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Getting the poop on negligent dog owners

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A Peninsula landlord thinks she may have found a new way to get her tenants to pick up after their pets: DNA testing of dog poop.

Mary Michaels, who manages the Pinewood Apartments in Redwood City, said she is fed up with tenants not cleaning up after their dogs while using communal areas outside the building.

“People aren’t responsible for their pets,” Michaels said. “This is an opportunity to weed out the bad apples and find out who these people are.”

Michaels plans to start using a DNA-testing service offered by BioPet Vet Labs in Tennessee. Michaels first must collect DNA samples from her tenants’ dogs by taking swabs from their cheeks. Then she has to send the swabs to BioPet Vet Labs to keep on file. The company later compares the DNA samples on file to poop submitted by clients such as Michaels.

Michaels said dog owners who get caught not cleaning up after their pets won’t face any major punishment. She said they’ll simply have to cover the cost of the test — $60. She said she just wants to get tenants to pick up after their pets.

“I don’t want to be mean,” said Michaels, who manages four other properties on the Peninsula besides Pinewood. “I want to do this in a positive way. It’s a change for everyone,”  She hopes to start the testing at the complexes one at a time.

Jim Simpson, president of Bio Vet Tech Labs, said just the threat of the dog-poop DNA test usually keeps pet owners from misbehaving.

“We don’t test a lot of feces at the lab — usually people start cleaning up after their dogs once the program is in place,” Simpson said.

Michaels said the tenants she’s notified of her plans are supportive. Doris Ardon, a tenant at Pinewood, is one of them.

“I think this is a good idea. People should pick up after their dogs,” Ardon said.

Another tenant, however, sounded skeptical. Pinewood resident Sterling Chu, a dog training and behavioral consultant, said a sample from a “community pet potty area” could easily be contaminated by the waste of other canines.

Chu suggested that a better solution would be video surveillance.

“I strongly believe people should utilize the resources given [multiple baggy stations],” Chu said in an email. “So, stop being lazy, you wanted a dog, and pick up the poop.”

mbaum@sfexaminer.com