Dogs are a way of life in rental housing and if you want your rentals fully leased, dog owners are a key tenant demographic landlords may want to keep.
Look just at Millennials: 76 percent are pet owners and the majority are them are renters.
You might have laughed at first at this headline on how dog DNA registration could fix a landlord dog waste problem. But here is the reality:
Here is how it works:
Tenants swab the inside of their dogs’ mouth and provide a DNA sample that is then registered on a secure database. When you find dog waste in or around the property that a tenant failed to pick up, you can simply send a sample to the lab and they will identify the offending dog so you can then take it up with the tenant.
“The number one thing for property managers is ‘how can they keep clean their property and its open spaces whilst make people responsible for their dogs?” said Ernie Jones, from BioPet. He said some have tried cameras, but that is a huge ongoing expense that requires employees to monitor, and often the images are grainy and hard to determine the dog in question.
“One of the biggest advantages is, it takes away the denial from the tenant about whose dog left the errant waste behind,” Jones said. “And it helps avoid the neighbour vs. neighbour accusations about whose dog was responsible for the waste encountered.”
Who bears the cost of the dog DNA program?
So how does the business model work for the company and the landlord?
“The business model is a startup fee – the dog DNA registration – and the DNA waste processing is profitable at the start,” for us, Jones says. His profitability declines as the residents and the complex keep things cleaned up, but it is never 100% and there are still cases of waste sample analysis his company will handle.
“The main objection for property managers is the start-up costs. If a housing association has 100 dogs at £30 per dog to get started, then that is £3,000 that has to come from somewhere that is usually not in the property’s budget,” Jones said.
However, “once a program is in place, it creates increased occupancy and desirability from potential new tenants who recognise the benefits,” he said.
“Typically the pet owner bears the cost,” Jones said, and “not the landlord itself. Typical start-up cost are £30-£40 per resident dog. Some properties have to ‘grandfather’ in existing pet owners and gradually start the program with new residents and when leases come up for renewal.”
"Tenant fines are typically the way apartments handle the complaints when dog waste is found, and the owner identified. This covers the cost of the DNA waste analysis. However, when tenants realise they can be held accountable via their tenancy agreement they soon improve their waste management practices!"
The environmental issue around dog waste:
In addition to keeping communal areas clean, there are also concerns around the human health risks, and water pollution from uncollected dog waste. “Dog waste is considerably more polluting than you may think," Jones said.
“The average person today thinks of dog waste as simply a nuisance when they step in it. They are also under the assumption that it simply turns into fertilizer,”. “In fact, dog waste is not fertilizer and does not simply deteriorate; instead, dog waste is the most contaminated waste of any animal. Their bodies have adapted over the years to digest any type of foods; as such, they produce huge quantities of bacteria, including E-coli and salmonella.
Cash strapped local councils are starting to lean on the housing associations from an environmental standpoint to help clean up the environment and reduce long term costs and contamination levels. Dense urban areas are a particular problem.
“Dog waste draws rodents, rodents draw feral cats,” Jones said. “One other major issue seldom understood is that rats eat dog waste: the more left on the ground, the greater the rat population and also the diseases they can pass on. Many major cities have reported a large increase in rat numbers in parallel with the growth of their dog population. This is not about whether someone doesn’t like to pick up their dog’s dropping. This is a social responsibility and about protecting the environment.”
Current compliance systems not working?
Dog waste can be disposed of properly, but not by the present system of compliance.
“Every community has tried signs and campaigns, however they only provide short term solutions, and have little or no effect on irresponsible dog owners. Some have even spray-painted the waste to show its prevalence. None of these methods have worked. Dog owners must be accountable. And the only proven way to make that happen is with DNA detection.”
Do tenants try to beat the system?
Jones said apartment complexes have issues with tenants who try various means to avoid the DNA registration process, such as hiding dogs to avoid registering their pet during a rollout.
One tenant with a white bulldog came up with another plan to beat the system.
Jones tells the story of one particular property that kept picking up poop and getting “no matches” and could not figure out what was going on.
The mystery was solved when they found out that a tenant who had registered his white bulldog bought a second, almost identical, white bulldog he did not register. He walked them one at a time so most people could not tell which dog was which. Eventually it was discovered that the second white bulldog turned out to be the source of the “mystery poop.”
If a property finds poop what happens next?
All the poop samples come into the lab in Tennessee from across the world. Jones estimates they get 700 to 1,000 poop samples a month from around the country. All the samples are delivered in special-leak proof bottles with a special solution that protects and preserves the DNA.
Property managers saying dog DNA registration is a win-win for dog owners and landlords alike:
"We use it as a sales tool. It's something we knew we'd implement right at the beginning,'' Kris Tomlinson, property manager of a 320-unit apartment complex that opened about a year ago. Tomlinson said the program has proven an effective deterrent, as only one person has been assessed the fine in the past year.
"We told them it was their dog, charged the £175 fine. They weren't happy, but then they tell their friends because they're (upset)'' he told the newspaper. We had considered not permitting tenants to own dogs, but this service provided the required accountability whereby we felt we could be assured that dog owners would act responsibly. It has been a tremendous success for all concerned.