Sherlock Holmes had the case of the dog that didn’t bark, but it has taken two dozen apartment complexes and a company in Tennessee to bring the art of canine detection into the CSI age. And the evidence is right underfoot.
Canine DNA is now being used to identify culprits who fail to clean up after their pets, an offense that Deborah Violette, for one, is committed to eradicating at the apartment complex she manages.
Everyone who owns a dog in her Lebanon, N.H., complex must obtain a sample of its DNA by rubbing a cotton swab around its mouth. The swab is sent to BioPet Vet Lab in Knoxville, Tenn., which enters it into a database. If Violette finds an unscooped pile, she mails a sample to Knoxville and uses a DNA match to identify the offending owner.
Called PooPrints, the system costs $29.99 for the swabbing kit, $10 for a vial to hold the samples and $50 to analyze them, which usually takes a week or two. The company says that about two dozen apartment complexes have signed up for the service. In 2008, Petah Tikva, Israel, created a dog DNA database for the same purpose.
“It’s kind of like the FBI, but on a much smaller scale,” said Eric Mayer, director of franchise development for BioPet Vet Lab, which makes the kits.
Violette said at her complex, which opened in December and has a designated building for pet owners, unwanted surprises have been sometimes found on lawns.
“We had a little bit of a problem,” Violette said. “Enough that I wanted to try to nip it in the bud.”
Dog owners were notified about the testing last week, and most are now taking their pets in to provide DNA samples. But not everyone.
“I’ve had some people say it’s completely over the top and ridiculous,” Violette said. “I’m sure I’ll have a few people who won’t come in, and I’m sure those are the people we’ll have to chase and those are the people who are doing it.”
Tom Boyd, the founder and chief executive of BioPet Vet Lab, said the company made the kits in response to the large of numbers of the dogs in the United States and, he said, to health concerns connected to dog feces. According to the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, there are about 75 million dogs in the United States.
“If you took 75 million Americans and said they no longer have a commode, can you imagine what would happen in a week?” Boyd asked.
Not everyone is on board with the idea, though.
Karen Harvey of Forest Property Management in McCall, Idaho, said her company was not prepared to collect canine samples along with the rent checks.
“If you allow pets, that sort of comes with it,” Harvey said. “I guess I would never take the issue of dog poop that far.”