Advances in forensic science have resulted in a worldwide effort to identify dog owners who do not properly dispose of their pets' waste.

Recently, for example, the vice mayor of Naples, Italy, announced an initiative that would use DNA profiling to nab negligent dog owners whose pets leave steaming mounds of number two on city streets.

Close to 5,000 miles away in Jacksonville, N.C., apartment complex owners are also using DNA samples to crack down on owners who do not clean up after their dogs.

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“This is happening all over the world,” Eric Mayer, spokesman for PooPrints, told Discovery News.

PooPrints, a subdivision of BioPet Vet Lab, is processing the dog poo samples from Jacksonville. It's also working with communities in Canada, Singapore, Israel and in 43 U.S. states, including Hawaii.

As for why not all states are participating, Mayer said, “We don’t have any samples coming in from Wyoming, for example, which has a lot of grass and not as many dogs.”

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The process of matching dog owner to poo pile is a two-step process, he explained. First, dogs are registered and cheek swabs are taken to provide cells for DNA profiling. Just knowing that all of this info is on record causes most owners to think twice before leaving behind their doggy’s doo.

“Next, at the tail end of the process, a thumbnail-sized sample of the waste is sent to the lab where it is analyzed for DNA and a match can be made to the dog and its owner,” Mayer said, adding that PooPrints provides special leak-proof containers and spatulas to make the task easier.

“Accuracy for the matches is close to 100 percent,” he said.

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At that point, the guilty owner is then usually fined. In Naples, the fine has been set at 500 euros, or approximately $685.

Many apartment complex owners are now requiring, in their leases, that dogs of tenants undergo DNA testing for such reasons. Naples vice mayor Tommaso Sodano proposes that every dog in his city should undergo a blood test for DNA profiling.

The efforts are in response to a global problem that is no small matter, both literally and figuratively.


A University of Bristol School of Veterinary Science study found that the U.K. dog population is estimated to be around ten million, with those canines producing well over 2 million pounds of excrement each day. Much of it winds up in parks, on sidewalks and on city streets.

Eric Morgan and his colleagues at Bristol who conducted the study found that dog poo can act as a major source of the parasitic egg of Toxocara, which can potentially contaminate the environment and infect humans. Human victims may suffer from abdominal pain, breathing difficulties and other problems.

Each adult female worm can lay 12,500 eggs or more per day, equating to around 3.7 billion eggs shed each day in any given city, Morgan said. Toxocara, as prevalent as it is, represents just one of many health threats associated with dog waste.

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Cat waste may pose health risks too. Mayer said PooPrints can tell whether or not a fecal sample came from a cat, but DNA profiling of felines is not common.

“A lot of people hesitate taking a cheek swab from a cat, considering their sharp teeth and claws,” he explained. “Also, cats tend to bury their waste.”

Whether the offending pooper is feline or canine, Mayer reminds that only one individual is to blame: the owner.

As he said, “The pets are just doing what comes naturally. It is up to owners to clean up after them to ensure cleaner, greener communities.”