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Whose poop is that on the lawn? DNA testing cracks down on doggie-doo offenders

Linda Robertson, Miami Herald on

Published in News & Features

MIAMI -- Nothing ruins a fine day like an unwelcome encounter with dog excrement. That unmistakable squishing sensation underfoot triggers instant resentment. The mess, the stench, the indignity. What's a victim to do?

Man's best friend has always produced poop. But the poop disposal problem -- whether it's left in fresh stinky piles or carelessly discarded baggies -- has become a pet peeve in cities where the dog population is growing faster than the human population. There are nearly 90 million pet dogs in the United States today.

Dog poop scofflaws are causing friction throughout the Miami area, on sidewalks and lawns all across a metropolis already steaming with hostility. Beware: Your neighbors are out to catch you brown-handed.

The war against offenders is ramping up with the deployment of spies, guilt mongers and camera-wielding snitches.

The latest tech: DNA testing that matches Rover to his poop and punishes Rover's inconsiderate owner with a big fat fine.

"It's rude, it's unsanitary, it's ugly, and I am amazed that nobody picks it up where I live," said Gloria Ehlebracht, who takes long walks around Coral Gables and Coconut Grove with her rescue dog, Cooper. "There's a guy with a French bulldog. One of those selfish people with the attitude of 'Me first, second and third.' I wrote him a note to tell him I took a picture of him and it's not fair that I have to clean up his poop. After that, no more issues with Mr. Bulldog."

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Can't blame the dog. It's the dog owner who is the real animal. Many owners flout pooper-scooper laws mandating the removal of waste to a closed receptacle on the owner's property or a municipal collection station. They don't fear fines of up to $500 because enforcement is rare. So swales and trash pits have become depositories for feces and assortments of colorful plastic bags -- artificial blooms on the landscape.

Residents resort to vigilante justice. They take photos and videos and warn offenders they will be turned in to code enforcement or exposed on social media.

"I've got a trash pit by my driveway and it's filled with half a dozen bags every day," said Armando Acevedo of Coral Gables, who persuaded a city inspector to post notices in the neighborhood. "Often the bags fall right through the teeth when the garbage truck shovels it up and sit there for another week. One time after a lady tossed her bag I followed her in my car. I felt like a stalker. I found out where she lived and I was tempted to take all the poop bags and dump them on her doorstep."

His neighbors and a city commissioner urged him to do it, but he didn't.

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