British Columbia

Dog DNA tracking could reduce unscooped poop: West Vancouver councillor

A district councillor in West Vancouver is floating the idea of recording the DNA of local dogs and testing unscooped poop to crack down on offenders.

Coun. Mary-Ann Booth floated the idea at a meeting this week

Dogs play at West Vancouver's Ambleside Park on Thursday. A local councillor has suggested using DNA to catch those who don't pick up after their dogs. (Simon Charland-Faucher/CBC)

West Vancouver district Coun. Mary-Ann Booth walks her Yorkie-Maltese, Gibson, down by the beach every day.

"Just on the short five-block walk, I'm quite disappointed by how many people don't pick up after their dogs, and it gives all dog owners a bad name," said Booth.

Toward the end of a long council meeting on Monday, Booth brought up the idea of cracking down on offending pet owners by creating a registry of local dogs' DNA, and sending unscooped poop samples to the lab to have them tested and matched to pets in the registry.

"This technology that's evolving is something that I just wanted to kind of suggest to our staff," she said.

Dog DNA already being gathered

The idea of creating dog DNA databases to reduce undesired droppings isn't a new one. Condos and landlords have been creating databases across North America in recent years.

The U.S. company BioPet Laboratories specializes in dog and dog poop matching, with clients in the U.S., Canada, and the United Kingdom.

A woman tends to four dogs in West Vancouver. (Simon Charland-Faucher/CBC)

Sales manager Ernie Jones said the company hasn't had a municipality sign up for BioPet's services yet, but pilot projects are underway in the London area, and some boroughs are close to rolling out the service.

Jones said the company charges $59 US per dog to have its DNA analyzed and added to the registry, then testing each fecal sample costs the same. Jones said the DNA is usually taken from a dog's cheek cells using a swab.

Booth imagines a scheme in West Vancouver where the DNA is registered when dog licences are purchased. She suggested the goal would be to recover the cost of the program through escalating fines for repeat offenders.

Dog poop could be brought to city hall

"If people collected it from their property if they found some offending matter ... I could foresee that they could bring it to city hall. There might be a special container for collection, and then we ship it off to a third-party contractor for analysis," she said.

Booth doesn't anticipate any legal setbacks in demanding pet owners agree to have dog DNA collected.

"The only thing I would worry about is people would stop registering their dog. That might be an unintended consequence and you wouldn't want that because there are very good reasons to register your dog," she said.

Idea only floated

According to West Vancouver District spokesperson Jeff McDonald, the poop idea has been suggested, but absolutely nothing else is happening on the proposal from the district's point of view.

"There's no motion, there's no report from staff to council or direction from council to staff on this. It's not something the district is considering at this time," he said.

"To me, the only value in this as a broader story for the public is just a reminder that they need to pick up after their pets in public places," he said. "It's the bylaw."

Booth isn't planning to aggressively push the scheme, noting that council has other priorities, including a housing crisis.

"I realize we have limited resources, so it's not at the top of my list, no," she said of the idea.

"This definitely requires more research and more thinking, for sure," said Booth, adding that she'll continue to have conversations about it and investigate to see if the idea is viable.

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