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Tag: dumping

Fecal responsibility: Boulder looks at DNA testing to track down poop scofflaws

poopquestionBoulder City Councilwoman Mary Young wants to know how feasible it would be to require DNA samples from dogs, and create a registry so that, through DNA analysis, poop left on city trails could be traced to dog owners.

She’s not suggesting every dog in Boulder be tested (yet) — just the estimated 35,000 with so-called “green tags” that allow them to romp off-leash on some of the city’s trails and greenspaces.

Young has asked that the issue be discussed at tonight’s City Council meeting, the Boulder Daily Camera reports. (Yes, it happens to be an April Fools Day meeting, but nobody’s joking here.)

I would hope Boulder looks not just at whether it can be done (it can), but at whether it should be — that city leaders consider, in addition to the price tag of such a venture, the ethics and implications and utter goofiness of it.

There’s a lot of dog-related technology I don’t like (click the banner at the top of this page for one example) and poop-detection technology is near the top of the list.

Not just because of its Orwellian overtones, not just because it’s heavy-handed, dictatorial, silly, creepy, intrusive and expensive.  It’s also because technology, unleashed, has a habit of oozing beyond the boundaries of its originally intended purpose — DNA-testing of dog poop being just such a case — and spreading into ever scarier realms.

The day could still come when your tossed cigarette butt, un-recycled soda can or expectorated phlegm could be traced back to you, which, come to think of it, might be a better use of DNA technology than that being offered by the dog poop sleuths.

Declaring war on poop, and bringing out technology’s big guns, is overkill. Especially when the real solution can be achieved by simply bending over and picking up what your dog leaves behind.

In case you haven’t been following our posts on this issue, here’s how it works:

Deciding unscooped dog poop is simply intolerable, homeowners associations, apartment complexes or government entities sign up with a company called PooPrints, which sends them the supplies needed for residents to take swabs from the cheeks of their dogs. Those are sent to Tennessee, and a doggie DNA registry is created.

After that, any pile of poop that is found can be gathered, packaged and sent to a lab in Tennessee, where it can be unpackaged and tested and, by comparing DNA markers, matched to an individual dog, assuming that dog’s DNA is in the registry.

The company lets management know who the poopetrator was, and the owner is fined $100 or so — or, if a repeat offender, perhaps told they and/or their dog should move somewhere else. Thereby a community is made safe from scofflaws, as well as, say, a grandmother whose back might have been hurting too much one day to pick up every last dropping left by her Shih Tzu.

Here in my current home state, North Carolina, apartment complexes in Winston-Salem and Wilmington are among the growing number of property management companies and government entities turning to PooPrints.

Yes, dog poop can be hazardous to our health, and harmful to the environment.

So can the feces of all the non-domesticated animals we live among, but don’t feel compelled to prosecute for pooping.

danriversludgeSo, too, can the dumpage of corporate entities, like the thousands of tons of coal ash spilled into the Dan River by Duke Energy, coating 70 miles of the river with toxic sludge.

That’s a little harder to pick up after, and, I’d suggest, at least as deserving of society’s consternation and oversight and vigilance as dog poop — even if punishing the culprit won’t make them change their ways. (Big companies, unlike the average dog owner, can hire lawyers to avoid fines, and, if unsuccessful, they just pass the costs along to their customers.)

Finding clean sources of energy — that’s a use of technology I like. Using DNA to solve murders  (and clear the wrongly convicted) seems a good use,  too.

But gathering, packaging and mailing dog poop so technicians in Tennessee can comb through it and test it, by comparison, seems a silly use of our technological muscles.

In Colorado, Boulder officials say dog waste on public trails is one of the most common complaints the city receives, so it’s not surprising that they’d turn to a company that claims to have the solution.

Eric Mayer, director of business development for BioPet Vet Lab in Knoxville, Tenn., said the company’s PooPrint service is used by private property management companies in 45 states and in Canada. Franchises are popping up all over, like Burger Kings.

So far, the company doesn’t have contracts with any municipalities, but officials have been in talks with a half dozen different local governments. He said he expects to sign the first municipal PooPrints contract with Ipswich, Mass., sometime this year.

Maybe, if poop detection continues to catch on, it would be good for the economy. Maybe, you too could have a fulfilling career as a dog poop laboratory technician.

But there are far better ways to spend our time and money, and far bigger problems more deserving of our rage. Between all the emotion, and all the technology, we seem to forget that we can simply …

Pick it up!

(Top photo, fake poop question mark, from Big Mouth Toys; bottom photo, sludge from the Dan River spill, courtesy of Dan River Basin Association)

Mississippi officer charged in dumping case

A former animal control officer in Mississippi accused of shooting stray dogs and dumping their bodies in a creek has been charged, according to the Madison County District Attorney.

Last week, the Canton Police Department filed affidavits with the Canton Justice Court against Alonzo Esco for misdemeanor charges of unlawful killing of animals.

