When the world gets closer.

We help you see farther.

Sign up to our expressly international daily newsletter.

Already a subscriber? Log in .

You've reached your limit of one free article.

Get unlimited access to Worldcrunch

You can cancel anytime .


Exclusive International news coverage

Ad-free experience NEW

Weekly digital Magazine NEW

9 daily & weekly Newsletters

Access to Worldcrunch archives

Free trial

30-days free access, then $2.90
per month.

Annual Access BEST VALUE

$19.90 per year, save $14.90 compared to monthly billing.save $14.90.

Subscribe to Worldcrunch

You Don't Clean Up Your Dog's Poop? DNA Could Trace It Back To You

In one German town, like in several places around the world, the mayor wants to take action against those who don't clean up their dog's "business." But Germany's data protection laws mean the initiative will be difficult to implement.

White wooden window frame showing a sign forbidding dog poop

"This is not a dog's toilet."

Kristian Frigelj

WEILERSWIST — Stepping in a pile of dog excrement is bad enough. But for city workers, the ick factor is often even higher. The droppings spray when public lawns are being mowed, stain clothing and equipment, and sometimes end up in employees' faces. Despite the increased use of bag dispensers and campaigns, almost all cities and municipalities continue to face the reality that certain resident dog owners are too lazy to pick up and dispose of their four-legged friends' "business."

In Weilerswist, a German municipality near Cologne, Mayor Anna-Katharina Horst wants to implement a measure that is DNA file for dogs. Horst wants the city to send all owners an invitation to take a DNA sample of their four-legged friend. In addition, a sample is to be taken with the registration of each new dog.

Legal issues

The investigation would work like this: municipal employees collect samples from the illegal droppings on site and send them to a laboratory. The result is compared with the DNA database. If there is a match, the record is sent to the Weilerswist municipality. For data protection reasons, one thing is very important to Mayor Horst: the data record is assigned to the person who owns the dog only in the municipality.

In Barakaldo, Spain, fines of up to €3,000 are even possible in particularly serious cases.

The cost of a onetime reference sample for DNA determination is estimated at 20 to 25 euros. A follow-up sample costs about 35 to 40 euros, according to similar trials in foreign cities already using the system. Who should cover the costs in Weilerswist — the municipality or the dog owner — would have to be decided by the municipal council, as well as the amount of the fine for convicted dog owners.

Mayor Horst first made the idea public a year ago. One year later, it is clear that the project cannot be implemented easily for legal reasons because many issues could only be clarified by way of a case-by-case review by courts. Data protection concerns have also been raised because such a DNA file would make dog owners identifiable.

Anne Horst\u200b, Mayor of Weilerswist, Germany.

Anne Horst, Mayor of Weilerswist, Germany.


Similar trials around Europe

Mayor Horst, on the other hand, cannot understand these concerns and wonders why this is not possible in Germany, but is possible abroad. After all, such procedures already exist in some municipalities in France, Italy and Spain. In Barakaldo, Spain, according to media reports, fines of up to €3,000 are even possible in particularly serious cases.

The southern French municipality of Béziers launched a two-year pilot project this month. Dogs in the city area are to be given a "genetic passport." A saliva sample from the dog is to be given to the vet free of charge.

The mayor of Béziers, Robert Ménard, complains that more than 1,000 dog turds have to be removed every month in the city center alone. According to media reports, he refers to the extremely positive experience of the Spanish city of Valencia. There, the drastic measure have reduced the number of leftover piles by about 90%.

In Germany, campaigns to be more considerate are still the main approach. In the Hessian city of Offenbach am Main, for example, the city's public order department and public utility company have been sending someone in the costume of a life-size dog on dog walking routes since May of this year.

The mayor of Weilerwist, however, continues to advocate for DNA files.

You've reached your limit of free articles.

To read the full story, start your free trial today.

Get unlimited access. Cancel anytime.

Exclusive coverage from the world's top sources, in English for the first time.

Insights from the widest range of perspectives, languages and countries.


The Problem With Always Blaming Climate Change For Natural Disasters

Climate change is real, but a closer look at the science shows there are many factors that contribute to weather-related disasters. It is important to raise awareness about the long-term impact of global warming, but there's a risk in overstating its role in the latest floods or fires.

People on foot, on bikes, motorcycles, scooters and cars navigate through a flooded street during the day time.

Karachi - People wade through flood water after heavy rain in a southern Pakistani city

Xinhua / ZUMA
Axel Bojanowski


BERLIN — In September, thousands of people lost their lives when dams collapsed during flooding in Libya. Engineers had warned that the dams were structurally unsound.

Two years ago, dozens died in floods in western Germany, a region that had experienced a number of similar floods in earlier centuries, where thousands of houses had been built on the natural floodplain.

Last year saw more than 1,000 people lose their lives during monsoon floods in Pakistan. Studies showed that the impact of flooding in the region was exacerbated by the proximity of human settlements, the outdated river management system, high poverty rates and political instability in Pakistan.

There are many factors that contribute to weather-related disasters, but one dominates the headlines: climate change. That is because of so-called attribution studies, which are published very quickly after these disasters to highlight how human-caused climate change contributes to extreme weather events. After the flooding in Libya, German daily Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung described climate change as a “serial offender," while the Tageszeitung wrote that “the climate crisis has exacerbated the extreme rainfall."

The World Weather Attribution initiative (WWA) has once again achieved its aim of using “real-time analysis” to draw attention to the issue: on its website, the institute says its goal is to “analyse and communicate the possible influence of climate change on extreme weather events." Frederike Otto, who works on attribution studies for the WWA, says these reports help to underscore the urgent need for climate action. They transform climate change from an “abstract threat into a concrete one."

In the immediate aftermath of a weather-related disaster, teams of researchers rush to put together attribution studies – “so that they are ready within the same news cycle," as the New York Times reported. However, these attribution studies do not meet normal scientific standards, as they are published without going through the peer-review process that would be undertaken before publication in a specialist scientific journal. And that creates problems.

Keep reading...Show less

The latest