DNA Evidence May Force You To Pick Up After Your Dog
Next time you walk the pooch and decide to walk away from any droppings left behind by your friend, better think twice about it if you're in an area where dog DNA technology is being used. You may not be on camera and nobody has to witness the dirty deed, but if someone else scoops it up and sends it to a central registry for testing, it's going to cost you. And DNA technology for scoops of poop is growing.
DNA evidence has come a long way since prosecuting attorneys first introduced it; defense attorneys totally confused juries about it; and some obviously guilty felons walked away free because of it, rather than the other way around. Not true anymore. DNA testing is routine in paternity cases, murder trials, and issues involving family heritage. But, if you want to really see just how far we've come in using DNA technology to convict someone of a crime, you need to look no further than the sidewalks and grassy areas in some major and not so major cities.
Folks in Montgomery, AL, for example, tired of putting up with other people's crap, aren't going to take it anymore. Well, actually it's other people's unattended dog poop that has them riled up. So they've joined a growing number of cities that use DNA technology to track down the canines responsible for depositing doo-doo that remains uncollected on sidewalks, in parks and other public places by their owners. Using DNA as proof of ownership, the dog's owner is contacted, sometimes warned for the first offense, and then fined if the offense continues. What isn't in question, because of the DNA test results, is whether the right dog has been identified.
DNA technology for catching dog owners who fail to scoop their pooch's poop is growing. Owners and managers of apartment and condo complexes and homeowners associations in Florida, New Hampshire, Minnesota, South Dakota and elsewhere are turning to DNA evidence to prosecute and fine offenders. And this is something that's not just happening in the U.S. A recent story in London's Daily Mail highlights a Dog DNA program about to get underway in Jerusalem. An estimated 70 to 80 percent of the Holy City's 11,000 registered dogs will be included in a DNA database. Pet owners caught for not scooping up their pet's poop will be fined. And a similar trial program began around the first of this year in a suburb of Tel Aviv.
Most programs work like this: a swab is taken from the dog's mouth, its DNA is determined and entered into a central registry. Then, if a pile of unattended dog poop is discovered, it is collected and sent to the people in charge of the registry, the DNA is matched perfectly to a particular dog, and the owner is subjected to a fine. Residents don't have to be given a choice about whether or not to participate, it can be part of their housing agreement if they want to keep a pet while they are living there.
So why such a big stink about some bad dog owners who can't be troubled to pick up their pooch's droppings? Well, think mega apartment complexes with lots of people and their pets living on top of one another. Now picture little patches of green between those huge highrises, picture the residents in those buildings taking their pets for early morning or evening walks in those little green parks and you should be able to see what a mess it can be if only some of the dog owners don't pick up after their pets. The situation can become absolutely horrible. In fact, one building manager claims he carries an extra pair of shoes when he ventures outside because he knows he won't be able to avoid stepping in something in the grass or on the sidewalk.
The program is not without its glitches. Responsible dog owners who pick up after their pets often resent having to pay a fee to include their dog as part of an anti-poop registry, and justifiably so. And getting 100 percent of the dogs in an area into a central registry is difficult. But the inconsiderate characters that don't pick up after their dogs have created a problem that affects everyone. So even a 70 to 80 percent response is good and can go a long way to eliminating the problem.
Registration fees typically amount to about $30, usually payable by the dog's owner. Fines for failing to pick-up after a dog can be about $100, even for the first offense. The cost usually includes the collection kit and the test. What happens if the guilty dog owner refuses to pay is pretty much governed by the individual housing association rules and homeowner agreements.
By the way, there are some other benefits to the DNA poop discovery program. It's possible that the technology could be used by veterinarians to do research on genetic diseases in dogs. DNA testing also could be used to investigate pedigrees. And, the technology could also eliminate the need to implant identification microchips in dogs and help locate strays that get picked up.
Is using DNA technology to catch people who don't pick up after their dogs yet another example of Big Brother watching? You can probably answer that best if you'll just think back to the last time you stepped in a pile of dog poop.