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Tag: shit

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)

Dog poop: Do I need to draw you a picture?

All Over Albany” has noticed that dog poop is, well, all over Albany — and they’ve fashioned a helpful flow chart to help address the (fecal) matter.

(Click on the illegible version above to be taken to the full size chart. Then come back, for this isn’t just an upstate New York issue, but a national, nay, global one.)

At my park in Baltimore, and probably your’s, it seems that, when the snow and cold arrive, the manners of some otherwise responsible dog owners depart.

Whether it’s because people don’t want to traipse throught the snow to scoop it up, or because it’s just so darned cold, there are a lot more lingering dog droppings to be seen, and stepped in.

In a perfect world, those not scooping would be the ones stepping in it — but it never seems to work out that way.

And while, granted, solidly frozen poopage won’t despoil your footwear, neglected droppings, amid continued freeze and thaw, can come back to haunt us.

“We’ve thought a lot about this issue,” Alloveralbany.com reported in a piece last month. “And we finally came to the conclusion that winter somehow impairs the ability of some people to make good decisions about whether they should pick up their dog’s poop.

“So, we’re here to help. We’ve constructed a flow chart to assist citizens of the Capital Region in their decision-making process on the all important question: ‘It’s winter. My dog has pooped. What now?’”

Built like a brick shithouse

I have heard the term “brick shithouse,” but I’m not sure I’ve ever seen one — until Saturday, when I encountered something close: a toilet made of brick in a restroom made of cinderblock at a park well outside Harrisburg.

It — the term — is, at least when I’ve heard it, generally used to describe someone of sturdy frame, as in: “He (she) is built like a brick shithouse.”

Urban Dictionary offers these definitions: “…very muscled and tough; impervious, unassailable …  a stand alone toilet, constructed from brick.” (Is there a rural dictionary? There should be.)

I’m not sure of the phrase’s origin, but I’d guess, when outhouses were common, most were made of flimsy wood — until someone constructed a brick one, and word spread about how sturdy it was. I’m guessing people flocked to see it, making comments like, “Now, that’s a shithouse.” Somehow, from that point, the phrase began being used to describe large and sturdy people.

Ace and I were on our way to visit some puppies for sale by an Amish breeder (story to come) when we stopped at a municipal park to stretch our legs (to use a more polite euphemism). I stepped into the bathroom to see a toilet seat perched atop what appeared to be a chimney.

I’d imagine sitting on it — a purpose I did not require — would make one feel a little like Santa Claus.

Anyway, having seen a brick shithouse, or at least something close to it, we can cross it off our list and continue our travels, staying on the lookout for hell in a handbasket, a two-dollar whore, raining cats and dogs, and lipstick on a pig.

Crack technology: The strap-on poop catcher

It pains me to report that the PooTrap, a strap-on device that catches your dog’s poop before it hits the ground, is not a comedy bit, but a real product.

Its website, pootrapusa.com doesn’t seem to be working right now, which I hope isn’t a result of high demand for the device, because it’s downright silly. I’m not certain dogs can feel embarassment, but if they can’t, a few hours in one of these get ups should do the trick.

Other than its possible use on an ill dog, ala diapers, the PooTrap, gets our nomination, sight unseen (other than in the video)  for the dump.

A look at the website’s FAQs, as reported by Crunchgear.com, indicates the makers of PooTrap aren’t real knowledgeable about dogs, or the English language:

Read more »

Scoopen ze poop: Berlin campaign uses humor

A citizens group in Germany is fighting Berlin’s ongoing problem of uncollected dog poop with, of all things, humor.

Instead of pointing fingers at owners who don’t pick up after their dogs, surreptitiously photographing them, engaging in shouting matches and confrontations, or fining them $1,000 (aka the Baltimore way), Sandra Kaliga and her neighbors decided to go for the funny bone.

She and her friends now regularly hit the streets of Berlin’s Prenzlauer Berg district — under the auspices of their organization, Shit Happens – to place tiny flags featuring funny quips atop uncollected piles.

“Only humor is effective,” said Kaliga, a dog owner.

Shit Happens has 15 different flag slogans that they hope will alert innocent pedestrians and remind dog owners to clean up after their pets. “Well formed!” reads one. “100 grammes, just €1.99,” says another.

So far reaction in the neighborhood has been positive, according to an article in “The Local,” an English-language news website in Germany.

“Most people find it funny,” Shit Happens member Sabina Ruminski said. “But we also get some dim-witted commentary, which mostly comes from dog owners who feel like they’ve been caught.” Other dog owners rush to clean up poop when they see the group headed their way, members said.

According to the Berlin Animal Protection Agency, the city is home to more than 107,000 pooches, producing an estimated 30 million pounds of poop a year. Some dog owners in Germany, because they are required to pay a “dog tax” each year, reportedly feel that should absolve them of having to clean up after their pets.

Shit Happens members say they sympathize with Berlin dog owners, who are often forced to carry plastic bags of poop for long distances due to a lack of waste receptacles – a problem the group suggests be solved with dog tax money.

In the meantime, Shit Happens is filling tiny flag orders for communities outside Berlin and is creating new “Danke” flags to hand pet owners they spot doing their part to keep the streets clean.

(Photo from Shit Happens … “Haufen,” I think, means pile, but I don’t know what “Herrchen” means. Maybe some our readers in Germany can help us out.)

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.

Bureau of Fecal Forensics?

The Israeli city of Petah Tikva is setting up a DNA database of local dogs so that unscooped poop may be analyzed and traced to its rightful owner.

Dog owners won’t receive the offending — and offensive — matter back, but they will get a ticket.

“My goal is to get the residents involved and tell them that together, we can make our environment clean,” Tika Bar-On, the city’s chief veterinarian, told Reuters news agency.

Owners were reacting positively to the six-month trial program, she told the agency, because they wanted their streets to be clean.

At the moment providing a DNA sample is up to individual dog owners, but the city was considering making it compulsory, she added.

Petah Tikva, a suburb of Tel Aviv, is asking dog owners to take their animal to a municipal veterinarian, who then swabs its mouth and collects DNA.

It’s the latest in the worldwide crackdown on unscooped poop (is there a correlation between how unable a country is to end its wars and the amount of time and money they spend fighting poop?)  In England, some towns have turned to closed circuit TV and undercover patrols to identify offenders. What’s next, SWAT teams that swoop in at the first sign of a dog squatting?

Even that might be more useful than than what the Israeli town is planning, which seems another case of technology eclipsing common sense.

The news report says that owners who scoop up their dogs’ droppings and place them in specially marked bins on Petah Tikva’s streets will be eligible for rewards of pet food coupons and dog toys.

I’m not sure, but that seems to be implying that the town — in addition to analyzing outlaw poop — will be analyzing law-abiding poop, as well.

How much of a staff will be required to pull this all off — from those who retrieving it (fecal engineers?) to those who are transporting it to the lab (parapoopers?) to those conducting the analyses (certified crapologists?)

And even more interestingly, what will the department that does the work be called?

It may already have a name, but I’m accepting nominations, anyway. (Extra points if it’s also a good acronym.)

If necessary, necessary cancel one or two for me.
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