Doggy DNA database lets condos track repeat offenders

Poo Prints database stores dogs' DNA fingerprints to identify owners who don't pick up after their pets.

Profiles matched with samples of what owners leave behind

A dog heads out for a stroll. (The Associated Press)
DNA technology is making scientific breakthroughs worldwide, and now you can find it at the dog park.

Eric Mayer is director of business development at Poo Prints, a waste management solution designed for apartment communities, condominium and homeowners' associations.

The program targets dogs residing in a particular community by collecting their DNA profiles with a simple mouth swab. Those swabs are sent to Poo Prints and logged in a database.

A quick sample will be shipped off to the lab for analysis. (courtesy Poo Prints)
If other neighbourhood residents come across a mess on the sidewalk, they can scoop a sample and send it to the lab, who will match it to the mutt responsible.

"When we first started back in 2010...people kind of looked at us a little puzzled and said, 'You're doing what with what?' But nowadays it's overwhelmingly positive reactions," Mayer says. "I think most people now realize that to be a responsible pet owner and to be environmentally conscious, you have to clean up after your dog. And our program really kind of  cuts to the heart of that and provides accountability."

Poo Prints started in the United States but has now expanded into Canada. Franchises are up and running in Fort McMurray and Calgary, with new programs starting in Vancouver and Toronto.

So far, it's mostly used by condo boards and other multi-unit buildings to encourage tenants to tidy up after their pets.
For the most part, once dogs are registered, the owners are much more conscientious about clean up. But if they aren't, it's quick to track the culprit.

"We had, we call her, a repeat offender whose pet was caught 18 times. And when they finally registered their dog with the cheek swab, all 18 of those samples matched the dog and they 'fessed up," Mayer says.

This is just the start for Poo Prints. The company also has plans for systems to compost pet waste and convert it into a natural gas that can power streetlights.

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