ó Steve Heldenbrand stood beside the crime scene in
southwest suburban Plainfield, Ill., with a tiny spatula
and clear plastic vial in his hand.
to find the culprit, he scooped up a chunk of the fresh
evidence lying on the lawn and put it in the container.
He rushed back to the office and placed the vial in a
hazardous materials bag. Then he set the sample of dog
poop on a shelf next to four others, all waiting to be
tested at the lab for DNA.
just canít believe people are stupid enough to not
pick up after their dog, especially when we have this
DNA testing," said Heldenbrand, the maintenance
supervisor for the Springs at 127th Apartments.
"Theyíre gonna get caught, and theyíre gonna
get fined. Thatís all there is to it."
once lowly pooch poop-scooping business has taken a page
out of CSI and is now cataloging canines across the
country and using dog DNA to track down owners who break
the Chicago area, a Barrington condo association and a
Plainfield apartment complex subscribe to a service that
helps connect dog poop to the dog owners who donít
clean up after their pets. When caught, owners face
steep fines that increase if the offense continues.
the 340-unit Plainfield development, 40 percent of
residents have canine companions. The gated complex didnít
have a major problem with dog droppings but signed up
for PooPrints about a month ago because it wanted to be
proactive, said Kelsey Sheehan, the assistant property
PooPrints ó the service also used at the Barrington
condos ó dog owners provide DNA swabbed from inside
their petís mouths to its management company, which
requires them to do so under an amended pet policy, said
Mike Stone, Chicago distributor of PooPrints.
DNA swab is sent to a lab in Knoxville, Tenn., where it
is stored in a database. If dog poop is found on the
ground, management sends a nickel-sized sample to the
lab, where it can be checked against the registry.
a match is found, the lab notifies Stone, who sends a
letter to the property manager. If dog owners dispute
the findings, they swab their dog again for DNA. Usually
the concept alone is a deterrent, Stone said.
is undeniable evidence for accountability," he
said. "Thereís only a handful of these
poo-petrators, and they donít like it. They donít
want to get caught."
the past three years, the service has spread to 45
states and three other countries, with the biggest
markets in Miami, Minneapolis, Dallas and central North
Carolina, said Eric Mayer, director of business
development at BioPet Vet Lab, the company that invented
DNA collection kit costs $40, an amount covered under
the pet fees for the Barrington and Plainfield
complexes. The fee to analyze the waste sample is an
additional $60, along with the $15 for the vial that
contains a special solution.
winter 2011, The Arbors at Barrington started hearing
complaints from residents about dog owners not picking
up after their pets. One person said it was hard to walk
through a common grassy area because of all the dog
deposits, said Cia Johnson, a member of the condo
doing some research, Johnson, a veterinarian, discovered
the dog DNA tests and brought it to the condoís board,
which then passed a policy last summer that fines dog
owners $50 for the first offense, increasing to $300 by
the third. The pet can be removed from the grounds if
the owner chooses not to comply.
few people were "fairly upset" about the
change and someone chose not to rent at the property
because of the policy, Johnson said. But the measure
seems to have worked: Since it went into effect in May,
only one dog dropping has been found.
many other companies provide a service similar to
PooPrints is difficult to say. A Google search and calls
to animal organizations didnít turn up any similar
businesses. The University of California at Davis School
of Veterinary Medicine is a leader in DNA dog waste
testing and said it has done work for gated communities,
condo associations and apartment complexes, mostly in
the school also claims to have helped solve serious
crimes involving dog DNA, including a 2000
triple-homicide in rural northeastern Indiana where
three men were shot execution-style.
suspect claimed he never left the car and only acted as
a lookout, but dog feces found on his shoe matched those
at the crime scene, said Beth Wictum, forensic unit
director of the Veterinary Genetics Laboratory at the
University of California at Davis.
testing on dog poop also helped convict a Texas man of
rape in 2008. The California lab linked the feces on his
shirt to one of the victimís dogs and the dogís
waste in the backyard, where the crime took place,
STORY CAN END HERE)
has evolved over the years, and the cost for DNA testing
is not that expensive, said Patti Strand, national
director of the National Animal Interest Alliance. She
called the service "creative" and said it didnít
strike her as unreasonable for the pet or the pet owner.
is very specific to a landlord and his right to
determine who rents his property," Strand said.
"The landlord could just say he has a Ďno pet
policyí but instead it sounds like the landlord is
trying to make sure he gets a responsible pet owner as a
dog owners break the pet rules at the Plainfield
apartment complex, the first offense merits a $100 fine.
The cost doubles the second time and jumps to $300 the
several dog owners there didnít have a problem with
the new policy and DNA testing. In fact, the complex has
seen a decline in droppings left on the property, said
Meghan McLean, property manager.
Toles, who has two boxers, Sassie and Snickers, said the
new rule keeps dog owners honest, but admits he laughed
when he first heard about testing DNA in dog waste.
first I thought it was a joke. I thought it was kind of
funny," said Toles, 44. "Címon, doggy DNA?
Just the name (PooPrints) is a little amusing."