If you think DNA sequence analysis is merely for solving homicides, pathogen evolution or archaeological mysteries, then perhaps you don't know dog doo.
It's true. DNA analysis of dog waste is a growing industry, being marketed to multi-unit property managers and homeowners associations which have struggled to get all their residents with dogs to pick up after them.
Launched eight years ago, Tennessee-based Poo Prints claims to serve 200 clients in California and 1,700 nationwide, according to Distributor Kevin Sharpton, who said its presence in the Golden state has doubled the past year.
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Also seeking business is upstart MrDogPoop's Crime Lab, which asserts it can provide better service at a lower cost.
The way Poo Prints works: Property managers require all dogs on the property to have their mouths swabbed for DNA, and Poo Prints assembles a data base.
Then when dog waste isn't picked up, a sample can be sent to the lab, and the offender's identity discovered, Sharpton explained.
A decision to implement a Poo Prints program at a property is not always welcomed by all residents, especially when the specter of fines is raised.
At Lakewood's Whispering Fountains Senior Living Complex, residents with dogs were notified their pets would need to be swabbed for DNA, and that when matches are made to poo left behind, the resident could be fined $150 or more.
NBC4 reached out to residents, but was told by property management to leave.
Debbie Atilano, director of property management at Whispering Fountains, spoke to NBC4 via a phone interview. She said the goal is not to collect fines, but to encourage compliance with the rules against leaving dog waste. Management paid the $40 swabbing and registration fee for every dog, so there was no cost to residents, she said.
Poo Prints programs have a deterrent effect, said Sharpton, citing a study finding that the level of dog waste drops 75-95 percent. That also has the effect of minimizing the number of samples that might be analyzed.
Raising the issue at the dog park on Barrington Avenue in Brentwood triggered animated discussion.
"I think it's a good idea," said Ronnie Schell, a veteran actor who appeared on
"The Golden Girls" and voiced cartoons, who takes his dog Maddie to the park. "There's too much poop around," Schell observed.
"Hopefully it will make people more responsible," Nancy Gancos of Burbank said.
Others expressed concern that using DNA to trace dog waste seemed a bit overbearing. "I think it's going a little far," Laurie Crossman of Santa Monica said.
Sharpton rejects the notion of dog doo DNA analysis as overkill, and instead sees broader applications for Poo Prints, envisioning its use by regulatory bodies to reduce the adverse effects of dog waste, including spread of disease and pollution of runoff waters.