Boulder considers dog-poop DNA database

The list of requirements for registering a dog in Boulder, Colo., could get weird: pet owners  may not only have to provide proof of up-to-date shots, but also a dog turd.

On Thursday, city councilwoman Mary Young asked city staff if they’d ever studied the feasibility of making a DNA dog-poop database in order to bust people who don’t pick up after their pets. She said in an email to city employees that the idea came from a constituent.

“Require a fecal sample when dog owners apply for Open Space privileges [to let their dogs run off-leash under a so-called green tag program] or when renewing their dog licenses,” she suggested. “The city would keep a file of the DNA and any poop samples found could be easily identified, and the owner fined accordingly.”

“Did staff consider [this option] as part of the revised green tag program?” Young asked.

The response was swift and unambiguous.

“No,” environmental planner Steve Armstead wrote in response. “Staff did not consider requiring fecal samples and setting up a system to manage this type of information for the enforcement of excrement removal rules.”

The DNA proposal comes just a few weeks after another council member suggested giving legal protection to dogs who chase squirrels up trees. The suggestion came during a review of the green-tag regulations that allow pet owners — or “guardians” as they’re officially to be called in Boulder — to let their dogs run off leash on open space if they pass a voice command test.

But councilman Macon Cowles worried that dogs would lose their privileges if they’re busted terrorizing squirrels and wanted staff to draft an ordinance giving them amnesty in such cases. Staff members sarcastically shot down the idea as a waste of time.

The dog-poop DNA idea is just the latest example of Boulder’s obsession with dog droppings in parks and along trails. In 2001, an enterprising citizen used a hand-held satellite-tracking device to map the locations of thousands of dog turds along city trails. He was eventually arrested for videotaping and following a dog walker who didn’t clean up after her pet and charged with harassment.

Although the city staff doesn’t seem too enthused about the idea of a DNA database, the subject is expected to come up for discussion during a meeting next week.

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