Doggie DNA

Hoboken Reporter

Dear Editor:

This letter is in response to a letter by Mr. Peter Cunningham, President of the Hoboken Dog Association which appeared in the March 28th issue of your weekly publication, regarding some of Hoboken's dog owner's disregard of our city's "Pooper Scooper" laws. It will also address Mayor Roberts' plan to resolve this problem, which was also briefly outlined on page 17 of the same March 28th issue.

My name is Lauren Mecka, I am 12-years-old, and I am a 6th grader at The Hudson School. The reason I decided to voice my opinion on this ongoing, unresolved situation that plagues our city is simple. For my school's Science Fair, which was held on April 18th, I chose to explore the possibility of addressing the persistent violation of this quality of life issue by employing "fail safe" scientific application to its solution.

While I do not wish to undermine either the Mayor's nor Mr. Cunningham's approach to ultimately and successfully resolve our "poopy" streets dilemma, I do feel that their solutions fall short of effectiveness and are almost impossible to execute.

Hoboken's "Pooper Scooper" laws have been in the books since 1983 and to date, have been blatantly and repeatedly ignored by many of our city's dog owners. Both Mr. Cunningham and the Mayor suggest that stricter and more vigilant enforcement of these laws will result in cleaner sidewalks, parks, and dog runs. However, unless the city and private citizens alike are willing to patrol our streets around the clock, 24/7, violators will continue to escape undetected. On the other hand, what I propose and what my Science Fair project research has reveled, is an effective, fool proof way of dealing with this problem which will ultimately leave those who feel above the law...nowhere to hide.

What I propose is this: the city should amend its "Pooper Scooper" laws to include mandatory DNA samples of all registered dogs. With the cost of DNA profiling becoming increasingly more affordable, a one time fee (ranging between $50-$60/dog) paid by the owner upon registration would start the ball rolling. The DNA fingerprints should then be compiled into a data bank and kept on file for cross referencing. This would give city health officials and private citizens as well, the ability to collect and submit for positive identification the "poop" left behind by irresponsible dog owners. A hefty fine, as well as the cost of the DNA match test, should then be issued to the guilty party. If those who feel above the law are faced with the knowledge that they can and will be tracked down, they might be more apt to abide by the rules.

While many might consider this approach "over the edge" let me point out that this experimental method is being considered in Australia, the UK and various cities here in the US. If the American Kennel Association can use DNA profiling to protect dogs from harm why then can't we use the same application to protect our streets from poop? Furthermore, the public opinion poll I conducted in conjunction with my experiment, unveiled that 82 percent of the residents I polled considered this possibility an effective approach to rid or city streets of "dog poop" once and for all. In addition, my poll also revealed that 76 percent of those polled did not view this solution as a violation of their civil rights or their rights to privacy (100 Hoboken residents polled).

Obviously, the success rate of my hypothetical solution is based on the percentage ratio of registered dogs, and therefore our city should look into creative ways to promote registration. Perhaps the introduction of an annual "Doggie Registration Day," held in the Spring, sponsored by one or more of the major dog food companies and presented as a fun-filled day for pooches and owners alike, would stimulate voluntary registration compliance.

Finally, adults may feel outraged and disgusted by the undesirable sight of the unclaimed dog poop left behind to decorate our sidewalks, and parks; however, it is the health and well-being of children, like myself and younger, that is being jeopardized by this irresponsible circumstance. Canine feces is a major pollutant of ground water and has been linked to causing serious illnesses in humans, primarily children. Headaches, bronchitis and even blindness are just some of the perils associated and medically proven to be linked to dog feces. Since we, the children, are the ones who routinely ride our bikes and roll our blades on our city's sidewalks, and are also the ones who freely stage our adventures and dragon-slaying fantasies on our parks' grassy lawns, we are the ones who run the greater risk of contact and exposure. Given these odds, I strongly believe it's time we all agree that something drastic needs to be done.

Lauren A. Mecka

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