Minneapolis apartment building collecting pets’ DNA to catch poop-a-trators

  • Paul Walsh
  • Star Tribune
1:27 p.m Thursday, Dec. 7, 2017 National/World News

MINNEAPOLIS — Residents of a large apartment building in downtown Minneapolis are under orders to surrender their dogs’ DNA in a campaign to crack down on poop left on the property, an enforcement strategy that is gaining popularity around the country.

Management of the Soo Line Building, an apartment complex with 250 or so units in the heart of Minneapolis, sent letters this fall to residents directing them to turn over a sample of their dogs’ chromosomes for storage with BioPet Lab in Knoxville, Tenn.

“Un-scooped dog waste has become a concern for our community due to a small percentage of residents not cleaning up after their dogs,” the letter to residents in the 102-year-old building began. “We have tried to manage this problem the best we can, but it continues to be an issue.”

Of course, tending to a dog’s Biff-like needs can be a challenge in a densely populated area like a major downtown. The 20-story Soo Line Building has outdoor green space on its roof to give relief to its canine residents, but it seems not enough residents were bothering to take it to the top.

So, management has declared, any unattended dog feces collected from the property near Marquette Avenue and S. 5th Street will be sent to BioPet Lab and matched against the DNA databank.

A positive match means a $150 fine for the resident, the letter read, adding that ignoring the levy could lead to eviction. Failure to register the dog’s DNA includes a $150 fine for every month of defiance and risk of eviction.

The Soo Line Building’s registration deadline came and went on Saturday. Its managers did not return a phone call seeking comment.

Joe Tamburino, chairman of the Downtown Minneapolis Neighborhood Association and an attorney, called the enforcement tactic “perfectly legal. … I think it’s a great idea. I’m sure the property manager is getting sick of it.”

Tamburino said his association pushes with each new downtown development for it to include somewhere for dogs to be walked.

There are roughly 175 to 200 properties in Minnesota that contract with BioPet for the doo-doo detective work, with most of them in the Twin Cities, regional sales distributor Nick Boosalis said Tuesday. He said apartment buildings are his largest segment of clients, followed by associations that oversee condominium or townhouse complexes.

“The brilliance and the simplicity of the idea is that once you take the ability of the person to get away with it, they just pick up,” Boosalis said.

Ernie Jones, BioPet’s sales manager down at headquarters, said the DNA sample is taken from the interior of the dog’s cheek with a Q-tip, then entered in a databank.

“When the property finds feces, they take a nickel-sized sample and send it to us,” Jones said. “We send them back a report on who is not cleaning up after their dog.”

Boosalis said there’s no monkey business with stored doggie DNA — no surreptitious cloning or other sinister goings on. “We only determine whose owner left behind their dog’s waste,” he said.

BioPet charges $100 to set up the databank and $50 to $60 for each test.

Jones said BioPet began offering the service in 2010 and has about 2,500 clients in 49 states, Britain, Israel and Canada.

“Minnesota is one of our largest states,” Jones said. “I assume it’s because of the cold.”

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