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Dog Owners Beware, DNA in Dog Poop Could Be Used to Track You Down

A Chicago apartment building is trying out a new scheme to catch four-legged offenders and their humans

( Dale Spartas/Corbis)
smithsonian.com

There is always that elusive neighbor who lets their dog poop wherever the creature pleases and then leaves it to bake in the sun. And tracking the offender down is never easy. But now, one luxury apartment building in Chicago wants to take down delinquent dog owners with some of the latest in forensic technology: DNA scans.

Earlier this year, residents at 1222 W. Madison Street in Chicago received notice that they had until January 31 to send a sample of their dog’s DNA to the building’s managing company. Fed up with the persistent problem of people leaving their pet’s poop lying around, the South Carolina-based Greystar company is now using a DNA database to figure out which residents are slacking off in cleaning up after their dogs, Robert Channick reports for the Chicago Tribune.

"Although we have sent out prior communication addressing this issue, we still have received numerous complaints," Greystar said in a letter sent to tenants in December, Channick reports. "We try to manage this problem as best we can; however, as this issue has continued to affect our community, we are now forced to implement the Pet DNA program."

Under the PetDNA program, the building’s dog owners are required to submit a cheek swab from their pooch for a DNA scan. As Chicagoist’s Sophie Lucido Johnson explains, when offending poops are found, they are packed up and mailed to PooPrints, a Tennessee company that will ID the poop’s maker. When a stool sample is matched with the right dog, the owner gets a fine: $250 for first offenders, and $350 for each streetside poo thereafter.

Chicago isn’t the first place to pick up the poop-shaming system: as PooPrints spokesman Ernie Jones tells Channick, the company is contracted to provide forensic data on dog doo from about 2,000 properties throughout the United States, Canada, and England. And while managing companies might appreciate the program as a deterrent against leaving dog poop on the sidewalk, the reaction is more mixed among residents.

“I don’t think it needs to be that extreme,” Caitlyn Brooks, a renter in a community in Riverview, Florida that also uses DNA records to identify delinquent dog owners, tells Jamel Lanee for WFLA News. “Like I don’t know if taking samples and testing DNA is really that serious." Others say, however, that they're thrilled by the prospect of fining people for not picking up their pet’s poop. 

While it might seem somewhat ridiculous conduct forensic testing to enforce what should be a basic chore, Jones tells Channick that most of his company’s clients report a 95 to 99 percent drop in streetside poops. Considering that dog feces can contaminate clean water sources and transmit diseases to other dogs (and sometimes humans) if it is left to stew, maybe a little monetary incentive to clean up after pets isn’t such a bad thing after all.

About Danny Lewis

Danny Lewis is a multimedia journalist working in print, radio, and illustration. He focuses on stories with a health/science bent and has reported some of his favorite pieces from the prow of a canoe. Danny is based in Brooklyn, NY.

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