Southend Council leaders poo poo proposal for dog DNA database

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A proposal to create a dog DNA database that could help catch owners who don’t pick up after their pets has been rejected by Southend Council’s cabinet.

Conservative leader Councillor Tony Cox wanted to introduce the scheme which would have seen dog muck forensically examined to locate the owner of the animal.

Similar to DNA testing on criminals, swabs would be taken from dogs and the results would be logged into a database. The data could then be used to link dog mess to the owner who could face a fine for failing to clean up.

At a cabinet meeting on Tuesday afternoon, the idea was rejected because it the council does not have the power to make swabbing compulsory, making the scheme unenforceable

Councillor Carole Mulroney said: “I think there is a way to do dog DNA, but that is with compulsory registration coming from government. Having owners get swabbing done the same time as they do microchipping.

“If dogs were swabbed at the same time as the microchipping, then you would have a national database which would allow you to track the dogs. Until that comes about we are looking at improving our detection rates using means we already have in-house so that we can target hot spots as well as getting the message to vets, kennels and dog walkers.

“So I would like to say the cabinet that the council should continue to use existing powers to tackle dog fouling and considers the additional targeting of hot spot areas through enforcement, communication and engagement activities.”

The scheme was considered after Cllr Cox along with Cllr Alex Bright (Con) tabled a motion which called on the council to “combat the problem”. They labelled dog fouling as “one of the most unacceptable and offensive types of litter on our streets”.

It has been supported by 17 other Tory councillors.

Southend is not the first council to consider introducing the scheme. The village of Alresford, near Colchester, introduced dog DNA testing in 2016 after residents complained that owners failing to pick up mess was a consistent issue.

At the time, the UK’s biggest dog welfare organisation The Kennel Club raised similar concerns to those raised in Southend. The club pointing out that swabbing dogs would not be compulsory and so those who do not clean up after their pets could simply opt out.

Steve Shaw

Local Democracy Reporter

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