Apartment Complex Uses DNA To Track Dog Owners

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(Host) Investigators have solved thousands of cold cases by testing DNA from cells or body fluids left by perpetrators at crime scenes.

Now an apartment complex in Lebanon New Hampshire has a new use for this forensic tool: tracking dog owners who don’t pick up after their pets.

VPR’s Susan Keese has more.

(Keese) The 250-unit Timberwood Commons opened in December. Property manager Debbie Violette says most of its residents work at Dartmouth Hitchcock Medical Center .

(Violette) "And they are nurses and they’re fellows and they’re residents, they’re physicians, they’re medical technicians and we have some people at the college and we have some graduate students."

(Keese) Many of those tenants wanted to have dogs. So one of the Commons five buildings has been designated as pet-friendly.

Tenants are required to walk dogs on a leash and pick up their droppings immediately.

(Violette) "You know we don’t want to see it, we don’t want to smell it, we don’t want people to step in it."

(Keese) Violette says most tenants obey the rules.

(Violette) "But there are always the few that don’t. And that’s the issue. If it’s on the sidewalk I don’t know who it belongs to."

(Keese) But now she will. After hearing from a colleague about the option of DNA testing, Violette found a company called PooPrints, run by a lab called BioPet in Knoxville, Tennessee.

The process requires two kits — one to sample DNA from each dog at the complex. That information will be stored at the Knoxville lab.

The second set of kits, which include test tubes, will be used to sample any offending piles found around the property.

(Violette) "And then the lab will run the test and they will tell us whose pet it is."

(Keese) Offenders will be given a warning and perhaps a fine. And if they don’t reform:

(Violette) "It’s a lease violation. If they can’t follow the rules then they shouldn’t live here."

(Keese) Violette says tenants she’s spoken to seem in favor of the idea. A set of two kits only costs about $50.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency says dog waste is a major pollutant and a leading source of e coli bacteria and parasites. The waste enters storm drains, streams and waterways every time it rains.

For VPR News, I’m Susan Keese.

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