We haven’t had any recent posts, but this news item I can’t resist sharing . . .
I live near Boulder, Colorado, the town that has bumper stickers saying “Keep Boulder Weird”. In support of that, the city council is hearing debate on a supremely important issue in the next couple days.
At issue is whether we should require DNA samples of all dogs in Boulder county so we can then identify those whose dogs poop without being picked up by their owners! Of course analyzing dog poop in open space will have higher priority than analyzing rape victims attackers, but we do love our dogs . . .
Could fecal DNA database solve Boulder’s dog waste dilemma?
Councilwoman asks whether program would be feasible for open space use
By Erica Meltzer, Camera Staff Writer
POSTED: 03/27/2014 06:08:05 PM MDT | UPDATED: A DAY AGO
Rhea Larsen, of Portland, Ore., puts a leash on her dog Isabel after hiking at Chautuaqua in 2012. A city councilwoman has asked whether it would be
Rhea Larsen, of Portland, Ore., puts a leash on her dog Isabel after hiking at Chautuaqua in 2012. A city councilwoman has asked whether it would be feasible for Boulder to keep dogs DNA on file to compare it to waste left on area trails. (Jeremy Papasso / Daily Camera)
Off-leash dog rule changes move forward in Boulder Clay Evans: When dogs are family members Boulder’s green tag holders may be required to re-apply, take class to walk dogs off-leash Advocates for open space and Boulder officials long have lamented the difficulty of enforcing the law against people who leave dog waste along area trails.
Boulder City Councilwoman Mary Young wants to know how feasible it would be to require DNA samples from dogs with city-issued green tags that could be saved for later comparison to waste found on open space.
Young couldn’t be reached Thursday afternoon, but in a note to the City Council’s “Hotline” email list, she said a community member made the suggestion, and asked Open Space and Mountain Parks to report on the feasibility of the idea at Tuesday’s council meeting.
In the “Hotline” message, Young said the suggestion was to “require a fecal sample when dog owners apply for open space privileges or when renewing their dog licenses. The city would keep a file of the DNA and any poop samples found could be easily identified, and the owner fined accordingly.”
If You Go
What: Boulder City Council
When: 6 p.m. Tuesday
Where: Boulder Municipal Building, 1777 Broadway
Info: For more information and to read the complete agenda, go to bit.ly/1o5tz1u. The City Council will hold a public hearing and second vote on the changes to the green-tag program.
Such canine DNA tracking is already offered nationwide by several companies — including one that reports drastic reductions in waste in areas where dog owners know their pets’ poop can be traced.
Steve Armstead, an environmental planner with Open Space and Mountain Parks, responded to Young via the “Hotline” later Thursday, saying the city “did not consider requiring fecal samples and setting up a system to manage this type of information for the enforcement of excrement removal rules.”
He added that Open Space and Mountain Parks staff will only be able to “minimally” discuss implementing such a system at next week’s meeting.
The City Council on Tuesday is holding a public hearing and second vote on changes to Boulder’s voice and sight control program, which allows dogs that receive green tags to go off leash on some open space trails.
Those changes would require all green-tag holders — perhaps as many as 35,000 people — to reapply and take a class explaining the requirements of the program. The new rules also identify certain offenses, such as having an aggressive dog or endangering wildlife, that would result in immediate suspension of green-tag privileges until the owner could demonstrate that the dog is compliant, and raises the fines for violations.
An early iteration of the proposed changes would have had dogs lose their green-tag privileges if their owners received two tickets within two years for failure to pick up waste.
However, Open Space and Mountain Parks removed that language from the final version of the ordinance. Failure to pick up waste has no implications for green-tag privileges under the current proposal.
The prevalence of dog waste on open space trails is frequently cited as one of the most common complaints to the city, but Open Space officials said the problem extends to leashed and unleashed dogs, whereas the changes to the green-tag program have to do primarily with making sure dogs are actually under the voice control of their owners.
90 percent waste reduction
Several companies already provide a similar service to property management companies, apartment complexes and homeowners’ associations.
Eric Mayer, director of business development for BioPet Vet Lab in Knoxville, Tenn., said the company’s PooPrint service is used by private property management companies in 45 states and in Canada.
So far, the company doesn’t have contracts with any municipalities, but officials have been in talks with a half dozen different local governments. He said he expects to sign the first municipal PooPrints contract with Ipswich, Mass., sometime this year.
The process is simple, Mayer said. Owners have to register their dogs, and part of that process is a cheek swab, which costs between $30 and $50. Once a community’s dog DNA is in the database, poop samples can be compared against that database for between $60 and $75 a sample.
“What we find is that pet waste goes down by about 90 percent,” Mayer said. “You’re not going to be spending much money on waste samples because they should be picked up by the owner.”
‘It’s a ploy’
Patrick Murphy, who once earned the nickname “Pooperazzi” for his diligence in documenting dog waste on Boulder’s open space, said he’s skeptical about the proposal.
“In a perfect world, it sounds like a good idea, but since it’s not, I think there are a lot better solutions, like more rangers,” he said.
Murphy said in a community like Boulder, taking DNA samples from dogs is likely to be particularly controversial — so controversial he’s suspicious of its origins.
“Who is going to agree to let you get DNA from their dog?” he said. “It’s a ploy to say they’re crazy and extreme, which makes the other thing — the real voice and sight control — also seem crazy and extreme.”
Contact Camera Staff Writer Erica Meltzer at 303-473-1355, firstname.lastname@example.org or twitter.com/meltz