City uses DNA to track dog owners who don’t pick up

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SAN DIEGO — Dogged by complaints of irresponsible pet owners, more apartment and condo managers, including here in San Diego, are turning to science to solve a problem encountered by all.

Owners failing to pick up after their pets is not only unsightly but a health and water quality issue. The EPA lists dog waste in the same category as toxic oils and chemicals.

Waste disposal experts estimate dogs produce 10 million tons of poop a year in this country. That’s enough to fill a line of semi-trailers stretching from Seattle to Boston.

“Oh, I hate it. Every single day I see somebody not picking up their dog crap,” said dog owner Peggy Tollefson. She says she has always picked up after her dog Smokey.

But Peggy isn’t the only one tired of lazy dog owners.

“You know new tennis shoes, new flip flops, beach weather. You got your new reef flip-flops and you step in dog poop,” said Dawn Town.

Town belongs on a condo HOA board and is a dog mom to Bailey.

She says signs, letters and even notices often fail to persuade errant pet owners to pick up after their pooch.

“You know when I’m picking up after my dog it always seems like I’m picking up another pile of someone else’s dog’s you know, poop. You know? It’s ridiculous,” said Dawn.

Now in the long-running struggle to keep canine waste off lawns, and other common areas, residential communities are turning to the same forensic science detectives use to solve homicides and major crimes: DNA evidence.

“When you have the DNA it really is a unique identifying marker of a living organism. You can’t get away from it,” said PooPrints West owner Kevin Sharpton.

Sharpton owns PooPrints West, a Los Angeles-based dog DNA monitoring company.

The company has 40,000 dogs in its DNA registry and serves 11,000 properties nationwide. Four in San Diego and another 10 local communities are signing up for the service. FOX 5 contacted all of them but none will admit they have a poop problem.

“It really holds the dog owner responsible. We found once our PooPrints program has been implemented we see a 75 to 95 percent reduction in dog waste just after the DNA profiling and collection of the dogs,” Sharpton said.

The process is simple. The first step is to register the DNA of all dogs in the community. A kit is sent to each dog owner with swabs. These swabs collect DNA from the dog’s cheek.  That is mailed away and put into the database. If a suspect pile is found a sample is also collected and sent to the lab that matches the DNA of the doggie doo to the guilty pooch.

Pet owners who spoke to FOX 5 said the idea of dog DNA testing is unusual but if it forces lazy owners to pick up their pet’s poop, they’re on board.

“I think that it’s sad that it’s come to that, but I think it’s a good idea.  That would be great I would like to see them implement that in our complex,” Town said.

Dog DNA testing has become so popular PooPrints is now testing throughout the U.S., Canada, Israel and Singapore.

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