Can dog owners be evicted for not supplying dog poop samples?
Property manager wants to use DNA testing to catch irresponsible pet owners
It's really hitting the fan.
Take dog-obsessed Vancouverites, add a demand for a sample of their precious pooch's poop, and mix in a threat of eviction for non-compliance, and you have a recipe for a landlord's permanent banishment to the dog house.
That's what's happening at an apartment complex in Burnaby, B.C.
On the weekend, all of the roughly 30 dog owners got a notice under their doors, including Daniel Paulin-Dupere.
"They want to collect the DNA from everyone who has a dog in the building because there's been a dog that's been pooping in the hallway and stairwells and they want to find it," Paulin-Dupere said.
Fair enough. Every dog owner knows there are "accidents" from time to time, but it's common courtesy to stoop and scoop after the act. Even other dog owners in the building are grossed out by this one.
"It was just diarrhea, thick, all over, up and down the stairs, going up past the second floor," resident Dan Charlie said.
Paulin-Dupere posted the letter on the social networking website Reddit, asking, "Is my landlord allowed to do this?"
The post has set off howls from pet lovers, human and pet rights activists and people who just want to live in a clean building.
A fellow resident (and dog owner) Puplover101 posted: "someone allowed there dog to have the runs all the way down the 3 story staircase. It still today smells horrible. I understand where the landlord is coming from but there is well over 30 dogs in our building with lots of owners that I know for sure don't pick up after their dogs! Not to mention the half dozen people I spoke to alone today that said they will not be handing over any poop without a warrant."
Already, people have posted ways of getting around the investigation.
fauxsifron: "This system would be pretty easy to circumvent by turning in random poo you find at the dog park."
There are also concerns about where all this will end.
m3ckano: "My worry would be...what's next? If everyone cooperates with this, next it will be fingerprints please! Someone is smudging the front window so we are collecting fingerprints to find the culprit."
Bringing irresponsible pet owners to heel is a growing business, it appears.
Alberta-based PooPrints Canada provides such a service. Building management is supplied with DNA swab kits. Samples are collected from all pets and in most cases the cost is passed on to their owners. The results are stored in a database. When an incident occurs, the "evidence" is swabbed and sent to a lab for comparison. In five to 10 days, results show which animal was the offender.
The company's website promises, "the dog owner, rarely, if ever, re-offends."
But can pet owners be forced to submit DNA samples (swabs or otherwise) from their pets and can they be evicted if they don't?
"I'm not aware of any law which compels a tenant to submit their animal to such testing, or their feces to such testing," said Lisa Mackie, a lawyer who specializes in strata property and residential tenancy law.
Landlords can restrict size, kind and number of pets and "reasonable pet-related rules that the tenant must follow," said Cheryl May of the B.C. Residential Tenancy Branch. Those rules may even include providing a DNA sample from your pet but it must be in writing, up front.
"Unless specifically written into a lease agreement and both parties agree, failure to provide a dog feces sample is not a reason for eviction under the Residential Tenancy Act," said May.
What about condo dwellers?
Can condo owners be forced to provide DNA samples?
"Good luck with that," said Tony Gioventu, executive director of the Condominium Home Owners Association of B.C.
"How do you get a DNA test that is verifiable? You need a court order," he said.
What Gioventu is referring to is called "chain of custody" in legal terms. Essentially, it's the smooth movement (sorry, couldn't resist) of physical evidence from the time it's gathered until it is used in court. In this case, the gathering of samples for DNA testing would have to be adequately monitored as not to taint the database with substituted material.
Some buildings have installed cameras to catch people breaking the rules on limited or common property areas of complexes, but even that approach has legal implications.
"You have to pass a bylaw allowing a camera to be used for gathering evidence for bylaw enforcement," Gioventu said.
The bottom line is, irresponsible pet owners hurt responsible ones. Landlords and condo councils may eventually try to avoid the hassle and push to make their properties pet-free.
And that would be crappy.