearly points out that it is not trying to target responsible pet owners, but rather wants to keep them safe from getting sick from the bacteria and parasites like hookworms, ringworm and tapeworms found in feces.
Mayer told cnn.com, “We want people to be responsible and not leave things behind. Down the drain means it’s going into your lakes, rivers and streams.”