Cork City Council rules out using DNA samples to identify dog owners responsible for dog fouling

The approach adopted by Leitrim County Council involves dog owners voluntarily providing their personal information together with saliva samples from their pets which are then DNA sequenced and stored on a database
Cork City Council rules out using DNA samples to identify dog owners responsible for dog fouling

A report to Cork city councillors at Monday evening’s full council meeting stated that Leitrim County Council recently gave a presentation to city council staff on their dog DNA sampling programme.

CORK City Council has at present ruled out adopting an initiative pioneered by Leitrim County Council whereby DNA testing is used to identify dog owners who neglect to pick up dog waste deposited by their pets on streets, parks, walking trails and housing estates.

The approach adopted by Leitrim County Council, the first local authority in the country to introduce this initiative, involves dog owners voluntarily providing their personal information together with saliva samples from their pets which are then DNA sequenced and stored on a database.

The local authority then collects dog faeces, sends it for DNA sequencing and matching against the records held on the database and, where a match is found, a fine would then issue to the registered owner of the dog recorded on the database.

A report to Cork city councillors at Monday evening’s full council meeting stated that Leitrim County Council recently gave a presentation to city council staff on their dog DNA sampling programme.

Leitrim County Council was said to have reported “a mixed reaction” from the public in relation to the approach, with some welcoming the scheme as innovative and others criticising the council as being “out of touch with reality” and “pursuing an unworkable and costly scheme”.

The report stated that, to date, Leitrim County Council have taken 20 saliva samples and 11 dog faeces samples have been taken and analysed with no matches being found.

Both the DNA sequencing and the creation and maintenance of the database is carried out by PooPrints, an American-based company.

COST

The report stated that Leitrim County Council has acknowledged that the cost associated with the scheme is prohibitive and that it is more likely that only responsible dog owners, who already clean up after their pets, would participate in the scheme.

“Leitrim County Council outlined that there are approximately 600,000 dogs in the country and thus the cost of fully implementing the scheme nationally would be €55m to set it up and €5m annually thereafter to take samples and sequence DNA of new puppies.

“The costs of collecting and DNA testing poo samples would be in addition to the above costs (€80 per sample).

“For the scheme to work, national sampling (at vaccination) would have to be mandatory for all dog users and would thus have to replace the current microchipping scheme.

“For such a scheme to work changes to legislation would be needed and the scheme would have to be heavily subsidised by central Government to make it affordable for dog owners,” the report continued.

It was noted that no prosecutions have been brought before the courts in any of the jurisdictions that this scheme is in operation at present.

Cork City Council’s report concluded by stating that the scheme being operated by Leitrim County Council “is in its infancy” and it would not be appropriate for Cork City Council to introduce such a scheme “until the GDPR implications of transferring and storing personal data outside the State or across local authorities are examined in detail; the courts recognise and adjudicate on the validity of such forensic evidence and a national policy and scheme with appropriate subsidisation and underpinned by new legislation exists”.

The report was supplied to councillors following a motion tabled by Green Party councillor Oliver Moran who asked that the council would investigate and report on the initiative and examine the feasibility of replicating the approach in Cork city.

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