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)