Apartment and condo managers, dogged by complaints from those who've experienced the squishy and smelly sensation of stepping onto a pile of dog doo, are turning to DNA testing to identify the culprits who don't clean up after their pets.
It's the latest twist in the long-running struggle to keep canine waste off lawns, hallways, elevators and other common areas of animal-friendly community buildings.
DNA monitoring has yielded immediate and dramatic results in the condominium community of Devon Wood, where maintenance staff previously reported seeing, stepping onto or driving over several piles of droppings each week on its 350-acre property in Braintree, Mass.
"We initially didn't - for a better part of a month - didn't find any waste, which just floored us," said Barbara Kansky, who manages the 398-unit condo development, twhich introduced DNA monitoring in July. Polite reminders, letters and notices previously failed to persuade errant pet owners to observe condo rules requiring them to clean up after their animals, Kansky said. There were problems even after residents reported seeing others failing to pick up their dogs' messes.
"We would call or send a letter, and that dog owner would say: 'Prove it,'" Kansky said.
So she searched online and found Knoxville, Tenn.-based BioPet Vet Lab, which specializes in testing DNA from dog poop to identify offending animals. BioPet has beefed up its staff with more scientists to meet demand for what Eric Mayer, director of business development, calls "a booming, growing, new product," and has started distributing throughout the U.S. and into Canada, Israel and Singapore in the past two years.
The service, branded PooPrints, is simple, Mayer said. The first step is to register the DNA of all dogs in the community by collecting samples of their cheek cells using a pair of sterile swabs. The second is to collect a sample of feces and send it to the lab for matching.
An attorney advised Kansky that condo trustees could enforce condo rules by requiring all dog owners to submit their animals for collection of DNA samples. Dog owners paid a one-time fee of $59.95 for the initial DNA testing for the database. Subsequent lab tests of dog droppings that end up identifying the offending animal result in a $50 testing fee plus a $100 fine. So far, one resident dog has been identified as an offender.