DNA snoop an answer to dog poop?
By Denise Crosby firstname.lastname@example.org September 11, 2013 5:30PM
ex and Sophie, clients of Smart Dog Training and Lodging in Plainfield, demonstrate how two dogs in the same family can happily play together.
Updated: October 15, 2013 6:42AM
Take it from one who’s written plenty of stories about feuding neighbors: Things can get downright dirty when dog poop is involved.
That includes a recent war between two East Dundee couples — on one side, former village president Dan O’Leary; on the other side, Police Commission Board member Allison Clarke — that started with poop in 2007 and escalated to surveillance cameras, junk barriers, lawsuits and, last winter, a frustrated village president threatening to de-annex both couples for all the grief they were causing.
There is, of course, good reason for all this angst. Canine poo is dirty and unhealthy. According to a 2010 survey, dog waste ranked sixth on Consumer Reports’ Top Ten List of Gripes; and the Environmental Protection Agency lists it as a top water pollutant.
That’s why I was immediately drawn to DuPage business owner Mike Stone’s press release advertising PooPrints as the “only permanent solution to dog waste pollution.”
Turns out PooPrints uses high-tech DNA testing to track down dog owners, then employs low-tech fines — and shame — to help man’s best friend see the error of his ways. It’s kind of like those red-light cameras. We are less likely to break the rules if we know technology can come back and bite us for it.
PooPrints is an 18-month-old subsidiary of BioPet Vet Lab, a leader in breed analysis for pets and livestock. Hinsdale resident Stone, who also owns Doo Care Dog Waste Removal Service, recently purchased the only Chicago-area franchise because as pollution becomes more of an issue, he sees communities struggling with how to deal with dog waste. While he’s mainly targeting managed communities such as apartments and homeowner associations, Stone insists municipalities also can benefit.
Like most communities, Elgin has an ordinance that requires dog owners to remove their pet’s waste unless it’s on their own property. Animal Control Officer Matthew Ciesielczyk says his department gets complaints regularly about unscooped dog poop. And while complaining does little unless there’s proof of culpability, Ciesielczyk says it is not uncommon for tickets to be written if a resident witnesses this irresponsible behavior. And it’s up to the dog owner to come to court and fight the complaint.
Of course, this is where PooPrints can help, maintains Michael Stone.
Here is how it works: When a resident with a pet signs an apartment lease, the dog’s cheek is swabbed, and that sample is sent to the BioPet Vet Lab, which extracts the dog’s DNA and keeps it on file. When a waste sample is found, it goes off to the lab; and within five days, the DNA is analyzed (with 99.9 percent certainty) and the owner is fined. Not only does DNA testing deter irresponsible pet owners and keep the area much cleaner, noted Stone, these fines can be revenue producers.
I can see the concept working well in apartment complexes or with HOAs that can more closely monitor pets. Springs at 127th, a new Plainfield luxury complex, recently signed on with PooPrints, said property manager Meghan McLean, and “so far the residents have been very happy with it.”
It gets trickier in cities such as Elgin, where registration is not required for pets. The Humane Society estimates 46 percent of households own at least one dog. And if you start looking at all the waste those pooches produce — not to mention neighborhood feuds that can follow — it’s not surprising PooPrints is starting to draw fans.
“It’s simple, yet innovative,” said Plainfield property manager McLean.
And arguably, the only people who would be against DNA testing have a dirty little secret they don’t want exposed, right?
“It’s mostly a scare tactic,” she admitted. “But it works.”