Pet police are out on patrol

Watch out, dog owners. DNA detectives are hot on the trail of those who shirk their neighborly duty to pick up dog poop.

Tired of having to wash their shoes and wrinkle their noses, a few Charleston area apartment communities have apparently resorted to collecting DNA samples from resident dogs in an effort to track down and fine owners who don’t scoop their pets’ waste.

The cleverly named PooPrints service is the ultimate in passive-aggressive pooper scooper enforcement. It costs $40 to collect a DNA swab sample and then $60 to test offending excrement. Fines can run as high as $350 with eviction a possible punishment for repeat offenders.

But the rather Orwellian approach to keeping dog parks clean raises a certain degree of nostalgia for more traditional methods of neighbor-shaming.

Whatever happened to the simple stake out or a sting operation? Can neighbors not keep neighbors in check by simply looking out for misbehavior? Can armchair forensic scientists not glean enough evidence to determine the guilty parties without a laboratory investigation?

And it’s only a matter of time before privacy advocates raise constitutional objections that apartment-dwelling dogs have not consented to having their DNA collected and entered into a private database.

And what’s to stop testing companies from using dogs’ gene sequences to discriminate against them with health insurance pricing or develop unauthorized genetic therapies? Once the information is out there, it’s out there.

Indeed, biological ethics is entering truly uncharted territory as DNA tests get faster, cheaper and more commonplace, and scientists are able to read deeper and deeper into the intricacies of an individual’s genetic code. Even Fido’s.

But if the ethics of gene sequencing is a bleeding-edge gray area, picking up after a pet is pretty much a long-settled moral question. And it shouldn’t take the threat of a steep fine or investigative techniques heretofore limited to courts of law to point people in the right direction.

Just doo it.

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