Following All Leads: London Council Driven Barking Mad by Dog Poo to Use DNA Tracking

Jose Luis Gonzalez /Reuters
Jose Luis Gonzalez /Reuters

Barking and Dagenham council in east London plans to be the first in the UK to use canine DNA samples to track and identify dogs who foul the borough’s public areas. Pet owners who fail to clean up after their dogs when out and about will face fines of up to £80.

Under the plans, dogs DNA will be collected via a cheek swab and uploaded onto a register held by PooPrints UK. Faeces found on the streets can then be sent for DNA analysis, allowing the offending dog to be traced with 98.8 percent accuracy, the Telegraph has reported.

Councillor Darren Rodwell said: “We are the first Council in the country to get really tough on dog mess and pet owners who do not act in a socially responsible way.

“The vast majority of dog owners in Barking and Dagenham are socially responsible but unfortunately a selfish few think it’s ok to not clean up after their pet.

“Dog mess not only spoils our streets – it’s also a health hazard and especially to young children. It’s why we are using this innovative approach in making a cleaner, healthier and better Barking and Dagenham.”

The council is today holding a summit on the matter called “Leading a New Way”. Councillors are meeting with representatives from Keep Britain Tidy, Streetkleen, who run PooPrints testing, and the Kennel Club to discuss how the DNA program can be linked to new rules, being introduced in April next year, which will compel all pets to be microchipped.

Barking and Dagenham currently spend £2.3 million a year on cleaning up dog faeces, even employing a dedicated dog warden to deal with matters canine. They plan to set up a pilot DNA testing scheme, and, if it is successful, roll it out across the borough in September 2016.

Gary Downie, managing director of Streetkleen said that similar systems in the US have already reduced dog fouling by up to 90 percent.

Other schemes previously tried include that of the Spanish town of Brunete, about 20 miles west of Madrid, which, during a week long campaign, posted dog faeces back to careless owners in a box marked ‘lost property’. The town has since reported a 70 percent drop in the amount of dog poo left on streets.

Canine DNA has also been previously used to track owners – in 2011 the northern Spanish town of Hernani passed a by-law requiring all owners to register their pets’ DNA so that they could be traced.