Southend Council abandons plans for dog mess DNA testing

Plans to introduce dog mess DNA testing that can catch out owners who don’t pick up after their pets have been abandoned after several other councils abandoned the similar scheme due to it being impossible to enforce.

The idea of forensically examining dog muck has been under discussion at Southend Council since it was originally suggested by the Tories in May.

But it has been found to be almost impossible to enforce because it would have to be a voluntary scheme as a national dog DNA database does not exist.

Instead, the council would have to ask dog owners to voluntarily register their dog’s DNA with a specially created local database.

During a meeting on Tuesday night, Liberal Democrat councillor Carole Mulroney said: “I am not aware of any council that has successfully implemented this. Some have had the idea but not managed to get off the starting block.

“Barking and Dagenham is the one everybody holds up, but they gave up having spent quite a considerable amount of money to pay for the registration of dog owners and they gave it up because of the cost of the administration and the investigation.

“Thanet looked at it and likewise gave up and we recently found out that Harborough district council didn’t do it because I quote ‘it was a voluntary service and the people giving their dog’s DNA were responsible owners and not the type of owner that would let their dog foul and not pick it up’.”

Conservative councillor Alex Bright dismissed the concerns and told councillors: “This is trying to provide a system so we can gather evidence and it can lead to some prosecutions or fines.”

He was backed by Cllr Kevin Buck ,who added that the administration was failing to understand the “placebo” effect where it may not be possible to trace the owner but it has a “sub-conscious effect” where people get the impression they can be traced.

Labour councillor Matt Dent said: “Dog waste is a big issue across the borough, we all know that and we would all like to do something combat but Its been made abundantly clear this won’t work without a compulsory national register for owners to register their dog’s DNA to provide something to test against.

“If it could lead to us catching the people who do not pick up after their dogs it would be brilliant but as we know with DNA testing in the criminal sphere, it only works if you have a database to compare it against to identify people.

“If you do a voluntary scheme, the people who register their dogs are going to be the responsible owners who will pick-up after their pets and what we will have is an expensive scheme that doesn’t deal with the problem at hand.”

The Tories called for a vote on the policy to be considered again but the majority voted this down, allowing the administration to reject the idea.

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Steve Shaw

Local Democracy Reporter