Settling the Score with Owners Who Don’t Pick Up After Their Dogs

Dog Poop Clean-up

Story at-a-glance -

  • Naples, Italy has taken a rather high tech approach to the problem of irresponsible dog guardians who can’t be bothered to pick up after their pets. The city has implemented a program to create a database of DNA profiles on the estimated 80,000 dogs living in the city. The database will also contain the names of the owners of all those dogs.
  • When a pile of poop is left on a city sidewalk, it will be collected and a sample submitted for DNA testing. If there’s a match with a dog in the database, the animal’s owner will be assessed a hefty fine.
  • The DNA program is being piloted in two Naples neighborhoods, and city officials are hopeful the program will be as successful as the one in nearby Capri. Apartment and condominium complexes in the U.S. are also implementing dog DNA programs to identify and fine residents who can’t be bothered to pick up after their pets.

By Dr. Becker

It seems dog poop on the streets of the port city of Naples, Italy, is a significant problem. More than a few owners apparently aren't doing their duty after their pets do theirs, and many Naples natives who travel the city's sidewalks are fed up.

The problem of irresponsible dog guardians leaving piles of poo for others to deal with is ubiquitous, and according to the New York Times, several cities around the globe have implemented unique strategies to try to curb the problem. For example, in Spain, a mayor mailed the offending stuff back to the dogs' owners. Other cities have resorted to shaming owners by publicizing their names. And in Mexico City, some parks offer free Wi-Fi to dog parents who turn in bags of poop.

Doggy DNA Tests Identify Who Left the Poo

Naples, however, has opted for a higher tech solution. The municipal administration has taken an ingenious approach to the problem. It's called doggy DNA samples, and the program is being tested in the affluent neighborhood of Vomero.

The plan is to create a database of DNA profiles that identifies every dog in the city and his or her owner. This of course requires that every dog in Naples get a blood test. When a pile of dog doo is discovered littering a public area, it will be scraped up (I wonder who gets that job?) and submitted for DNA testing. If the DNA from the scraping is matched to a dog in the database, the dog's guardian will be fined up to 500 euros (about $685).

There are an estimated 80,000 dogs in Naples, so the DNA project seems ambitious – especially since the city is reportedly faced with so many other problems that human garbage isn't even collected on a routine schedule. But interestingly, apartment and condo developments across the U.S. are increasingly using similar doggy DNA programs to identify and fine owners who can't be bothered to pick up after their pets.

Doggy DNA Campaigns Seem to Positively Influence Dog Owner Behavior

A DNA campaign on the island of Capri, near Naples, has proved successful, so Naples city employees are hopeful their program will also be effective. So far the program has been implemented only in Vomero and Arenella, another nearby neighborhood, to the tune of over $27,000. Police and health workers began spreading the word in January to raise awareness of the program. Blood samples have been taken from about 200 dogs whose guardians are already picking up after their pets and are disgusted by the behavior of irresponsible owners. One owner of a yellow Lab put it this way: "It's really disgusting. I don't see people walking their dogs. I just see the results in the street."

Fortunately, the DNA campaign in Vomero seems to be having a positive influence. A stroll down one of the major commercial streets where many residents walk their dogs before work was clear of poop piles for several blocks. So even though Naples is still slowly building its DNA database, awareness of the program is already impacting the behavior of dog owners.

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