A startup uses science to catch pooper-scooper scofflaws.
If Tom Boyd gets his way, pet owners may soon feel like actors in an episode of CSI: Pooch.
His Knoxville company, BioPet Vet Lab, developed a DNA-based system to help apartment managers and town administrators catch miscreants who ignore pooper-scooper rules. The system, called PooPrints, collects saliva swabs from every dog in a participating area and registers the DNA in a central database. When residents find dog droppings, they mail them to BioPet. Technicians then match the DNA to reveal the offending owner. Boyd, 71, charges $29.95 for each pet he enrolls and $49.95 per poop test.
"There's a major problem with dog crap, especially where kids play," he says. "It's a health hazard."
At least one property manager is skeptical. Mary Gwyn, founder and co-owner of Apartment Dynamics, a High Point, N.C. company that manages eight apartment complexes with a total of 916 units, argues that poop testing is a hard sell in a weak economy and could create an adversarial relationship between landlords and tenants.
"A more viable market would be high-end condo or homeowner associations," she says. "Because their occupants are owners, they don't have to worry as much about policies that cause residents not to want to live there."
Pet DNA products are big business. Since Boyd launched BioPet in March 2008, he has released three new products in addition to the poop test: a proof of parentage test; a genetic ID kit, which lets owners register a pet DNA sample for proof of ownership; and a breed identification test that reveals every single breed in your mutt's family tree. Boyd expects to sell about 600,000 of these DNA test products this year, for sales of $18 million to $20 million.
"The DNA Breed Identification test kit is probably one of the best single items I've ever added," says Curt Olvey, president of UTM Distributing, a Cincinnati pet supply wholesaler that sold 2,580 kits in six months. "People regard their pets as family."
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