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DNA tests provide the poop on bad dog owners

By Nina Golgowski, CNN
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A doggie DNA system
  • Apartment complexes use PooPrints for residents who don't always scoop
  • DNA is taken from swab of dog's mouth
  • It's then matched to a sample of their waste

(CNN) -- A New Hampshire apartment complex is mandating that residents submit pet DNA samples.

Why? To check if any of them are abandoning their dogs' waste on the property.

"Ninety-eight percent do what they're suppose to do," property manager Debbie Violette said of her residents with dogs, "but there are some that don't and you don't know who that is. That'd be pretty foolish if they did that right in front of me."

Timberwood Commons in Lebanon, New Hampshire, says it is among a growing number of apartment complexes implementing PooPrints.

That's a program that matches samples of unclaimed dog waste to DNA collected through pets' mandatory mouth swabs in the hope of imposing greater responsibility among pet owners.

Violette says her violators will first receive a warning if caught, paying a $60 fee to cover the DNA costs. However, if it happens again, it's a lease violation and the offender will be forced to live somewhere else.

"They have a choice to rent here or not. If you live in that community you have to live by those rules and regulations," Violette said. "It's a privilege."

She said she got the idea from a residential community in Boston. Eric Mayer, director of franchise development with BioPet Vet Lab, says the program is currently assisting rental complexes in multiple states, with increasing interest as far away as Canada and Germany.

The tests bought through PooPrints, a subsidiary of BioPet Vet Lab in Knoxville, Tennessee, match the DNA already captured to a sample of each pet's waste. Poop that isn't scooped can then be analyzed.

According to Mayer, apartment complexes that impose a pet deposit or fee on residents could potentially cover the testing costs incurred with the initial DNA registration. The cost of the DNA analysis each time a sample is tested could theoretically be paid through a fee on convicted freeloaders.

It's a service Violette admits to be potentially costly, but with more than 30 dogs on her property, some as large as a St. Bernard, "it's really not about the money for us," she said, "it's about having a nice place to live."

And reaction has been positive, she said.

"I did have one resident that thought it was completely over the top, who's not a pet owner," Violette said. But after considering the possibility of stepping in a mess he himself didn't leave behind, "he changed his mind," she said.

Violette sees long-term benefits in the PooPrints system, saying it could reunite lost pets and owners, especially in the aftermath of a natural disaster.

Mayer says he remains focused on both environmental and human health benefits through the system.

"It's a huge problem with growing environmental impact," Mayer said of the waste. The PooPrints website estimates a single pet creates 276 pounds of waste per year. "We want people to be responsible and not leave things behind. Down the drain means it's going into your lakes, rivers and streams," he added.