Dog DNA Testing is Becoming More of a Household Name in Multifamily
One of an apartment community’s greatest assets and amenities is clean, well-kept common areas and grounds. But a green, inviting landscape loses its luster with one step into a squishy mess. A lawn marred by doggy landmines is not only gross but a breeding ground for disease and environmental issues.
Dog feces removal awareness has been anything less than poopy in recent years. With dogs producing nearly 7 million tons of waste annually in the U.S., there’s plenty of picking up—and levity—to go around. The “Turdometer” at Pet Butler, which has been scooping poop since 1988 and has franchises in 17 states, stood at 21,841,400 poop scoops in late August.
A growing force of doody police—like Wholly Crap, Poop 911, Scooper Trooper and Bombs Away—not only has a nice ring to it but provides pickup services in multifamily and single-family communities. But hiring a waste removal company can be expensive, especially for resolving a problem that’s really not the property’s fault.
In the last five years, that message has resonated more in the multifamily space, according to BioPet Laboratories, Inc.™, which provides DNA pet waste management services through PooPrints®. The company has rapidly grown its client list from 350 multifamily properties in 39 states to 2,500 properties in 50 states, Canada and the United Kingdom.
With a swab of the dog’s mouth, PooPrints documents canines and their owners living at an apartment community. Dogs and owners leaving behind poop can be traced through testing of a fecal sample. The service, often required by residents before move-in, can be a big deterrent for offenders and a huge benefit for other pet owners treading through the same green spaces. The apartment could levy a fine or additional fee to residents who don’t pick up after their pets.
Dog feces considered harmful to the environment
Pet waste, which can contain parasites and is leading source of E. coli contamination, is more than just a visual nuisance. Dog feces is considered harmful to the environment, polluting rivers and streams that carry the nation’s fresh water supply.
“More and more it’s about water pollution,” says J Retinger, president of Knoxville-TN-based BioPet Laboratories, Inc., established in 2008. “A lot of properties have other amenities like lakes and ponds that run into rivers and streams. A lot of bacteria found in the water is coming from canine feces. We’ve seen places like dog parks shut down because people are not picking up, and at certain places on the property animals are being restricted.”
Chesleigh Winfree, BioPet’s chief scientific officer, says waste left behind becomes a problem when it’s washed into storm drains that connect to creeks and bayous. When the decomposition begins, dog poop robs fish of oxygen and potentially exposes humans to bacteria, viruses and parasites living in watersheds. The elderly and children with weak immune systems can be at greatest risk.
According to BioPet, the average dog produces 152 pounds of solid waste per year, and others say more.
DNA testing overcoming early skepticism
As apartments become increasingly pet friendly and the canine population grows, the need for dog waste removal is intensifying. According to Stastita, there are 89.7 million dogs in the U.S. this year, compared to 68 million in 2000.
Since 2009, PooPrints has drastically grown not only with help from more pet-friendly apartments but also by overcoming early skepticism and controversy about the DNA profiling of dogs.
Unlike using DNA to identify breeds through statistical clustering of genotypes, PooPrints creates a profile specific to the dog. In other words, the poop of a border collie living at the community couldn’t be confused with the feces of another border collie, or similar breed dog, that lives elsewhere. PooPrints says that while profile frequencies vary within the population the average generally exceeds a one-in-30 trillion chance that another dog in addition to the match identified will share the profile generated from the fecal evidence.
Because DNA testing in general has become widely accepted, PooPrints’ job has gotten easier.
“In the beginning, there was a lot of skepticism,” Retinger said. “A lot of people have that big brother perception, too. In 2013, it was a novel concept unfamiliar to many. Now we’re at the point where we’re proving the technology works. It’s not as new-age. It’s more of a household name.”
Residents can be held accountable through testing their dogs
He adds that while maintenance teams ultimately keep the grounds clean, property managers can get some needed help for removing animal waste by holding residents with dogs accountable. Just signing up for a DNA testing service can be deterrent enough; he’s noticed immediate change at most apartments after announcing start of the program.
Non-compliance could get, well, kind of crappy.
“PooPrints is a pet friendly company and our overall mission with the program is to increase the acceptance of dogs to properties,” Retinger said. “Accountability helps sustain and expand those opportunities.”