Spanish City to Crack Down on Dog Poo with DNA Testing
Cities and municipal parks departments have tried all sorts of ways to discourage dog fouling, from giving away free bags to mailing turds back to owners. But now they’re really getting tough. Spain’s north-eastern city of Tarragona has threatened to use DNA analysis of dog droppings to track down owners who fail to clear up their pet’s mess, The Guardian reported.  This is not the scenario from a dystopian science-fiction movie and it’s not a joke! They are really building a dog-shit police! The coastal Mediterranean city would work with a local university to create a DNA database of registered dogs that could be used to identify their owners, said Ivana Martinez, the city’s city councillor for public spaces, on news radio Cadena Ser. Droppings found on the street or in parks could then be matched through the DNA database to a registered pet, and its owner issued with a fine, she said. “Right now, unless the police are at the scene at the right moment it is very difficult to know who is breaching the rules,” Martinez said.   Pet owners will have to cover the cost of the DNA testing in addition to paying a fine. Martinez said the city wanted the database to be up and running “as soon as possible” but did not provide a date. Tarragona, a city of 135,000 people which is known for its wealth of Roman ruins, including a seaside amphitheatre, has more than 2,800 registered dogs, according to city hall. 
East London to Use DNA and Microchips to Track Dog Poo Criminals
The Dog Shit Police is also setting foot in England. An east London council says it is poised to become the first in the UK to use DNA testing to track down owners who fail to clear up their dog’s mess, The Telegraph recently reported. Barking and Dagenham will unveil the extraordinary new measure at a dog fouling summit on Tuesday called “Leading a New Way”. Pet owners could also face fines of up to £80 if they fail to clear up their dog’s excrement, as part of the borough’s crack down.  Under the plans, the dogs’ DNA would be collected by a cheek swab which is sent to a laboratory. The dog’s profile is then added to a central register, compiled by PooPrints UK. If an owner fails to pick up their dog’s mess, a DNA test will be taken from the offending faeces which can be traced back to a registered dog with 99.9 per cent accuracy. Councillor Darren Rodwell, said:
We are the first Council in the country to get really tough on dog mess and pet owners who do not act in a socially responsible way. The vast majority of dog owners in Barking and Dagenham are socially responsible but unfortunately a selfish few think it’s ok to not clean up after their pet. Dog mess not only spoils our streets – it’s also a health hazard and especially to young children. It’s why we are using this innovative approach in making a cleaner, healthier and better Barking and Dagenham. 
The town hall currently spends £2.3 million each year clearing up dog faeces and employs a dedicated dog warden to address canine-related issues. The council hope to set up a pilot for forensic dog mess testing, and if successful, it will be rolled out across the borough from September 2016. They will discuss how this could be combined with the forthcoming requirement from April 2016 for all dogs to be microchipped.  Eric Mayer, PooPrint’s business development director says a lot of people complain about big brother intrusion. But he argues that dogs are not a protected class and therefore don’t have many rights, even if their owners might. “Pets are a property and a privilege. Really, this is similar to stop signs and streetlights—it’s just rules that have to be obeyed for society to function properly,” he says. 
The Dog Shit Police is also Coming to the United States
There’s a chance that similar programs might start popping up in the U.S. as well. The company that does the DNA testing, BioPet Vet Lab, has been offering its services since 2010, and there are a handful of US cities who are warming up to the idea. In 2013, NBC News reported that a Boston-area condo complex with nearly 400 units used PooPrints to stop their problems with a phantom pooper: “An attorney advised [condo manager Barbara] Kansky that condo trustees could enforce existing condo rules by requiring all dog owners to submit their animals for collection of DNA samples. Dog owners paid a one-time fee of $59.95 for the initial DNA testing for the database.” It worked: Kansky’s condo association was able to find an offending dog and take action against its owner.   Indiana’s Carmel Clay Parks and Recreation Department recently announced that it may also start using the “PooPrint” system to deter dog owners from leaving messes behind.   Mark Westermeir, Carmel-Clay Parks director, said no decisions have been made about whether to hire the company or how to implement the program. The city could test the dogs of owners who have passes for a dog park.  If it all sounds a little too Minority Report, consider the plight of one Seattle apartment complex that was virtually forced to start using the poo-testing service this year. From the Seattle Times: “There was poop inside the elevators, in the carpeted hallways, up on the roof,” says Erin Atkinson, property manager at Potala Village Apartments, a 108-unit complex in downtown Everett. In the elevator? “They’re lazy, I guess,” says Atkinson about the dog owners. “I don’t know why.” That’s why, since February 2014, tenants have been paying a “one-time fee of $29.95 for DNA testing.” The fines added up this way: $59.95 to have the poop tested, and $50 to the complex for the hassle of collecting the sample.   The marketing took a little longer to reach this area, but King-Snohomish-Pierce Counties are quite a market. They are home to an estimated 811,000 dogs (with Seattle having 50 percent more dogs than kids). With one study saying the average dog poop weighs one-third of a pound, the dogs in that three-county region are responsible for some 268,000 pounds of droppings a day. After five years, says BioPet, the DNA test is in nearly 1,000 such places around the country, and it’s especially popular in Miami, Dallas, Los Angeles and other large cities.  PooPrints says its test is 99.9 percent accurate for nabbing the guilty dog. The technology used is the same as you see dramatized in the “CSI: Crime Scene Investigation” television shows, says professor Michael Court, whose specialty is pharmacogenomics at Washington State University College of Veterinary Medicine. “It’s like a crime scene for poop,” he says. “When you already have DNA from a dog, you’ve created a reference bank library.”  Leah Downie, property manager at Axis in Downtown Indianapolis, said PooPrints’ service has kept the community cleaner than any she’s worked at during eight years of property management. Apartment employees, she said, have yet to test dog droppings. Everyone is behaving. “The threat alone is keeping our facility pristine,” Downie said. “We’re a big, big fan of it.”  Joe Gillmer, board vice president of Midtown Alexandria Station condos, is refered to as “CSI: Manure” and “the Czar of Poop” by the other residents of his condo-complex since he hired the PooPrints to match evidence from shit crime scene to registered DNA taken from all condo dogs. But the results speaks for themselves. After the service was started a year ago, “we only had to test one sample,” Gillmer says of the only scatological crime since committed — only one! This in a building with 368 units and about 600 human and 60 canine residents. That’s the sort of success that law enforcement agencies can only dream of.