In an Italian city struggling with debt, pollution and a mafia-run waste disposal industry, officials turn to DNA testing to help deter poop-scoop negligence amongst dog owners.
It would appear that city officials in Naples, the gritty Italian port city best known for its pickpockets, pizza, and horrendous garbage problem, are really laying down the law when it comes to animal waste that’s been left to bake under the Mediterranean sun on city sidewalks by neglectful dog owners. As reported by the New York Times, Naples has launched a DNA database to help police nab — and fine —scofflaws who habitually fail to retrieve and properly dispose of canine cacca. While the scheme is now in its infancy, officials hope to eventually build a database of all the roughly 80,000 dogs in the city, allowing them to easily match an offending poop with an irresponsible person: The idea is that every dog in the city will be given a blood test for DNA profiling in order to create a database of dogs and owners. When an offending pile is discovered, it will be scraped up and subjected to DNA testing. If a match is made in the database, the owner will face a fine of up to 500 euros, or about $685. If this all seems vaguely familiar, it’s because some poop-plagued condo associations and apartment rental complexes in the U.S. and elsewhere have also started to employed similar DNA matching services to help put the fear into residents prone to scoop-shirking. In the seaside community of Ipswich, Mass. one super-fired-up — or "rabid" as one anonymous resident puts it — animal control officer is pushing for the town to invest in a DNA database that would enable him to go after offenders. But dog feces-based forensics in a bustling city — Italy’s third largest — of over 960,000 residents is an entirely different creature to be sure. And officials such as vice mayor Tommaso Sodano are very well aware of this. “I know some people find it funny that with all the problems the city has, we would focus on dog poop. I know that,” Sodano explains to the Times. Responding to critics who believe that the campaign is an egregious waste of money and resources, Sodano fully admits that Naples has larger and more pressing issues to tackle than deterring dog poop — issues like a crumbling infrastructure, political corruption, and, of course, the Camorra crime syndicate. But he believes that efforts to make the debt-ridden city more beautiful and “demonstrate municipal solving problem” are also important. To date, the campaign has taken effect in the well-heeled hillside quarters of Vomero and Arenella where plainclothes police officers and city health workers take to the streets with a watchful eye for errant turds — or “presences” as Enrico Del Gaudio of the Municipal Police refers to them. “Now, when I walk the streets, the presences have greatly diminished,” Del Gaudio explains of the campaign’s success thus far. “Before, it was like an obstacle course. Every day, a child would walk into school with a little gift under her shoe.” While officials continue to build their DNA database, the city’s veterinary hospital is busy taking blood samples from pooches to add to the registry — about 200 dogs are accounted far thus far. And for the most part, residents who bring their dogs in for testing are supportive of the campaign. Or at least they’re pretending to be supportive. Says dog owner Maria Teresa Ceccarelli: “It’s really disgusting. I don’t see people walking their dogs. I just see the results in the street.” Via [NYT]