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DNA: the solution to combat the dog mess

You are walking quietly and suddenly you smell an unpleasant odour. You look from side to side and you see nothing, but the smell continues there. Then, you lift your foot and, effectively, you have stepped a dog poop. You cannot deny it because everybody has happened it. However, DNA can finish with the lack of public spirit. If you do not believe it, I suggest you to continue reading.

THE CONSEQUENCES OF THE LACK OF PUBLIC SPIRIT OF SOME DOG OWNERS

To have a dog is not only feed up it and play with it, but its owners are the person responsible to duck and clean the dog mess and deworming it. However, few people do it.

In the street, in playgrounds or in front of the home’s door you can find the dropping of a dog because its owner has not cleaned it. Although there are many campaigns against the lack of public spirit of some dog owners and there are also economic sanctions, today is an unresolved issue.

To leave dog droppings is not only an unsightly problem, but it goes beyond because parasitized stools are a public health issue. If the stools are not cleaned soon, eggs or cysts presents in them may become infectious forms and represent a risk to people or children who play in the playground. The rain dissipates the stools and people do not see them, but the parasites are still there.

Intestinal worms cause diseases to dogs and cats and people, especially in children and immunocompromised (HIV, transplant patients or with some types of cancer subjected to long immunocompromised therapies).

Parasites can cause health affect to stomach and intestines, but the worst is in the eyes. The parasite Toxacara canis can cause the total loss of vision of the eye that infects.

CAN-ID PROJECT

Oscar Ramírez is the person responsible of the Can-ID project (Figure 1), developed by the Catalan company Vetgenomics SL to combat stools in public spaces. This is a system of canine identification by DNA, based on a chip of 128 markers (SNPs).

logo_can-id_web
Figure 1. Logo of Can-ID (Source: Vetgenomics SL)

The aim of Can-ID is identify all dogs of a municipality with a chip to get a census of dogs. When a council’s technician finds a dog mess, he will pick up a sample and he will send it to analyse. Then, if the DNA removed of the sample coincides with the chip of some registered dog, it will know who the dog owner is. Finally, the council could fine this person.

This project is based on two phases:

Phase 1: genetic identification of all dogs of municipality

  • Involvement of vets in the collection of blood or saliva samples
  • Identification plate with QR code, which the owner can activate in case of loss of the dog
  • Transport with custody system of samples
  • Analysis of the samples and obtaining the genetic profiles
  • Creation, management and conservation of the database with the genetic profiles of dogs in the municipality

Phase 2: identification of owners with a lack of public spirit

  • Non civic owner does not pick up his dog’s stool from the street
  • Collection of samples in the presence of members of the local police
  • Transport with custody system of samples
  • Analysis of stool samples in a laboratory specialized in non-invasive samples
  • Comparison of the genetic profile of the stool with the database. Identification of the dog

In order to realize the first phase, the municipality has to modify the municipal ordinances so that, in addition to force the registration of the dogs and an identification by a chip, their owners also submit them to a blood test that will help to make a database.

Unlike what many people think, genetic identification has not a great cost. Moreover, the cost of cleaning the municipality is higher. The first phase has a cost of 35€ per sample and includes the extraction of a sample by a vet and its custody for analysis. The second phase is also around 30€ and the amount of the fine is around 300-600€, depending the city. Therefore, the municipalities that implement this system would recover the investment.

Parets del Vallès (Barcelona) is the first town to implement this system. In the first 3 months, the municipality pays for the collection of samples and their custody, through an awareness campaign.

WHY CHOOSE CAN-ID?

This system has a greater number of markers respect to other identification systems (Table 1), but it also has internal pollution controls.

This system allows to exclude the false positives. A dog may urinate on a stool in the street. This would contaminate the sample, but this system is able to identify if the sample contains more than one DNA. If so, the sample would be excluded.

It can also happen that the dog is not registered or is from another population. But you can obtain a robot portrait and put stronger pressure on dog owners who comply the characteristics of the robot portrait (example: hair colour).

table 1 eng.jpg
Table 1. Comparision of the Can-ID system respect others identification systems (Source: Oscar Ramírez, Comparative Genomics programme from Master’s Degree in Cytogenetics and Reproductive Biology in UAB)

In addition to identify these people, Can-ID can be applied for genetic identification and paternity tests or monitoring of wild-wolf populations from non-invasive samples too (stools, hair, urine).

We hope that more municipalities will join this initiative and reduce the lack of public spirit of some people, which may affect public health.

REFERENCES

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