Motivating Poop Pick-up with DNA Testing

DNA matching becomes a bustling business
By JoAnna Lou, September 2013, Updated July 2016

Motivating people to pick up after their dogs is a frustrating problem that never seems to go away. Judging from the poop I often see right next to garbage cans—and even next to poop bag stations!--some people have a stubborn aversion to the less glamorous side of being a responsible pet owner.

There have been creative approaches, such as the Spanish town that used volunteers to monitor parks and mail poop left behind to the corresponding offenders house. While a clever campaign, it relied on dedicated volunteers and the fact that almost all dogs were in the town's license database.

Residential complexes have long struggled with the poop scooping problem, which often causes a rift between dog loving and non-dog loving residents. Many condos are turning to DNA testing as a definitive way to crack down on offenders.

When a Baltimore condo started DNA testing three years ago, it seemed like a fancy gimmick. But now more residential complexes are getting on board, while companies like PooPrints are thriving.

PooPrints was started by a veterinary laboratory in 2010 when one of their scientists came in annoyed that they had stepped in dog poop. Their business has grown rapidly since.

One of their new clients, a complex near me in Riverdale, New Jersey, has required all residents to bring in their pets for a DNA mouth swab by November 1. Going forward, all abandoned poop will be tested for a DNA match and offenders will incur a $250 fine for the first offense, rising to $500 and $1,000 for subsequent offenses.

DNA testing has been very successful in past applications. In Braintree, Mass. the Devon Wood condo complex instituted testing this summer and has already seen a 90 percent reduction in the number of messes left behind.

Some may think that DNA testing is an invasion of privacy, but it seems to be the most efficient and effective way to get people to pick up after their pets. The reality is that residential complexes, as well as public spaces such as parks, will start to ban dogs if people don't start being responsible about their pets' messes.

Pet friendly businesses have increased tremendously in the past few years. It will be a shame if we let poop reverse that trend!

JoAnna Lou is a New York City-based researcher, writer and agility enthusiast.

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