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.
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.
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, 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.