Sunday, April 17, 2011

Canine DNA Databases to the Rescue

There have been proposals to slowly create a population-wide DNA identification database by having medical workers submit to a centralized, law enforcement database an identifying DNA profile from the blood samples used to screen every newborn for genetic diseases.

According to the Daily Mail, the Italian island of Capri is implementing a similar plan -- for the island's population of 1,000 resident dogs. Some of these animals soil the picturesque, white-washed alleyways on the Mediterranean island. So the mayor is taking advantage of a law requiring dogs to have bloodtests for canine leishmaniasis, a disease transmitted by sandflies, to build a database. Then, samples of any dog mess found on the pavements in the popular holiday island will be sent to a crime laboratory for testing to identify the offending dog and its owner.

Capri is not the first city to plan a local canine database. In 2008, the New York Times reported that the mayor of Petah Tikva, near Tel Aviv, "recruited a small army of 12-year-olds from a local grade school [who] went door to door, persuading dog owners to donate samples and explaining the drawbacks of poop (worms, bacteria, general grossness)." She also "began collecting samples as part of annual pet exams and organized a DNA-donating festival featuring music, performing dogs and a booth for saliva collection." About 90 percent of owners agreed to donate samples when asked.

The project was about more than waste elimination: “We can use this DNA database for important things like genetic research on dog diseases,” the mayor said. “We could also use DNA to identify strays and return them to their parents.”


Daily Mail Reporter, Capri to Set Up 'CSI-style' DNA Database to Catch Owners Who Refuse to Clean Up Dog's Mess, Daily Mail Online, 11th April 2011.

Rebecca Skloot, Dog-poop DNA Bank, The, N.Y. Times Mag., Dec. 12, 2008

(Cross-posted from the Double Helix Law blog)

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