Friday, June 14, 2024

Rampant ‘poo-petrators’ pushing more apartment complexes to DNA-test dog poop

WILMINGTON — At apartment complexes around the Port City, it is a constant battle to get dog-owning residents to clean up after their four-legged roommates. One solution, though expensive and labor-intensive, is becoming increasing popular: using DNA tests to match dogs with the little presents they leave behind around the apartment property.

Hawthrone at Murrayville, like many Wilmington apartment complexes, offers free litter bags. Increasingly, it has not been enough to get residents to pick up after their dogs. (Port City Daily photo / BENJAMIN SCHACHTMAN)'
Hawthrone at Murrayville, like many Wilmington apartment complexes, offers free litter bags. Increasingly, it has not been enough to get residents to pick up after their dogs. (Port City Daily photo / BENJAMIN SCHACHTMAN)’

“It’s very difficult to track someone down and prove it was them,” Community Manager Keri Goff said. “Unless you catch someone in the act, you don’t have that hard evidence.”

Goff works at the Hawthorne at Murrayville apartments, where the management has tried warnings, fines, and even incentives – rent discounts offered to residents who turn in offenders. But nothing has worked.

Jacob Powell, resident service technician for Hawthorne at Murrayville, said the problem has frustrated him.

“I honestly don’t understand why people cannot clean up after themselves,” Powell said. “It takes just seconds. We’ve got bag stations all over the property. I really don’t know what else we can do — it’s pretty bad.”

Goff said the situation has actually gotten worse.

“The ‘poo-petrators,’ as we call them, they’ve actually gotten worse. It’s not just that our maintenance team has to clean it up, it’s a sanitary issue. We’ve got kids running around. The poop has gotten so bad that I felt we needed to do something,” Goff said.

Before working at Murrayville, Goff worked at a Hawthorne property in Sneads Ferry.  There, the management used DNA testing to catalog all the dogs on the property, and then to match them – and their owners – to offenses. When Goff came to the Wilmington area, she brought the idea with her, first to the Ellington Farms location.

“It was incredibly effective,” Goff said. “Our maintenance staff did two or three property walks a day. After we started the testing, it was one or two a week.”

PooPrints, a division of BioPet Laboratories, using DNA testing to match fecal samples to a database of canines. (Port CIty Daily photo / COURTESY BIOPET LABORATORIES)
PooPrints, a division of BioPet Laboratories, uses DNA testing to match fecal samples to a database of canines. (Port CIty Daily photo / COURTESY BIOPET LABORATORIES)

The program, run through Tennessee-based PooPrints, is not cheap or easy. Every dog on the property has to have its cheek swabbed – as in a human DNA test – and its DNA cataloged; the cost is around $35 per dog. Testing a sample costs between $20 and $60 dollars, Goff said, depending on the size and quality.

“It’s expensive for us. We have over 60 dogs right now, we’re talking thousands of dollars,” Goff said, adding that the cost was worth it, in her eyes, because it eliminated and “he said, she said” arguments.

“It’s straight-up. You can’t argue with DNA,” Goff said.

Goff said apartments try to budget for the initial costs ahead of time, and – once the program is running – increase fines to cover testing expenses. Fines at the Hawthorne at Murrayville will rise from $75 to $300.

Apartment management companies like Hawthorne have tried warnings, fines and even incentives to get residents to turn in other repeat offenders. Now, companies are turning to DNA evidence to go after those who won't clean up after their dogs. (Port City Daily photo / BENJAMIN SCHACHTMAN)
Apartment management companies like Hawthorne have tried warnings, fines and even incentives to get residents to turn in other repeat offenders. Now, companies are turning to DNA evidence to go after those who won’t clean up after their dogs. (Port City Daily photo / BENJAMIN SCHACHTMAN)

“It sounds like a lot, but – people have to remember – it’s part of having a pet-friendly residence. You signed a lease, and in the lease you say you will clean up after your pet. When you don’t do that, especially repeatedly, that’s a violation of your lease … you could be evicted for that,” Goff said. “We’d rather have this as a deterrent.”

Hawthrone Murrayville plans to roll out its DNA testing program at the beginning of January. Other Hawthorne properties are already using the program, including Stephens Point in Porters Neck, and Bell Meade on Carolina Beach.

Other apartment companies are also implementing DNA tests. According to a representative at Bell Partners, an apartment management company, the Reserve at Mayfaire and Sawmill Point are both implementing similar programs.


Send comments and tips to Benjamin Schachtman at ben@localvoicemedia.com, @pcdben on Twitter, and (910) 538-2001.

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