Our Dog-Feces Dream Is Finally a Reality

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Yes, it sounds like a ridiculous idea, and you may have been among those who laughed, or worse, when we first proposed it: In order to keep a city’s streets clean of dog poop, require dog owners to submit DNA samples from their pets when they get licenses; then use that DNA database to trace any left-behind poop and send the dogs’ owners stiff fines.

Well, it took three years but the Israeli city of Petah Tikva has actually put this plan to work:

The city will use the DNA database it is building to match feces to a registered dog and identify its owner.

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.

But droppings found underfoot in the street and matched through the DNA database to a registered pet could earn its owner a municipal fine.

It is interesting — and probably wise — that Petah Tikva has coupled the penalties with rewards. Clearly, their plan is a bit more thought-out than ours:

“My goal is to get the residents involved, and tell them that together, we can make our environment clean,” said Tika Bar-On, the city’s chief veterinarian who came up with the idea for the DNA experiment. Bar-On said the DNA database could also help veterinarians research genetic diseases in dogs, investigate canine pedigree, and identify stray animals, replacing the need for electronic chip identification.

As for me, a New York resident: well, I am still waiting, and not so patiently. It still astonishes me that the same person who will glare at someone for speaking loudly on a cell phone or for not putting a bottle in the right recycling bin will let his dog defecate in the middle of a grassy area in Central Park where kids play, and then do a minimal cleanup, if at all. Unless we can get the DNA plan rolling here, I may have to start agitating all-out for mandatory dog diapers.

(P.S.: I realize this is my second poop-related post in two days; I apologize, and promise to clean up my act.)

(Hat tip: Mat Davis, Sendhil Revuluri, several others)


Meme

"It still astonishes me that the same person who will glare at someone for speaking loudly on a cell phone or for not putting a bottle in the right recycling bin will let his dog defecate in the middle of a grassy area in Central Park where kids play, and then do a minimal cleanup, if at all."

It astonishes me that a column about human behaviour is written without thinking to turn it around. On a number of occasions I've stood over my dog's crap, plastic bag in hand while someone comes up and denounces me, turns and throws their hamburger wrapper or still lit cigarette onto the ground.

I propose that cigarettes are prepared at point of sale with an imprint of the licensed purchaser's genetic code.

gp

I spend a good deal of time and money taking care of my puppy. I clean up after him and always carry him. I think owners who do a poor job cleaning up after their dogs (or who allow them to deficate in improper areas) should be stiffly fined.

That said, I should have the right to punch rude parents who think it is okay for to harass my dog and myself, then send their children to do so even more forcefully. I hate these little brats. I do not bother them, so keep them away from me. Parents think they can send them over to keep them from getting bored. That is not my job, and I do not want these evil monsters having my dog put down if he bites one of their offspring after it hurts my poor little dog.

What ever happened to raising children in the suburbs? If you must have them here, please, do not send them to traumatize my puppy.

Griff

#16 '..would probably lead to riots..'

Does anyone remember a short Science Fiction story about a ban on dogs in New York which leads to a city wide riot/insurrection?

It featured an anti-dog group called DIM ('do it for mamma', apparently after a scene in 'Midnight cowboy').

Alon Nir

#10 and #11 - I live in the nearby city of Tel-Aviv and visit Petach Tikva regularly. It is no joke.

and as for the others who exclaimed about the waste of funds - well, i assume the costs will be covered with fine money.

Ron Stevens

I have a resolution;just clone Lassie.Lassie

wouldn't poop in the streets,and the clones perhaps wouldn't either. rofl

Better yet,get a more constructive idea for

spending taxpayer money.

Carl

Come on. It will never happen. They're just writing the press release as a deterrent.

The Tribune regularly writes press releases about how behind the Chicago police are about running old rapes through the database. The police aren't going to bum around finding dog feces?

A. How do they know that the feces didn't come from another animal like geese, fox, coyote, etc etc?

B. How much is too much? I clean up my poop with a bag, yet there is still a little bit left. You can't get everything. It wipes on the grass like toilet paper.