Esco was the city of Canton’s animal control officer. As a law enforcement officer, he will have to have a probable cause hearing before a judge before the case can be prosecuted, WAPT in Jackson reports.

A Madison County grand jury failed to indict Esco on felony charges and felt that the charges were misdemeanors and better handled in justice court, the district attorney said.

Esco was fired in January after home video surfaced that allegedly showed dozens of animal carcasses dumped in a creek in Canton. Since then, a group of residents has demanded that Esco be charged.

Animal control officer fired for dumping dogs

acofficerAn animal control officer in Mississippi has been fired amid allegations he shot more than 100 dogs he was supposed to bring to a shelter and instead dumped their bodies in a creek.

Alonzo Esco was fired by the city of Canton during an executive session Tuesday night, WAPT-TV in Jackson reported.

The investigation began when a resident attempted to adopt a dog  that Esco had picked up in her neighborhood in November.

“I called the animal rescue league to see if they would hold him for me, but they informed me that Alonzo Esco had not been there that day, nor had he been there for several months,” the resident, Debbie Young, said.

She contacted Canton police, who referred the case to Madison County District Attorney Michael Guest. Esco, however, has not been charged with any crime, and county and city officials don’t officials don’t come across in news reports as sounding too outraged. There are no felony charges for animal cruelty in Mississippi, although animal-rights activists are pushing lawmakers to change the law.

“Some of those animals may have been killed, or discarded without following the rules and procedures set forth,” Guest said. “In researching the issue, it appears the killing of a dog is a crime, but it’s a misdemeanor.”

“There are no criminal charges that have been filed or anything like that that I’m aware of,” Canton Police Chief Vicky McNeill said. “Our investigation did not call for any form of arrest.”

Maybe somebody should.

(An update)

Chapter 3: Will Knut get the boot?

Now fully grown and weighing 440 pounds, Knut bears (sorry) little resemblance to the button-eyed ball of white fluff that stole the hearts of Berlin, Germany and the world.

And, as if he were some TV anchorwoman past what management sees as her prime, zoo officials are saying he may have to go.

This couldn’t be more wrong (be it Knut, or our hypothetical anchorwoman). It’s a clear cut case of exploiting a cute little animal for all he’s worth, then unceremoniously dumping him when he gets fat and grey.

Knut has competition now. Nuremberg zoo officials introduced their own cub, Flocke in April. Another polar bear was introduced a week later, at Stuttgart’s Wilhelma zoo.

But Knut still manages to draw crowds at the Berlin Zoo, where he single-handedly increased visitors by 27 percent in 2007 and brought in $8.6 million in profits from products bearing his image, including stuffed animals, T-shirts, mugs and DVDs, according to an Associated Press report.

Nevertheless the zoo says it must do what is best for Knut — and, given their limited space, that might mean saying goodbye to him.

“The survival of the species is more important than any individual,” bear keeper Heiner Kloes said.

Knut currently lives in a small section of Berlin’s polar bear enclosure, home to four other polar bears, including Knut’s parents Tosca and Lars. That means there is no extra space for Knut.

Kloes said he wouldn’t consider keeping the young bear instead of his father, because by the time Knut is sexually mature the two other females will be too old to bear cubs.

Under a deal with the Neumuenster zoo, which owns Lars, it has the right to Knut. Zoo manager Peter Druewa has said Knut would have to move if the Berlin Zoo is not ready to invest in a new enclosure for him.

“If Berlin doesn’t want to build a new enclosure — or expand one of the existing ones — we’ll need to find a new place for him,” he said.

A website called Unibet is running odds on the zoo likeliest to get the bear, with Zoom Erlebniswelt in Germany the top contender, followed by Tierpark Neumuenster in Germany and Sweden’s Orsa Bjornpark. Also tipped but at longer odds are zoos in Norway, Finland, Denmark, Estonia and Spain.

Knut still has has public sentiment on his side. Doris Webb, who has followed Knut since he was first presented to the world, has gathered more than 21,000 signatures in support of keeping him in Berlin.

“We want to show how important it is for Berlin, for the people here — and for Knut himself,” she said.

Dirty politics: Do we smell a smear campaign?

Another tale from the not-so-good neighbor department:

Police in St. Cloud, Minnesota, have ticketed a man for ”unlawful dumping” after he admitted to being the culprit who had been placing small bags of dog feces in the back of his neighbor’s pick up truck — all because it was adorned with a McCain sign.

Police said Donald Esmay, 19, of St. Cloud, told radio station KNSI-AM that he’d been finding small baggies of dog feces in the back of his pickup truck for the past few weeks — ever since he put a 2-foot-by-4-foot McCain sign there.

He and his family watched the truck trying to catch the culprit, but didn’t have any luck until Wednesday when his mother and brother saw someone from the neighborhood, according to an Associated Press report.

They confronted the 45-year-old man, who admitted to it. When police later spoke with the man, he said he did it because he “hates McCain.”

The unlawful dumping ticket comes with a $183 fine.