Officials in the small Italian city of Malenate have a new approach to identifying dog owners who do not clean their pets poop: use the dog's DNA.
Earlier this year, Malnate's Environment Department asked all dog-loving inhabitants to register their puppies in the city's database. The 2,156 dogs registered in the city had to give a saliva sample and owners, who did not willingly bring their dogs within the fixed time, were fined $58 for not complying with the new order.
The issue of dog poop has been a concern for city officials in Italy and throughout Europe. Excessive fines have been imposed, but it can be difficult to enforce the law unless the offending dog and its owner are caught in the act. In Malnate dog owners who refuse or forget to clean up now know that they can be tracked down.
"The preventive effect is considerable. Knowing that the local dogs are now identifiable has led a lot of dog owners to behave properly and the walkways are cleaner," Giuseppe Riggi, Malnate's environmental commissioner, in recent times told reporters. "At the same time, pet owners thank us because now the other citizens look at them with less distrust."
City officials estimate that the number of dogs in Malnate increases by 150 dogs every year. The plan is to work with resident veterinarians to collect DNA samples from new arrivals in order to keep the saliva swab collection up to date.
So far, the city has collected 12 samples that were left on local walkways, and a laboratory test was able to extract DNA from nine of those samples. Then by cross-referencing the DNA with the city records, seven matches were made and fines were sent to the dog owners. And recently Malnate has received requests from 83 other municipalities across Italy about the program.