The UK's local authorities are creaking, not just beneath a mountain of debt, but also beneath the proverbial mound of dog waste created by our nine million pet dogs, resulting in an annual clean-up bill of around £22 million for Local Government to pick up (again literally!).
A thousand tonnes of dog waste produced every day and not enough resources to clean up or clamp down. These are gross figures indeed, in every sense, but the revolution is coming and the wider, thus far unspoken, benefits of Dog DNA registration could be just as exciting as the obvious direct results.
Ever since the London Borough of Barking and Dagenham became the first council to publicly announce their adoption of the PooPrints UK DNA registration programme, to clean up the acts of irresponsible dog owners, the nation has sat up and pricked its ears at this revolutionary new idea.
The vast majority of feedback has been overwhelmingly positive. There is a swathe of the population that have simply had enough and are desperate to reclaim our parks and open spaces; returning them to the clean, green and serene environments that we expect.
One of the most vocal supporters of the scheme has been the RSPCA. The animal welfare charity were quick to recognise the many inherent benefits that DNA registration can have for the health and wellbeing of dogs, first and foremost, as well as the wider knock-on societal gains for communities.
The public health risks associated with dog waste (such as E.coli, Salmonella and Toxocariasis), as well as the economic and environmental impacts, have been well-documented. But let us give you three further compelling reasons to convince of the wider benefits of pet DNA registration.
1. Reuniting pets and owners after catastrophic events
A decade ago, Hurricane Katrina displaced thousands of New Orleans residents, forcing them to flee the city as levees burst and floodwater as high as 15 feet destroyed whole neighbourhoods. A minority stayed, however, and 44 per cent of those who did are thought to have remained to save their pets.
Following the exodus, the Louisiana Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals estimated that 70,000 pets were left behind during the storm. Just 15,000 were rescued and, of those, a mere 20 per cent were reunited with their owners. The remainder became part of a growing population of unvaccinated, un-neutered and unsocialised strays.
After Katrina, the evacuation of pets became mandatory under state and federal law. We would be wise to heed these lessons here in the UK, as part of our contingency plans. If ever such a catastrophic event were to unfold on our shores, the DNA registration of pets could play a pivotal role in reuniting pets with their owners quickly and accurately.
It is even conceivable that, once a dog owner has registered their dog to the DNA World Pet Registry, their other pets could also be co-registered – without being DNA sequenced – onto the database (we have already willingly co-registered one pet owner's prized pigs!). Thus, a great deal of unnecessary extra trauma, during what are already distressing times, could be averted.
2. Helping to eradicate unscrupulous puppy mills
Unscrupulous puppy mill owners maintain deplorable living conditions for breeding dogs and their puppies. Breeding dogs are caged throughout their lives, seldom walked or bathed, and bred constantly to produce litter after litter. These malpractices exacerbate overpopulation, hereditary diseases, and often produce socially maladjusted animals.
PooPrints UK's parent company, BioPet Vet Lab, has the ability to check that samples submitted by breeders are unique and not duplicates of existing dogs. Registration of each breeding dog and puppy is cost-effective and tracked via the centralised DNA World Pet Registry. Breeders maintain detailed records for each dog on the Registry – visible to local government, consumers and retailers – and compliance is monitored at the purchaser level, as breeders must register dogs in order to sell to retail or online outlets.
The benefits are many and wide-ranging. Consumers, animal welfare advocates and the pet-owning public can be assured that puppy mills will be eradicated. While breeders are incentivised to practise ethical procedures to meet the demand for puppies that are bred in reliable, reputable facilities.
Would-be pet owners are able to make informed buying decisions based on registration records, including animal health information and images of the breeding facility. Owners then enjoy the full benefits of DNA registered pets, including lost and found capabilities, lifetime proof of ownership, storage space for veterinary records and discounts for pet supplies online.
3. Driving affordable, unalterable and painless pet registration
BioPet Vet Lab has made extraordinary advancements in bringing affordable DNA sequencing and testing to the mass market. Not so long ago, it would have been inconceivable, laughable even, to suggest that we could sequence and register a dog's genetic makeup for just £30, and test the offending waste for a further £70.
But this is the very real solution that PooPrints UK, BioPet's sole British distributor, can now offer. Things are only set to get better too because, within three to five years, we predict that we will have the technology to make our labs mobile. In effect, that will be bring an even greater immediacy and ease to proceedings for dog owners and enforcement officers alike.
Another technological advantage of DNA testing is that it provides the only undeniable, unalterable proof of ownership. While we certainly welcome the national requirements for compulsory micro-chipping of all dogs from April 2016 – and envisage that micro-chipping and DNA registration could go paw in paw and be carried out in tandem – DNA registration remains the only painless and tamper-proof option for pet identification. One day, we hope it will become the standard bearer.
So, as you can see, there are far more benefits to dog DNA registration than simply stamping out our lamentable dog fouling problem. Although, that is certainly a great first step, don't you think?!