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Scoop! DNA database to tackle dog poo pests

THE FIGHT against dog fouling in public places is about to go high tech if Shetland Islands Council has its way.

Forensic analysis techniques that are used in criminal investigations are now being used to profile DNA in dog dirt to catch people who refuse to pick up after their pets.

The SIC is joining other local authorities across the UK who want to adopt the US PooPrints system that can identify any pooch from its poop.

The Tennessee-based company say their scheme has already been taken up in 45 US states, as well as Germany, France, Canada, Singapore and Israel. In Berlin and Jerusalem they claim it has cut down dog mess on the streets by 90 per cent.

PooPrints boasts almost total success on private housing complexes where it has been introduced in the States, saying its unique ability to match dog to dirt has acted as a highly effective deterrent.

The system works by taking a swab from the dog’s mouth that provides it with a DNA profile, which is stored on the DNA World Pet Registry.

A “Matching the Mess” service can then be used to identify any dog from a sample of its waste on the street.

Shetland has long been at the forefront of the campaign to deter dog fouling, which attracts a fixed penalty of £40 or £60.

It pioneered the popular “pink poo” campaign in 2010 – where it sprayed dog waste with pink dye – which has been copied enthusiastically across the country.

Shetland Islands Council's Dogwatch poster
Two years ago it launched Dogwatch, where people are encouraged to blow the whistle on persistent poopers, which has been adopted in 12 areas across the isles.

Despite these efforts the problem is showing no sign of going away, which is why the SIC now wants to set up a PooPrints pilot scheme where people can volunteer their dogs for DNA-testing.

Shetland News has learned that councillors want to take things even further, and have instructed officials to investigate how they might introduce a bye-law that would force every owner in the islands to register their dog’s DNA.

The scheme has the support of environment and transport committee chairman Michael Stout, who says any way of tackling the plague of dog poo in public places should be pursued.

“Since becoming a councillor three years ago, dog fouling has been the number one issue that constituents have raised with me,” he said.

“I know a bye-law may sound a bit Big Brother, but we really have to bear in mind how much of a problem this causes folk, not to mention the health risks.”

Environmental health team leader Patti Dinsdale is already starting to raise the profile of unscooped poop with a poster campaign and public information events being planned for the end of April.

“There’s less than 10 per cent of folk who don’t pick up, but they are the ones who make life miserable for everyone else,” she said.

“We’re happy to try anything that will encourage people to take responsibility for their dogs and the mess they make, and if this system is as successful as they say it is, then we think it would be well worth giving it a go.”

An average sized dog is said to produce 276lbs of waste per year, and to have twice the carbon footprint of a truck driven 10,000 miles.

An average dog poo contains billions of bacteria that can transfer disease to children and other pets, according to the World Health Organisation, causing fever, headaches vomiting and kidney disorders.