Sunday, July 3, 2011

Adopted Family Members Placed Under Genetic Surveillance

OK, the title is misleading, but here's the poop. About two dozen apartment complexes around the country have signed up to have DNA from canine residents entered into a "worldwide database" known as "PooPrints." The apartment manager can send in a swab for DNA profiling and databasing. Then, when renters fail to clean up after their pets, they can send the evidence sample to the Knoxville company, BioPet Vet Lab. [1]

Plainly, this is a niche market. Orchid-Cellmark, a bigger player in the private DNA typing market, won't touch samples of feces.

PooPrints is not the first database to contain profiles from innocent and guilty dogs alike. The picturesque Italian isle of Capri planned a database to help keep it narrow walkways clean. [2] The city of Petah Tikva, near Tel Aviv, took a more positive approach, testing special trash cans in a poop-filled neighborhood and giving the owners a small reward for database hits. [3] Port Phillip, Australia, relied on a voluntary DNA repository in 1998--along with "other evidence such as eyewitness accounts, photographs and video surveillance." [4]

In a more serious vein, a thoughtful review of issues in forensic DNA identification in which dogs are a source of evidence can be found in the latest issue of the Croatian Madical Journal. [5]


1. Katie Zezima, Tracing Unscooped Dog Waste Back to the Culprit, with Science, New York Times, July 2, 2011, at A10

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

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

4. Australians Scoop Up Dog DNA, Ariz. Republic, Sept. 26, 1998, at A27.

5. Gunther Scharnhorst & Sree Kanthaswarny, An Assessment of Scientific and Technical Aspects of Canine Forensics DNA, Croatian Medical Journal, 2011, 52: 280-92

Cross-posted from the Double Helix Law Blog.

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