Aarian Marshall is a transportation reporter at WIRED and former CityLab contributor. She lives in San Francisco.
One city borough wants to use DNA testing to sniff out owners who don't scoop their pets' poop.
Coming in contact with dog poop can be, shockingly, pretty bad for you. Canine fecal matter—that's what it's called in polite company—can carry a variety of nasties that can make humans (and particularly children) very sick. On a more visceral level, is there anything worse about city living than stepping in a soft bed of fresh dog crap?
Luckily, a London borough may have figured out a way to use science to ensure you'll never lose a perfectly good shoe to a glob of puppy waste again. The borough of Barking and Dagenham (yes, this is its real name) has announced that it will partner with the U.S.-based company BioPet Vet Lab for a pilot project that requires all local doggy park users to submit DNA cheek swabs from their furry friends. According to the BBC, wardens will then patrol the borough's open spaces and "test any rogue mess." If the abandoned dog poop matches your dog's DNA pooprint? That's an automatic fine: £80, or $120 in U.S. dollars.
In its pilot stage, only one or two local dog parks will be involved in the DNA testing, according to Eric Mayer, head of business development for Biopet Vet Lab. Anyone who wants to use those facilities will have to submit a canine swab, which cost about $45. (The fee will probably be split between the owner, the borough and the lab.) But by 2016, all 27 of the borough's parks and open spaces could be patrolled.
This idea isn't a totally new one: BioPet Vet Lab has been offering their services since 2010. But this is among the first uses of the technology on a municipal level. (Indiana's Carmel Clay Parks and Recreation Department recently announced that it may also start using BioPet's services.) If it all sounds a little too Minority Report, consider the plight of one Seattle apartment complex that was virtually forced to start using the poo-testing service this year. From the Seattle Times:
“There was poop inside the elevators, in the carpeted hallways, up on the roof,” says Erin Atkinson, property manager at Potala Village Apartments, a 108-unit complex in downtown Everett.
In the elevator?
“They’re lazy, I guess,” says Atkinson about the dog owners. “I don’t know why.”