Barking & Dagenham is the first UK council to use DNA testing to catch dog owners who fail to clear up their pet’s waste.
“When a council with the name of Barking asked, you couldn’t ask for a better location,” says Gary Downie, the managing director of Streetkleen, the company that has obtained exclusive licensing rights to the DNA-testing technology.
Well, yes. I’ll just bet you couldn’t. After all, if it proves a success, you’ll have a licence to print money.
Councils from around the UK have called. “Dover, Leicestershire, Warrington, Birmingham City …” He rattles them off. There are 9 million dogs in the UK and a mountain of dog-poo money to be made. Streetkleen has several business models it is willing to discuss, but Barking & Dagenham is funding the initial testing at a cost of £30 a dog.
Each DNA match costs a further £70, but, Downie says, typically the incidents of fouling decline once the programme is in action.
But signing your pooch up to this is not compulsory. So how will it work?
Simple. They’ll make it compulsory by the back door, by using the useless revised Dangerous Dogs Act as the main vehicle:
But how will Barking & Dagenham, or any council, persuade owners to have their dogs swabbed in the first place?
Next April, everyone in the UK will have to chip their dog. Darren Rodwell, leader of Barking & Dagenham council, says he hopes “to have a scheme going with local veterinarians where people can get the swab and chip done together”.
The council plans to introduce a public space protection order (PSPO) to make DNA testing mandatory.
Let’s hope their plans fall apart. Because – much as I loathe dog crap on pavements, and would happily see harsher punishment for those caught fouling – this is real sledgehammer to crack nut time.
It will burden those responsible owners who already do pick up after their animals, and do very little to catch those who fly under the radar. We’ve already seen how much use the much-vaunted horse passport scheme is, when certain communities simply refuse to co-operate, and the authorities fail to make them comply…
And the success of the scheme will inevitably be announced in the local papers (by churnalists) with reference to the amount of fines issued, with the percentage actually collected buried somewhere, and the offset costs of collection probably not mentioned at all.
According to Josie Appleton of the Manifesto Club, which campaigns against PSPOs, this would be the first order since their introduction last October to require a positive condition. Some PSPOs have been strongly opposed as illiberal.
Is Rodwell worried?
Why should he be? These people never are…
“I’m a politician. I always have critics,” he says. “I do what’s right for my community. A good place to live isn’t always about the cost of it.”
Well, no. But that cost isn’t always one measured solely in monetary terms, is it? And if this turns out to be the thin end of a large government-interference & monitoring wedge, will anyone really be surprised?