NRW debates dog poo data bank to track down repeat offenders
The mayor of the small municipality of Weilerswist in North Rhine-Westphalia has sparked a debate by proposing to set up a “dog poo data bank”. The idea is to use DNA comparison to track down owners who repeatedly fail to pick up their dogs’ mess in public places.
Weilerswist considers dog poo database to tackle mess
In a Facebook post, Mayor Anne Horst said that the municipality has a “long-running issue” with dog excrement in public green spaces. She said that the mess was not only a nuisance for members of the public, but primarily also for city employees that maintain these areas. Poo “literally flies around the ears of employees when mowing [the grass],” Horst said.
Failing to pick up your dog’s mess is illegal in Germany and is punishable with an administrative fine. However, it’s clearly difficult to catch people in the act, and so it’s not always clear who is responsible for the little piles of mess.
Horst’s idea is to create a database of DNA samples from all the dogs that live in the municipality. If a “specimen” is found, the DNA can be compared with the database in order to issue a fine to the owner. The mayor has already written to the leaders of the North Rhine-Westphalia state government, asking them to create a legal basis for the database at the state level.
“The measure is not generally directed against dog owners or dogs,” Horst wrote on her website, acknowledging that the majority of pet owners know “how poop bags work.” She said she was primarily acting out of concern for the hygiene of municipality workers and people who want to enjoy public green spaces.
Dog DNA database difficult to implement under current laws
The idea has precedence: since January 2022 the South Tyrol region has obliged dog owners to submit a sample of their pet’s saliva for DNA analysis. The town of Béziers in France also recently required dog owners in the city centre to have a genetic ID card created for their pets. In April this year, the city of Wiesbaden in Hesse was also reported to be looking into the idea of a database.
However, privacy advocates have expressed concern that the idea might be difficult to implement in Germany, where data protection laws are so strong. Under current laws, it would require a court to examine each individual case before issuing approval.
“There is currently no special legal basis for taking and storing DNA samples in reserve,” a spokesperson for the NRW data protection officer told dpa. They said ultimately it would be up to the state parliament to decide whether the effort and cost of creating and maintaining such a database would be worth it. The topic will be on the parliament's agenda this autumn.