Tel Aviv is considered one of the most dog-friendly cities in the world. With a high dog-to-people ratio of 1-to-17, the Israeli city is a haven for dog lovers. Tel Aviv, however, has a long-standing dog poop problem, as several owners don’t clean up after their pets in the city streets. In its latest attempt to resolve the issue, Tel Aviv has approved a motion to create a DNA database of all dogs in the city to identify and fine owners who don’t pick up after their furry companions.
All dog owners in the city are required to secure licenses for their pets, which need to be renewed every year. Under the approved motion, the next time dog owners renew these licenses, they will also have to submit their dogs’ saliva or fur samples and pay a fee of 250 Israeli Shekels ($75).
The samples will then be used to create a DNA profile for their dogs in the database. This will soon allow Tel Aviv to compare excrement samples to the DNA profile of dogs in the database. If a match is found, the city will mail the owner a 730 Shekel ($220) fine.
“The existence of a DNA database of dogs in the city will make it possible to perform samples for feces on the street, thus enforcing the law against the dog owner even after the offense has been committed, in a way that will address the main challenge in enforcing and eradicating the phenomenon,” the municipality said. “The cleanliness of the public space is an integral part of the city’s appearance.”
Once the new ruling takes effect, the validity of current dog licenses will expire in six months and new licenses won’t be approved unless owners give over the DNA details of their pets. Guide dogs and dogs kept by animal protection organizations are exempted from these regulations.
In 2020, the city government received 6,766 calls and inquiries over dog poop left in public spaces. And even though Tel Aviv launched a city-wide campaign encouraging owners to clean up after their dogs and even raised fines for not doing so last April, the poop problem has continued.
“Two percent of dog owners ruin our wonderful urban experience,” Eytan Schwartz, Spokesperson of Tel Aviv-Yafo Municipality, told Interesting Engineering via email. “Among 40,000 dog owners, a very small minority don’t pick up their waste. But this minority amounts to 500 kilograms of waste that we pick up every month from the sidewalks. We have decided that the time has come to put an end to this phenomenon, and chosen a technology that identifies with total accuracy all of the responsible dogs and their owners.”