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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

But societal mores have changed. They even sell leashes for children now. City officials in Naples, Italy -- where they've got much more serious criminal enterprises to worry about -- are cracking down on dog waste with $650 fines.

"People used to think dog poop was harmless; it was considered fertilizer when in fact it contains more bacteria and chemicals than human poop," said J Retinger, CEO of BioPet Labs. "We also have way more dogs in the world. Millennials have dogs before they have children."

BioPet's subsidiary, PooPrints, may be the ultimate solution for eradicating dog poop scofflaws. The company, which has grown 40 percent since 2016, provides a DNA testing program to 3,000 clients -- primarily homeowners associations and building managers -- in the U.S., Canada and England, including 250 in Florida. More than 250,000 dogs are in the PooPrints registry. Communities that implement the program require residents to test and register their dogs. Offending poop gets tested, too, and the DNA is matched with the offending dog. The owner faces fines or eviction.

"Property managers report a 95 to 99 percent reduction in waste," said Ernie Jones, PooPrints sales manager. "People know DNA testing is accurate and will make them accountable. If you know you are going to get fined $250 to $500 you will take a couple minutes to pick up after your dog."

Said Retinger: "We are pet friendly. Properties that used to ban pets are now more apt to allow them under our program."

Dogs are tested with a cheek swab that is mailed to the PooPrints lab in Knoxville, Tenn. Poop is tested with a collection kit that includes a plastic scalpel for scraping off a dime-sized sample.

"Sometimes we get sent a lot more than we bargained for," Jones said.

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Residents who resist, claiming the program is a violation of their privacy, are usually wowed by the increased cleanliness of their condo or townhouse development, Retinger said. Sabotage is easy to detect in contaminated samples. Samples that don't produce a match typically unmask a resident who is hiding an untested dog.

The program was invented by a scientist who worked in BioPet's veterinary pathology lab.

"One morning he stepped in poop," Retinger said. "He decided to track down the culprit."

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