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    Sunday, June 23, 2024

    Doggie DNA has the scoop on errant pet poop

    The proof is in the poop.

    A Tennessee-based company that uses its extensive registry of canine DNA to help nab unscrupulous dog owners has expanded over the past decade to serve 80 rental communities in Connecticut, including roughly 15 in southeastern Connecticut.

    It’s called PooPrints, and it bills itself as the first and largest provider of a science-based dog waste management solution. The process works by taking genetic material from dog poop left behind in apartment complexes and comparing it to a genetic database to figure out who didn’t pick up after their dog.

    Skylar Tobey, who works for SRK Management at the Gateway Commons complex near Costco in East Lyme, said the complex of townhouses and apartments has contracted with PooPrints since before the company took over management in February. The first apartments went up under previous ownership in 2015.

    “When the dogs come in, they are swabbed for a little doggie DNA, then we ship it off to the company,” she said.

    There, the sample joins a registry of pet DNA from more than 7,000 communities worldwide. PooPrints director of sales operations McKenzie Towns estimated the laboratory processes about 270 swabs per day.

    That means owners who do not pick up after their pets have nowhere to hide – not after management sends a nickel-sized sample of the evidence to the company to be processed.

    Tobey said the company checks the sample for DNA and sends back a report.

    “And then we know what dog it came from,” he said.

    The laboratory averages about 300 samples per day, according to Towns.

    Using 16 genetic markers, the company reports the odds are as high as 1 in 60 sextillion that more than one dog will share the same genetic profile.

    Towns said people are still consistently surprised to hear that the idea – with its futuristic overtones – has been around since 2008.

    “When people look at our program, a lot of the time they may think it’s a little bit Big Brothery or we’re out to get people that own dogs, but the simple truth is we’re dog lovers,” she said.

    Towns said the company’s goals are to promote responsible ownership, protect the environment and allow more dogs to live in more places.

    The company charges apartment communities in Connecticut $47 to add each pet to the registry, according to Towns. The fee for testing a sample ranges from $1-$150 based on the level of the service plan.

    “These owner/operators can let pets on the property and they know there’s going to be no destruction to their common areas and residents aren’t going to be arguing about stepping in dog waste,” Towns said. “It just makes a better community overall.”

    The lease for the communities at Gateway Commons stipulates every tenant must visit the leasing office to swab their pet within 48 hours of moving in. There’s a $200 fine for those who don’t comply.

    Tobey said they’ve only had to use the service one time to process an unscooped poop sample. She credited the threat of a DNA match and the resulting fine with keeping dog owners on their best behavior. The penalty is $150 for the first violation and $250 the second time.

    Dustin Gibbons – a regional manager for Merion Residential which oversees 10 apartment complexes in Connecticut, New Jersey and Delaware – said the DNA dog waste detection service has been in place at The Ledges in Groton since before his company acquired it in 2018.

    He estimated management has to send fecal evidence for testing about four times per year.

    “Usually the first time’s just a warning,” he said. “It’s not really about the fine to us. It’s about making sure we have responsible pet owners.”

    At Harbor Heights in Mystic, the management company Trio Properties has been a client of the DNA waste testing company for more than a year. According to staff member Tia McCloskey, the affiliation has kept the community free of errant poop piles.

    She said it’s good to have the science available if the company needs to use it, but emphasized it hasn’t “had the need to do that yet.”

    At The Sound at Gateway Commons in East Lyme, resident Julia Peterson said she swabbed her dog, Macy when they moved in. Then she brought it back to the staff members in a plastic bag.

    She said she had reservations about how effectively the program was being implemented when her fiance stepped in a pile of dog poop on their first day there.

    But now she classified the service as “a good deterrent” in general.

    “It’s generally pretty clean, so something is working,” she said.

    She also pointed to the ready availability of dog waste bags within the complex and trash cans on every corner.

    “For the most part, I can walk in the grass and not be afraid,” she said.


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