Can Chicago's small messes help the city clean up its big one? | Bleader

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Can Chicago's small messes help the city clean up its big one?

Posted By on 07.05.11 at 09:55 AM

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  • Vinnie Lauria
Dog-poop abandonment has always been an easy offense for dog-walkers to get away with. Once the preliminary step has been executed, the only thing necessary is quickly fleeing the scent of the crime.

But as the New York Times reported Saturday, poop perps may no longer get away clean, thanks to the latest advance in investigative technology. A Knoxville, Tenn., company is marketing a service that will facilitate DNA sampling of the evidence, which can lead to the identification of pooches of interest.

So far managers of two dozen apartment complexes nationally have signed up for the Knoxville company's "PooPrints" system. Dog-owners in these complexes must allow a DNA sample to be taken from their pets—a cotton swab is rubbed inside the dog's mouth—for the creation of a database. When dog poop is discovered on the grounds of the complex, a sampling of it can be spooned into a vial, mailed to Knoxville, and compared with the database. PooPrints costs $29.99 for the swabbing kit, $10 for a vial to hold an evidence sample, and $50 to analyze it. Punishment of the recalcitrant dog owner is, of course, up to the individual apartment complex.

While DNA technology has proven to be a valuable tool in crime-fighting, it isn't flawless and its use can be risky. What if, for instance, the misdeed occurred while someone, unbeknownst to the owner, took the dog on a joywalk? A dog-owner whose reputation has been wrongly soiled might sue for defecation of character.

But employed judiciously, PooPrints could help Chicago trim its budget deficit.

The current fine here for failing to remove a pet's poop from public property, or from private property unless the property owner has consented to the leaving, is $50 to $500. With PooPrints, the city could vastly increase its enforcement of this ordinance, and if judges would hit culprits with fines at the higher end, the proceeds might be substantial. It wouldn't exactly be a new levy, but it would serve a similar purpose. How much this would brighten Chicago's financial picture remains to be seen, but the city should at least give Tax Excrement Financing a chance.

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