Beyond ruining lawns and common areas, did you know dog waste is a public health hazard? According to an EPA study, waste from man’s best friend can cause harm not only to your or your neighbors’ lawn, but can also cause damage to any nearby waterways and spread diseases both to other dogs and to humans.
The Clear Choices Clean Water (CCCW) organization reports dog waste can transmit bacteria and viruses including tapeworm, roundworm, E. coli, Parvo and more. Humans who come into contact with dog waste could contract campylobacteriosis, salmonellosis, and toxocariasis, which may cause abdominal cramps, fever, coughing or wheezing, hives and possibly permanent vision damage. Animal waste can also attract mice and parasites that can get into your house or harm your pets and other animals.
And, of course, it can make public lawns and grassy areas unusable for just about everything else, from frisbee to picnic lunches to children playing.
Not surprisingly, some condo associations and property managers are turning to CSI-level tactics to protect the surrounding neighbors and the environment from dog waste. When one condo association manager, Barbara Kansky of Devon Wood community in Braintree, Massachusetts grew tired of maintenance crew complaints and owner denials regarding the piles of doggy doo found in the common areas, she did what any other manager would do and sent letters to the community asking pet owners to clean up after their pets. According to Kansky, “There were problems even after residents reported seeing others failing to pick up their dog’s messes. We would call or send a letter and that dog owner would say, ‘Prove it.’”
With that kind of response, Kansky knew she would have to take drastic measures and looked to the Internet for help. She found Knoxville, Tenn.-based BioPet Vet Lab. BioPet Vet Lab specializes in testing DNA from doggie poop to identify the canine culprits.
Kansky sought the advice of an attorney who assured her that the condominium board could enforce the association’s rules by requiring residents to bring in their pooches to have them tested. Dog owners were charged a one-time fee of $59.95 for the initial DNA testing for the database. Subsequent lab tests of dog droppings that end up identifying the offending animal result in a $50 testing fee plus a $100 fine.
According to Kansky, only one resident has been fined for an offense since implementation of the new policy. A resident at Devon Wood reported, “We used to see dog poop almost every other day. You had to worry about where you walk on the grass because there was dog poop, a lot of different places,” Weidner said. “Now, you don’t really have to worry about dog poop. You can walk where you want, the grass is now ours again, we don’t have to worry about it, and that’s just a great thing.”
BioPet Vet Lab’s director of business development, Eric Mayer, refers to his pet DNA testing kits as “a booming, growing, new product,” and has started distributing throughout the U.S. and into Canada, Israel and Singapore in the past two years. The service has been branded PooPrints and is a very simple two-step process.
The first step is to register the DNA of all dogs in the community by collecting samples of their cheek cells using a pair of sterile swabs, Mayer said in an email. The second is to collect a sample of feces and send it to the lab for matching. Testing reportedly starts around $29.95 per dog for an initial test.
Mayer is apparently correct in his assertion that DNA testing for poop identity is quickly becoming a booming business. Several communities around the country have taken to the practice of requiring their residents to register their dogs for DNA testing. So far communities in FL, NJ, NY, IL, TX and MA have utilized this brand of testing.
DNA testing for canines has been around for some time, but this is the first time it has been used for this specific purpose. Previous DNA testing for dogs has been to determine breed.
One Hackensack, NJ attorney jokes, “because dogs can’t consent to a DNA sample this could be the greatest civil liberties issue of our time.”
If serious pet lovers could have their way, you could probably bet the farm that he’s right.
Tell us your thoughts about Doggy DNA testing? What policies do you have in place to address the issue? How successful or not are your current policies?