Condo tower to track DNA in crackdown on wayward pet feces
By Mary Shanklin
Pet parents will pay penalty if animals caught doo-ing it
RLANDO (MCT) A downtown Orlando, Fla., condo tower has a mess on its hands: Some residents are not cleaning up after their pooches. So it's turning to doggie DNA testing to root out the culprits and hand hefty fines to their owners.
The Vue plans to launch the testing next month to determine who is leaving behind their dogs' droppings on the seventh-floor pet park.
"There are always pet owners in the high-rises that do not clean up after their pets," said Cristian Michaels, who oversees sales and marketing for the Vue. "The only way to handle this is usually to do DNA testing and then fining owners $100 per offense. Renters with multiple violations can be evicted by the association after multiple offenses."
The Vue is one of the first properties in Central Florida to employ scientific investigations to resolve what has been a long-standing issue for apartment renters, condominium owners and others. The Vue, Park North at Cheney Place and several other complexes in the Orlando area have contracted with PooPrints, a division of BioPet Vet Lab, Knoxville, Tenn.
The testing has been in place for several months at about a half-dozen Miami-area condo and apartment complexes and has put an end to some unseemly situations, such as dog excrement left in elevators, said Pauline Gordon, Florida distributor for PooPrints.
"It was so disgusting," Gordon said. "As soon as we began with the program, the problems disappeared. Everybody started picking up. They knew they would have to pay the fines and the lab-test fees."
Since PooPrints launched in 2010, about 300 apartments, condominiums and homeowner associations in 33 states have contracted for the service. And now some cities and dog parks have begun inquiring about the program, said Eric Mayer, director of business development for the company that is based in Knoxville, Tenn.
Here is how it works: Someone swabs the interior of dogs' mouths, and the saliva samples are sent to a laboratory. The properties of the DNA samples are recorded and can be tested against fecal samples collected when residents fail to pick up.
The concept originated with research scientists at the University of Tennessee veterinary school.
"They were walking around their apartment and found waste on the ground," Mayer said. "They said, 'There's got to be a way to solve this problem.' And we now have a way to manage pet waste."
When it was first introduced, people were concerned about the intrusiveness of the system, but now they are more concerned about being first in their area to try it and about the cost. The initial cost of registering a pet is $30 to $50, depending on the location.
Vue resident Brandy Etheridge, who owns a puggle named Brodie, said she is in favor of the testing.
"I know some people have had an issue," Etheridge, 29, said last week as she walked Brodie on a leash with a built-in stash of plastic bags. "I don't think it's a bad idea."
The building's seventh-floor, open-air "amenity deck" originally included a natural-grass surface, but that was replaced three years ago with synthetic turf designed specifically for pet parks. The turf has a raised surface so that liquids seep through it. Solids, however, do not.
Lisa Mason, executive director of the Vue's property-owner association, said the DNA idea surfaced during residents meetings aimed at addressing abandoned feces and other pet-related issues. About half of the residents in the 375-unit tower have at least one pet.
"There were disease concerns, and it wasn't an aesthetically pleasing thing, either," Mason said. "You don't want to be barbecuing on the deck and have the odor of feces up there."
Complaints mounted and cameras were installed. Expenses grew as crews had to clean the site twice daily. The DNA tests, Mason said, provide a friendlier and more affordable way to address the situation.
Property managers for the Vue expect to launch the new program in mid-February during the debut of the condo tower's new, expanded pet park. The event will feature a "house-call" vet; contacts for dog-walking services and a dog-food-delivery service; and, possibly, a pet-obstacle course. Pet owners will be able to have their dogs swabbed for their DNA then and there.
And for dog owners who don't attend the event, the Vue's concierge can provide the service.
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