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Apartment Complex Turns to DNA Database to Solve Dog Waste Problem

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Screengrab via the City of Austin's YouTube

Cleaning up after four-legged friends is a paramount part of dog ownership.

As many can attest, there’s nothing worse than stepping in a canine’s gastrointestinal afterthoughts, not to mention the host of health hazards to other pups that could be transmitted by not picking up after one’s dog.

Being the dog-friendly city it is, many an Austin apartment manager struggles with those who refuse to clean up after their pets. Now, one apartment complex is taking fecal matters to the next level by using DNA testing to sniff out irresponsible owners.

A post on Austin Reddit over the weekend highlighted the new, possibly “CSI”-inspired, policy coming to the Willows apartments on South First, which requires dog owners to pay $50 to have their dog’s DNA sampled via a mouth swab. That swab is then sent to Tennessee-based contractor PooPrints, which compiles the DNA in a database. If feces are found on the premises, PooPrints will match the specimen with the dog, and the owner will be fined.

Property manager Susan Thompson of Rainier Management says she sent out notices to curb the practice among tenants. When those went ignored, she started researching the company.

“Unfortunately we’ve had to put this into place because our pet owners don’t pick up after themselves,” she says. “It’s hard to catch the person unless they’re right there.”

Thompson says, despite the carping on Reddit, she’s yet to receive a complaint from a tenant and that Rainier Management is using The Willows as a test property for the service.

Austin Tenants' Council Executive Director Kathy Stark argues dog owners at the Willows shouldn’t have to pay the $50 charge for the testing because for many it’s likely a mid-lease policy shift.

“To require a tenant come in and pay $50, when they never agreed to at the beginning of the lease, I do not think their lease supports that,” she says, adding that the Texas Apartment Association lease used by many properties, including Rainier Management, allows for changes in policy, but the language of the contract wouldn’t cover the fee. “On all the leases I’ve ever seen, they can’t change dollar amounts mid-lease.”

Thompson contends the Willows’ leasing agreement does cover the fee in a paragraph of the TAA lease, but says, if there are some cash-strapped, dog-owning tenants that can’t afford the fee, Rainier can split the fee in half, with payments over the next two months.

The apartment’s registry begins in March and, after the DNA database is compiled, any owner found in violation will face a $100 fine, and repeat offenders “will receive a non-renewal,” according to the notice.

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