CSI Meets Dog Poop
DNA identifies dog poop not picked up by owners.
Posted June 30, 2011
Perhaps one of the most annoying aspects of dog ownership in most communities is the presence of dog feces that have not been picked up by dog owners. Most municipalities have some sort of bylaw requiring people to pick up after their dogs, but unless individuals are observed leaving the scene of a mess, it is difficult to trace the source of the droppings in order to assign penalties. The Village of Abacoa, which is a condominium association of 45 units in Jupiter, Florida, claims that they have incurred costs of $10,000 to $12,000 a year cleaning up after dogs, and replacing items that have been damaged beyond repair by dog urine and droppings. Therefore they have resorted to a high tech, CSI type solution to their problem.
Approximately 40% of the residents in this development are dog owners. Starting on August 1, dog owners in the condominium must pay a onetime $200 fee. The money will be used to pay DNA Pet World Registry to take the dog's genetic fingerprint and keep the information on file. The sample is collected using a swab which is rubbed on the inside of the dog's mouth. The dog is then issued an identification tag to wear on its collar.
The condominium's maintenance staff will then collect samples of doggie droppings found in the condo common areas which will be placed in plastic tubes and sent to PooPrints, which is a company in Knoxville Tennessee, that is associated with DNA Pet World Registry. If the poop matches the pooch, the owners can be fined up to $1000. According to Susan Nellen, the property manager, this fine will be enforced, and if the owners don't pay a lien can be placed on their home. If the problem persists the animal may be confiscated.
Feces identification is a booming business. DNA Pet World and PooPrints (who have the motto "Match the Mess through DNA") are spinoffs from BioPet Vet Labs. They started in October. , According to Eric Mayer one of the company's directors, by the end of the year, they expect 300 American franchises to startup. He also noted that the process only works for feces. There is not enough DNA in urine to make a match.
Obviously not everyone supports the policy, such as Troy Holloway, who owns one of the condos and commented, "This is nuts. They will be testing all kinds of poop. Is this America?"
While a dog poop is messy and inconvenient, apparently dog urine can be fatal. In Derbyshire, England, the city Council spent approximately £75,000 to check all of the lampposts in the district. This survey was commissioned after a report found that years of exposure to the highly acidic urine from dogs can cause the base of the posts to crumble away. This was part of a national campaign which was triggered after someone died when a light collapsed.
Walter Burrows, the council's cabinet member for environment and highways, says it is not a light-hearted matter. "If it wasn't so serious it would be funny. But unfortunately about 18 months ago we had a problem in Derbyshire with a series of lampposts in one of our estates. We found dogs were causing a problem on this estate and we had to change about 20 lampposts. Hopefully we can prevent any fatality or any serious accident happening."
Similarly, the City of York Municipal Council said dog urine was one of several things that has been causing corrosion at the base of both steel and concrete lampposts. The council is having to replace 80 street lights a year, at a cost of £1,000 a time and taxpayers will be footing the bill for years.
Stanley Coren is the author of many books including: Born to Bark, The Modern Dog, Why Do Dogs Have Wet Noses? The Pawprints of History, How Dogs Think, How To Speak Dog, Why We Love the Dogs We Do, What Do Dogs Know? The Intelligence of Dogs, Why Does My Dog Act That Way? Understanding Dogs for Dummies, Sleep Thieves, The Left-hander Syndrome
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