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Dog poo DNA testing to be launched in Leitrim to find owners who don't clean up

Dog owners will be asked to cooperate in allowing a sample of saliva to be taken from their dog.

Image: Shutterstock/Monika Wisniewska

LEITRIM COUNTY COUNCIL is planning to bring in DNA testing of dog poo in a bid to help identify owners who fail to pick up their dog’s waste on streets, parks, walking trails and housing estates. 

Samples of dog waste in areas with high levels of dog fouling will be taken by the Leitrim animal warden and will then be matched with saliva samples taken from dogs in the same area. 

Dog owners will be asked to cooperate with the warden in allowing a sample of saliva to be taken from their dog, the council said. 

The local authority said dog owners who fail to comply will be issued with a statutory notice under the Animal Health & Welfare Act which compels the owner to allow a saliva sample to be taken from their dog. 

  • Our colleagues at Noteworthy want to find out what is being done to tackle dog faeces littering our streets and parks. Support this project here.

Failure to comply with this notice, in not allowing a sample to be taken, will result in a fine or prosecution, according to the council. 

When asked to outline the legal basis regarding the issuing of statutory notices, a spokesperson for Leitrim County Council said it is relying on Section 22 of the Litter Pollution Act 1997.

Section 22 of the Litter Pollution Act 1997 states that dog owners have to clean up after their dog if it fouls in public places. 

Owners who fail to do this are guilty of an offence and can be fined if their dog’s waste is not cleaned up.

Dog owners who allow the animal warden to take voluntary samples, and where a DNA match is confirmed, will not be issued with a fine for a first-time offence, the council said. However, it added a fine may be issued for subsequent offences. 

“In addition to dog waste being unsightly, it also poses a risk to health as it can contain bacteria such as E-coli and parasites such as round worm, the larvae of which can cause loss of vision,” Leitrim County Council said in a statement.

“Leitrim County Council requests dog owners to be kind to their community and to always pick up after your dog,” it said. 

“We want to reinforce the message that this is solely a human problem and not a dog one. Please think of the vulnerable members of your community such as wheelchair users, visually impaired people, babies and toddlers, those who use buggies and prams, as well s people playing sports,” the council said. 

“Whether you own a dog or not, dog waste in public spaces affects everyone so please bag it, bin it.” 

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Similar initiatives

A pilot scheme to test the DNA of dog poo to try and catch owners who fail to clear up after their pet was launched in an area of London in 2016. 

Over three months, the scheme saw samples of dog waste being collected by officers from the London Borough of Barking (yes, barking) and Dagenham Council and park rangers. 

The BBC reported that while the authority hailed the scheme as a success, halving the amount of dog mess on the street, it acknowledged it was mainly responsible dog owners who signed up to the scheme. 

In the US, a private company called PooPrints runs a genetic database of dogs with DNA collected from cheek swabs. 

The company can then collect DNA from unscooped pet waste and compare it to the database to identify who hasn’t picked up after their pet. 

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