Of Dogs and DNA: Debbie Logan
As the property manager of the dog-friendly 364-unit Twin Ponds Development rental community in Nashua, Debbie Logan soon discovered that not all of the residents were responsible pet owners.
With Consumer Reports listing dog droppings as one of the "Top Ten Gripes Across America," she knew something out of the ordinary was needed to catch the pooper scooper scofflaws.
Logan couldn't afford high-tech surveillance equipment so she found a test kit called Poo Prints that could match the DNA of any of the dogs living in the complex to the genetic material left on the grounds by an errant Fido or his friends.
Now armed with a way to "poo-secute" the guilty, Logan says, "You don't mess around in this town." Her campaign made the national wires and even got her an interview on NPR's "This American Life" with Ira Glass.
You went to this system because it was cost prohibitive to install video cameras throughout the property and there was no other way to prove conclusively who the offenders were. How is it working?
"I've been a property manager for over 20 years and this is one of the coolest things I've ever done. I've never before found a product that costs me absolutely nothing because the cost of the kit is absorbed into the pet residency fee of only $50. The kit is $30 and there are a few administrative costs involved. This has been phenomenal, and it keeps my property clean and the residents happy. We have 350 dogs living here and the residents want to catch offenders as much as we do. This is great."
How does it work?
"It's incorporated into the process when you move in with your pet. We have dogs of all sizes, breeds, and types and when you arrive, you have to bring your dog into the office, where we do a cheek swab to collect the DNA and send the kit to the lab to be entered into the data base."
That sounds like the easy part. The other, collecting the sample after someone hasn't picked up after the pet, can't be particularly pleasant. Are you having a hard time keeping people in the maintenance department?
"Oh, not at all. The guys are really into it and we're all kind of excited to catch the violators. I have the music from "Mission Impossible" on my desk top readily available, and when we get a call, I crank it up and off they go. We all make jokes about putting the guys in white coats and doing the whole CSI thing."
What are some of the jokes being told?
(laughs) "You can guess 10 of them right off the top of your head. Really, they would be anything you could ever put the word s*#t into. I get really excited whenever I get an email from the Poo Prints registry. I start doing my evil laugh, play the song, and we have fun with it."
Offenders get slapped with a $100 fine. You must hear some pretty inventive stories from owners who try to wiggle out of paying their "due…due".
"Oh yeah. When we first started, we heard some really crazy stories but they have quieted down. Recently, one woman told us that it couldn't possibly be her dog and that another dog must have gone right on top of where hers went. I let her know that if that had been the case, we would have had the DNA report indicating both dogs, but only hers came back positive. As it turned out, it was her husband who was taking the dog out and not cleaning up afterward. So I said now that's between the two of you."
As for taking out the dog, is there any lee-way for "foul" weather?
"No. This is a very large property and nothing's ever going to be 100% perfect. In winter, we have to be even more diligent. People will try to get away with things if it's snowing out. We will step up our game a little bit and remind our residents the policy will still be reinforced even if it's 20 degrees below zero out there."
Word of what you're doing has spread rapidly since you instituted the program last year, and you've been featured in stories in The Telegraph of London, England and on National Public Radio (NPR). Have you become a media darling?
"I wouldn't call me famous, but I have gotten lots of calls and emails from all over. Most of them are from condo associations, other rental properties, apartment buildings, and trailer parks. When I think I've been contacted by anyone who could use it, another one comes up."
Have you ever had to evict a tenant for not following the pet policy?
"Not once since we started using Poo Prints. I think other property managers are insane if they don't do this. It's not too good to be true. I wish cities and towns and other would use it."