NY Times Magazine Honors Israeli Dog Mess DNA Bank Initiative

In its annual end-of-the-year ideas issue, publication cites Petah Tikva plan to combat dog feces.

Coby Ben-Simhon
Haaretz Correspondent
Coby Ben-Simhon
Haaretz Correspondent

A Petah Tikva municipal initiative designed to combat public dog defecation by collecting DNA samples from the city's canines has earned recognition from The New York Times Magazine as one of the most noteworthy ideas of 2008.

Launched three years ago, the program was the brainchild of Petah Tikva Mayor Yitzhak Ochayon. Its implementation and success in recent months has attracted significant international attention to the project.

"I have had enough of this horrible phenomenon of dog poop littering all the streets of the city," Ochayon said. "It drove me crazy even though I assigned five inspectors with motorcycles to the problem and every day they chased after dog owners. We did not manage to minimize this awful situation."

"So I came up with the idea of using DNA tests for dogs. I spoke with the city's top veterinarian, Dr. Tika Bar-On, and she began inquiring as to how it would be possible to implement the idea and for all practical purposes she is the brains behind the project."

"[The mayor] asked me to check whether via DNA we could ascertain which dog left droppings on the sidewalk of the city," Bar-On said. "The idea to build a DNA database for dogs in this context has already been proposed, but nobody has put it into practice."

The city will use the DNA database it is building to match feces to a registered dog and identify its owner.

Owners who scoop up their dogs' droppings and place them in specially marked bins on Petah Tikva's streets will be eligible for rewards of pet food coupons and dog toys.

But droppings found underfoot in the street and matched through the DNA database to a registered pet could earn its owner a municipal fine.

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