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Charlotte Area

Finding The Dog Poop Perp Is Only A DNA Test Away

Alex Olgin

Charlotte has one of the fastest growing apartment markets in the country. And that’s a boon for another type of business. One that deals with waste. Pet waste that is. There is a high tech service many property managers use to crack down on owners who don’t pick up after their pups.

At the mulch dog park alongside the Mint Apartments, tenants have an eye on one another. Ronnie Umar is walking with his two dogs – Ripley and Amira, in the fenced in area. He spends a lot of time out here and says it’s not just dog dynamics that come into play at the park.

“The biggest thing you’ll find out is who is dominant and who is not and whose owners who are skittish, scared or dog people or not,” he said.

Umar adds it is easy to tell who doesn’t pick up after their dog as he points out some recent droppings. He assures me because he’s a good neighbor he picks up his dog’s poop, at least most of the time.

“The two times where I won’t pick up? If it’s in foliage that can’t be reached within reason. 

Credit Alex Olgin / WFAE
Ronnie Umar and his two dogs Ripley and Amira live at the Mint Apartments in Uptown.

Also, if it’s less than firm,” says Umar. 

Umar now has another incentive to pick up after his dogs. He says he could be fined $50, if he doesn’t. After that fines can climb to $250.

The property manager hired a company called PooPrints to identify who is leaving the dog poop on the property by testing the droppings for DNA. The results are compared against a database of genetic material from dogs who live in the building to identify the human who didn’t scoop the poop.

Brock Kehoe started the company’s North Carolina franchise more than five years ago. He estimates between 100 and 200 housing developments in the Charlotte area use the service.

“Poops, parties and parking,” he said, “Those are the three issues that most property managers deal with the most and we are solving one of them.”

Residents have to give Kehoe their dog's DNA. He’s set up in the Mint’s front lobby with q-tips to swab the dogs himself to kick off the program.

According to PooPrints the company is used in about 3,000 complexes nationwide. When employees find poop on the premises they take a sample – as Kehoe demonstrates.

“The collection tool looks kind like a to-go knife,” he said.

That’s the scientific way of saying he’s using a plastic knife to cut a piece of a dog turd.

“We are just going to flip it over and basically cut down the outside of it,” Kehoe said. “We want just that very little bit.”

He then drops it in what looks like a small Tylenol bottle filled with a liquid preservative and shakes it up. That sample will go to a lab where scientists will try and find a match. A property manager at Millcrest Park Apartment Homes in Fort Mill says she orders about 24 tests a year from PooPrints. Over the past five years the property has used PooPrints, Whitney Whitesides says there’s been a significant reduction in dog poop. Residents there are fined $250 for each offense.

Credit Alex Olgin / WFAE News
Brock Kehoe with PooPrints labels a sample of dog poop he plans to send to the lab for DNA testing.

“We haven’t had anybody get too upset about it," Whitesides said. "Of course the initial reactions are not happy that they have to pay it. But they acknowledge that they agreed to this and they have paid.”

She says if a resident doesn’t pay they are in violation of the lease.

Kehoe, the head of North Carolina PooPrint says the private market is good, but he wants to expand into cities. He says he’s planning to pitch it to a few municipalities in North Carolina but wouldn’t say which ones. The Parks Department in Carmel, Indiana implemented the PooPrints program in one of its membership-only dog parks in 2015.

“Everybody laughed at us,” Parks Department Director Mark Westermeier said. “We were the butt of all jokes.”

He said now they have virtually no problem with perpetual poop perpetrators in the five acre dog park with 350 members.

“In two-and-three-quarters years we’ve had seven incidents and we were able to give people warnings and we have only issued three fines,” he said.

Westermeier said it didn’t cost the city anything because the fees were passed onto pet owners. In London, the borough of Barking and Dagenham piloted the program in parks and pavements. A spokesman said residents registered their dogs voluntarily, but they still had a 50 percent reduction in what he calls dog- fouling incidents. The borough plans to use the program permanently starting later this year.

Back at the Mint Apartments, resident Arianne Becker is excited her building is starting to crack down on pet owners. Becker insists she always picks up after her dog Maple –who is appropriately that color. She says she’s seen some who aren’t as diligent. She used to live in a third floor unit that overlooked the dog park. And that’s where she got a glimpse of the offenders.

“I could have never identified who it was,” she said. “But I did feel like coming down and reporting it. But there was no way for me to do it.”

Hopefully for Becker, those days are over.