Doggie DNA database: dystopian?

My apartment building started requiring DNA samples from tenants’ dogs:

Now, through a simple cheek swab, all of your dogs will have their DNA registered with our vendor Mr. Dog Poop (yes that is the name of the company). We will be working with all new leases and renewals to get their dogs registered. Once a dog is registered this program will allow us to test the DNA of the “poop” left on our property, so we can trace it back to the correct owners. If the sample is found to belong to one of our resident animals their owners will be charged $110 to cover our cost of the DNA collection and testing. We would really like to avoid charging this cost so we encourage everyone to scoop their poop.

This was quite stunning to me.  I don’t have a dog, but I probably wouldn’t have moved into this building if the program had been going on.  I can’t even really explain my strong visceral reaction to this; I guess this blog post is a way for me to think “out loud”.

Is the program warranted?  We see an occasional pile of poop, but it doesn’t seem like a frequent problem.  But we’re not the building maintenance people, so maybe they see more of it.

Is it cost effective?  Judging by Mr. Dog Poop’s website, I’d estimate the DNA registration cost for our building would be on the order of a few thousand dollars.  That works out to a few hundred hours of labor.  I can’t imagine anyone spends hours a day on this problem.  Hmm.  If the building does catch someone not picking up for their dog, then they collect a nice margin: $110 for the $30 or so service charge for matching the DNA.  So they need to catch 50 or so violators for the program to pay for itself.

The DNA certainly has some value on its own.  If I knew your dog’s genetic profile, then I could target various kinds of advertising at you, for example.  But I don’t know if the profile Mr. Dog Poop collects ties back to the dog owner.  It seems that it does.

Looking at this from another perspective, there’s certainly an issue with cigarettes at our property; it’s non-smoking, but people smoke all the time and leave cigarette butts strewn about.  If the apartment had a DNA database of all tenants, then it’d be easy to catch violators and fine them.   But even the mention of that is quite chilling, and feels out of proportion to the problem.  Not to mention the violation of privacy and all that can of worms.

So I dunno.  I wish I could end with a strong conclusion and call to action, but I’m rather left with a general sense of uneasiness.  Watch out for these kinds of policies next time you move, and I hope we can vote with our wallets and stamp this out before it becomes common.

What do you think?

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