HOA uses DNA tests to target dog owners who don't scoop poop

HOA uses DNA tests to target dog owners who don't scoop poop

By Darcy Spears. CREATED Dec 15, 2011

Las Vegas, NV (KTNV) -- A HOA's grounds go to the dogs and crime lab science is being used to combat the problem.

But some owners have a bone to pick with the board.

Dozer, a sweet-natured young pit bull, tugs on his leash, panting hard as he walks excitedly through his condo complex.

If Dozer could talk, he'd probably say...

"Really?!  Are you serious? Am I reading this correctly?"

That's what his owner, Justin Villanueva, thought after getting a recent letter from the Borgata's, a condo community on Jones Boulevard and Harmon Avenue, homeowners administration.

"I kinda thought it was ridiculous.  I thought, really?  DNA test?  I mean, come on."

The letter requires all dog owners in the community to bring their pooches in for a DNA swab.

"I just think nowadays, doing DNA testing, your right of privacy is gone.  Now for our dogs too."

Through a program called PooPrints, the doggie DNA goes into a world pet registry that the company says can be used as a "whodunnit tool."

When a pet owner leaves their pooch's package behind, for $60 per poop, the HOA collects and sends a sample to a lab in Knoxville, Tennessee.

"Dogs defecate and you should pick up after your dog, but, I mean, DNA testing to solve the 'crime' is going too far," Justin says.

Dog owners were given no choice in the matter.

"Basically, if you don't do it you're gonna get fined."

Failing to register your dog is a $100 fine, plus a lien on your unit if you don't pay.

All for what the letter says is due to a "small percentage of residents."

So is this a case of the tail wagging the dog?

"It's a problem, but for the most part, people pick up after themselves, you know?  That's why I don't think they should have gone to these extreme measures."

"I thought this was one of the most ridiculous things I'd ever heard," says HOA attorney Bruce Flammey.

He believes the association may have really stepped in it with this one.

"I've never seen any set of governing documents that say if you're going to have a dog, in particular, you have to give us a DNA sample.  And interestingly, it doesn't apply to cats."

Which raises the question of inequal treatment of HOA residents, which is against state law.

"And they're going to be spending time trying to differentiate between cat poo and dog poo," Flammey points out.

In that letter they sent to residents, the HOA warns dog owners to keep their canine companions away from food and other dogs for at least an hour before getting tested, in order to avoid cross contaminating the DNA.

So Flammey wonders how, after the fact, they can guarantee a clean sample and a positive match to the offending pooch.

"If the poo's going to be laying out there and six or seven dogs are gonna come and sniff it and some idiot's gonna lick it, ok, now what?  How do we know what dog it was? And I don't think they're gonna be able to make it stick."

The association says they're doing this partly to save money. 

They say they were spending $600 a month to pay vendors to scoop poop.

No one from the Borgata HOA or management company Benchmark would go on camera.

They had their lawyer send us a lengthy written statement which says, in part, "we reached this decision after great deliberation and concern for our community's health and welfare... After several other methods of controling the problem failed."

They say they expect the PooPrints program to be a "deterrent to those who abuse the community's trust" and a way to "avoid penalizing responsible pet owners."

Justin finds that laughable.

"This is something that needs to be seen.  Because people are gonna have an 'oh, reallly?' moment, I think."

Darcy: "Do you think it rises to the level of the HOA Hall of Shame?" Justin: "Totally.  Perfect.  This is perfect."

Dog owners have until the Dec. 17 to get their dog's mouths swabbed if they want the association to pick up the $30 tab. 

After that, they've got to pay out of pocket.

We'd like to hear your thoughts on this story.

Does the HOA belong in our Hall of Shame or should we be inducting the people who fail to pick up after their pets?

E-mail your comments and any nominees for the next HOA Hall of Shame to 13investigates@ktnv.com.


Darcy Spears

Darcy Spears

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Darcy Spears is currently the Chief Investigative Reporter for Action News.