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Tag: registry

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)

Registries proposed for animal abusers

Public registries for convicted animal abusers — much like those that monitor and publish the whereabouts of sexual offenders – have been proposed in California and are being encouraged in other states in a campaign by the Animal Legal Defense Fund.

Those convicted of felonies in cases involving torture, mutilation, intentional killing, dogfighting, neglect and hoarding would be listed on state registries under the proposal, announced yesterday in an Animal Legal Defense Fund press release.

The ALDF says such registries would help protect animals, pet guardians and communities by preventing repeat offenses from anyone with an established history of abusing animals.

Through its campaign, www.ExposeAnimalAbusers.org, the animal protection organization is promoting model legislation that state legislatures could enact.

Bills to establish registries have been introduced in Rhode Island, Colorado, and Tennessee, but the first-ever bill for a statewide registry in California was announced yesterday by its sponsor, Sen. Dean Florez.

The ALDF cited several cases that show the need for such registries:

In 2004, Robert Rydzewski, a 29-year-old man living in upstate New York shot his neighbor’s dog in the face twice. Two months later, he killed another neighbor’s Welsh Corgi with an ax. Rydzewski was convicted of “torturing or injuring” an animal, and he has since been arrested for assaulting people and resisting arrest. His whereabouts are unknown.

In 1999 Shon Rahrig, while living in Ohio, allegedly adopted several cats and a puppy from local shelters and tortured them sadistically. He poked out the eyes of a cat named Misty, broke her legs and jaw, cut off her paws, and left her bleeding in a laundry basket. His girlfriend turned him in, and he took a plea bargain that admitted abuse of only one animal. Rahrig was forbidden to own an animal for five years, but he was subsequently seen at an adoption event in California.

Since 1982, Vikki Kittles has been run out of four states for hoarding animals. Time and again, she has been caught housing dozens of sick, neglected animals in squalid conditions. An Oregon prosecutor convicted Kittles in 1993 after finding 115 sick and dying dogs crammed into a school bus, but she has gone on to hoard animals again in Oregon and other states several times since.

“Animal abuse is not only a danger to our cats, dogs, horses, and other animals, but also to people, said ALDF Executive Director Stephen Wells. “Many animal abusers have a history of domestic violence or other criminal activity, and there is a disturbing trend of animal abuse among our country’s most notorious serial killers.”

The ALDF pointed out that Jeffrey Dahmer, Ted Bundy, David Berkowitz (“The Son of Sam”), Albert DeSalvo (“The Boston Strangler”) and Dennis Rader (Kansas’ “BTK killer”) all abused animals before their other crimes, as did many of the teenagers who went on shooting rampages at high schools in Columbine, Colorado, Pearl, Mississippi, and Springfield, Oregon.

“But it’s not just about how animal abusers end up also hurting or killing humans,” said Wells. “It should be motivation enough to protect our animals from repeat offenders – and any abuse of any kind.”

To sign a petition calling for the establishment of such a registry in your area, click here.

Microchipping improves odds of pet’s return

PetmicrochipA recent study by Ohio State University confirms what would seem to be pretty obvious — microchipped pets have a better chance of being reunited with their owners than those without microchips.

Microchipped pets find their way back home about 75 percent of the time; in the case of dogs, that’s about 2.5 times more often than those without microchips, according to the study.

Less than 2 percent of all stray dogs and cats taken to shelters participating in the study had microchips implanted in their bodies. Nationally, experts estimate about 5 percent of pets are microchipped.

Microchips have yet to become widely popular — and they aren’t foolproof, the study notes. That one of every four microchiped pets isn’t reunited with its owner is a function of the number of different microchip companies and registries, and owners who fail to keep those registries updated on address changes.

Still, the study suggest that pet owners should give strong consideration to microchipping their companion animals — a conclusion that isn’t that surprising, either, considering one of the authors is a consultant for a company that, through one of its subsidairies, manufactures microchips.

The study notes that identification tags, with the pet’s name, owner’s name and phone number, are still the most effective way to ensure a lost pet is returned.

Read more »

The long arm of the law grabs handfuls of …

We’ve reported on this before, but, given our previous post, and seeing as it has made the New York Times, it bears repeating: A city near Tel Aviv is logging information about the DNA of local dogs — by collecting their poop.

The idea is that, in the future, they will be able to analyze unscooped poop, track down the owners and hit them with a fine.

It all got started when the mayor of Petah Tikva called veterinarian Tika Bar-On, the city’s director of veterinary services, and asked if it was possible to use DNA fingerprinting to identify which dogs pooped on his city streets without picking up after them.

As a result, Bar-On introduced the first-ever CSI: Dog poop unit.

Bar-On recruited 12-year-olds from a local grade school to go door to door, persuading dog owners to donate samples, to get the registry started. She’s also managed to get saliva samples from dogs at festivals. And she’s arranging to have her poop squad analyze properly disposed of poop, so that responsible pet owners can get rewards — another incentive for them to register.

To date, the Israeli dog DNA bank contains more than 100 samples. According to Bar-On, about 90 percent of owners agree to donate samples when asked.

The other 10 percent, apparently, are saying no shit. Or spit.

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