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Nov 22, 2016 7:21 PM

Concord man proposes city-wide DNA testing for dogs to identify poop piles


CONCORD — A Penacook man is proposing a way to hold pet owners responsible if they don't pick up their dog's feces: a citywide DNA registry.

John Kelly lives in the village and works in Concord, and he said he's noticed a big problem when it comes to piles of poo left throughout the city.

Though Kelly said he noticed the issue some time ago, but recently decided to take action on a larger scale.

"Let's make it so that when I see a dog in my neighborhood, my first thought is, 'Oh, look how happy that dog is walking with it's family,' and not, 'Gee, I hope he doesn't poop on my lawn or doesn't poop in the cemetery or the park,'" Kelly said on Tuesday afternoon.

In October, Kelly wrote a proposal to the Concord City Council outlining how the DNA registry would work.

Dog owners, upon registration, would be required to also have their dogs' mouths swabbed for DNA. That information would get stored in a doggy database.

Then, when residents notice dog feces either on their own or on public property, Kelly proposed they call police, who would take a sample of the feces and send it to a third party lab for testing.

That test would determine who's responsible so the city could properly impose fines. Kelly's original proposal suggested that be $300, though he said he would hope the presence of a registry would be enough to instill change.

"The idea behind this proposal is to not have a lot of fines," Kelly said. "The idea is that it works as a deterrent. People who are motivated by doing the right thing already scoop the poop, but people who are motivated by penalties and rewards, will only scoop the poop if we have penalties and rewards."

The City Council responded to Kelly's proposal with a thorough report, explaining how under current state law -- which prohibits dog registration information from being shared with any third, non-government party -- it wouldn't work.

Deputy City Manager for Development Carlos P. Baía compiled the response. He later expressed skepticism about the feasibility of the proposal, even if state law were to be changed.

"If the law were ever changed on the state level, I would imagine that most, if not all communities, would have significant concerns about it," Baía said. "There were many, many, many questions regarding this proposal that would be a challenge for any community out there to implement."

The City of Concord has regulations regarding dogs defecating, requiring owners to remove feces from all public property and not permit their dogs to defecate on private property at all.

Kelly's proposal seeks to enforce those rules, and he modeled the idea after private properties in the state that have established DNA registry programs.

"They're amazed by it and thrilled at how well it works, keeping their yard clean," said Deb Palmer, who's a property manager at Twin Ponds in Nashua. She chose PooPrints based in Tennessee for her dog registry.

Palmer has since become a representative for the company and has several private clients in New Hampshire.

"This program can be tweaked almost any way that you need it to work," Palmer added, saying a municipality has many options for implementing such a program, so Concord officials wouldn't be limited to Kelly's original proposal.

In fact, Kelly welcomed the idea of working with officials to first reform state law and then draft a proposal that's financially and socially feasible for the entire community.

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