Mike

This is bikeshedding unless some kind of genetic fingerprinting is also used to identify human litterers. I'm constantly amazed that I can bag a pile of stuff that came out of my dog's arse and walk and walk for blocks to find a bin, yet there must be two orders of magnitude more people who cannot take a cigarette butt of of their own mouth and put it in a bin (or their own pocket).

sarahCMS

This article reminds me about the article refering to putting a tax on sex. It is imposible to measure how many people have sex, how many dogs poo, if it is imposible to know how many human beings are born, these other things are even harder to know. But this author makes a resonable statement, these people who care so much for environment let their children sit in the grass where dogs do their thing. The clearly are not weighing their marginal beefit corecctly, since the marginal benefit of cleaining after a dog defecates is much greater than its cost.

PedroCMS

Yeah, I think it would become kind of difficult to keep track of every single dog's DNA. What about stray dogs? What about lost dogs? How would they know in the DNA center when a dog changes owner? These issues all present complications for this system. I don't disagree with this system; I think it's a great idea, but I just can't seem to avoid seeing the possible logistics failures of it.

Mike

Before we think about taxing dog poop, let's talk about taxing human poop. Every time it rains heavily in the Midwest, billions of gallons of untreated sewage gets dumped in our riverways and lakes. Cities like Chicago and Milwaukee get a lot of bad press for doing it, but most of the smaller communities do it as well (but dump smaller quantities due to their smaller populations). Since midwesterner's tend to use the same water for their drinking supply, this represents a more significant health hazard than stepping on dog poop. Can't we just tax these communities and use the profits to fund projects for cleaning up the water supplies? I am sure the same problems exist elsewhere in the country.

Chris

This was an April Fool's joke in our paper a few years ago. I still consider it that.

Charles

I'd tax dog owners to finance the cleaning of the mess some leave behind daily

Henry Abbott

I can't believe this level of sleuthing is being employed to ward off the international crisis of doggie poopie, but not to track down perpetrators of much more serious kinds of pollution. Surely, a system could be designed to trace that mercury in my fish to a coal plant in Ohio, or that dioxin in the Mississippi to some chemical plant.

Justin

It seems that they are replacing a moral disincentive with a monetary disincentive - as our bloggers know, this doesn't always work.

Howl

All of the actual problems in the world, and people want to spend resources to DNA-test dog poop? Please tell me it's actually April Fools' Day.

Ron

Are you really saying that we need a bigger government so we can teach people to be responsible? Are you going to fund the poop police yourself? While your at it how about picking up the tab for the cost of the DNA analysis? Can we store the poop at your house for the months and months it takes to go to court on these tickets? Oh wait maybe we should spend a few million dollars building a hazardous waste containment facility to hold it all. Come on people, a little common sense here please.

Matt

It's not a stupid idea at all. What is stupid is the selfishness of many pet owners.

Raj Pandravada

Maybe the city of Lee's Summit, MO can take a leaf out of Petah Tikva's book. They are planning to outlaw public urination.

http://www.lsjournal.com/100/story/16660.html

If these two trends intersect soon, we might have to pee in a cup to get a license or passport.

pelayocms

Dog-poop has become a real problem in big cities like NY and most of Europe. I'm a dog hater and i find it discusting each time i step on dog waste. What the city of Petah has done to put a negative externality on dog defecation seems to be a good solution; if the cost of going thorugh the hassle of creating a database and analyzing each dropping, to then fine the owner is less than what has been gained. Clearly the governors of the israeli city do find a benefit in doing this.

On Ny doing this, I don't think it will happen anytime soon. Pursuing dog-diapers i think is a better idea because it will avoid any dog-pi in the streets.

cecilia

I have been visiting New York for 5 days. I am from Oregon. The first thing I noticed in NYC was the dried, smeared dog poop on the sidewalks, not big pieces of poop, but smeared flat pieces, obviously the remnants from a failed clean-up. You cannot avoid stepping on it. It is everywhere. then you go home and track it into the apartment. It is disgusting. Why New Yorkers have put up with this nonsense, I have no idea. New Yorkers need to rise up and either ban dogs outright from the city or institute this DNA stuff with carrots and penalties. In any case, it is stupid to have dogs in such a noisy city. It must be very hard on the dogs.