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Denise Crosby: A new approach to a messy, old problem

ex Sophie clients Smart Dog Training Lodging Plainfield demonstrate how two dogs same family can happily play together.

ex and Sophie, clients of Smart Dog Training and Lodging in Plainfield, demonstrate how two dogs in the same family can happily play together.

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Updated: October 12, 2013 6:23AM

Take it from one who’s written plenty of stories about feuding neighbors: Things can get downright dirty when dog poop is involved.

That includes last year’s war between two East Dundee couples: on one side, former village president Dan O’Leary, on the other side, Police Commission Board Member Allison Clarke. It started in 2007 and escalated to surveillance cameras, junk barriers, lawsuits and a frustrated village president threatening to de-annex both couples for all the grief they were causing.

There is, of course, good reason for all this angst. Canine poo is dirty and unhealthy. According to a 2010 survey, dog waste ranked sixth on Consumer Reports Top Ten List of Gripes, and the Environmental Protection Agency labels it a top water pollutant.

That’s why I was immediately drawn to DuPage business owner Mike Stone’s press release advertising PooPrints as the “only permanent solution to dog waste pollution.”

Turns out PooPrints uses high-tech DNA testing to track down dog owners, then employs low-tech fines — and shame — to help man’s best friend see the error of his ways. It’s kind of like those red light cameras. We are less likely to break the rules if we know technology can come back and bite us for it.

PooPrints is an 18-month-old subsidiary of BioPet Vet Lab, a leader in breed analysis for pets and livestock. Hinsdale resident Stone, who also owns Doo Care Dog Waste Removal Service, recently purchased the only Chicago-area franchise of PooPrints because as pollution becomes more of an issue, he sees “communities struggling with how to deal with dog waste.” While Stone is mainly targeting managed communities like apartments as well as homeowner associations, he insists municipalities can also benefit.

Local problem

Naperville Animal Control Supervisor Joanne Aul says her office gets complaints weekly about the issue, with a frequent gripe being the canine waste littering school yards.

While the city of Aurora frequently receives complaints, it’s not a major issue considering the size of the city, says spokesman Dan Ferrelli. Thirty-five calls came into Customer Service in 2012; and 29 so far this year, he noted, with Animal Control and Care receiving additional calls.

But of course, complaining does little unless there’s proof of culpability, points out Aul. And that’s where PooPrints comes in.

Here is how it works: When a resident with a pet signs an apartment lease, the dog’s cheek is swabbed, and that sample is sent to the BioPet Vet Lab, which extracts the dog’s DNA and keeps it on file. When a waste sample is found, it goes off to the lab, and within five days the DNA is analyzed (with 99.9 percent certainty) and the owner is fined. Not only does DNA testing deter irresponsible pet owners and keep the area much cleaner, noted Stone, these fines can be revenue producers.

I see the concept working well in apartment complexes or with homeowner associations that can more closely monitor pets. Springs at 127th, a new Plainfield luxury complex, recently signed on with PooPrints, said property manager Meghan McLean, and “so far the residents have been very happy with it.”

It gets trickier in cities like Aurora where there’s only 5,658 dogs and cats registered, and Naperville, where a mere 800 dogs are licensed. Those are small numbers considering the Humane Society estimates about 46 percent of households own at least one dog. And if you start looking at all the waste those pooches produce — not to mention neighborhood feuds that can follow — it’s not surprising PooPrints is starting to draw fans.

“It’s simple, yet innovative,” said Plainfield property manager McLean.

And here’s the real scoop on dog poop: The only people that would be against DNA testing must have a dirty little secret they don’t want exposed, right?

“It’s mostly a scare tactic,” admitted McLean. “But it works.”

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