Gerry Farrell: Poo Fighters call for dog DNA tests

LAST summer, Green councillor Chas Booth put forward a motion, if you'll pardon the pun, asking for dogs in Edinburgh to be DNA-tested so that dog owners who don't pick up after their pets could be traced to their addresses and prosecuted.

By The Newsroom
Wednesday, 10th February 2016, 1:18 pm
Updated Wednesday, 10th February 2016, 1:19 pm
Dogs could give DNA when they get microchipped. Picture: contributed
Dogs could give DNA when they get microchipped. Picture: contributed

The motion was defeated but I think it’s time for us to try again.

All over the world, in Italy, Spain and in more than a thousand communities in the US, DNA testing is making a difference. And at the beginning of this year the London borough of Barking, believe it or not, began piloting the scheme. It’s very simple to administer. Dogs are given cheek swabs and their DNA is stored on a database. The chances of two dogs sharing the same DNA are four million to one, so it’s easy to scoop up a sample of poop, test it in the lab and go straight to the door of the guilty party. The company who pioneered DNA testing is called PooPrints. Eric Mayer who runs the show says: “Our aim is to make every city cleaner and greener, one poop pile at a time.” Does it work? Damn right it does. The cities who’ve used PooPrints have reported up to a 95 per cent improvement in cleanliness.

Why is now a good time to give it the green light? Well, in April, it will become compulsory to microchip your dog. Wouldn’t it be great if we took their cheek swabs at the same time? I don’t doubt the council’s desire to see Edinburgh’s streets clean. But the prosecution and enforcement stats are woeful. Only two prosecutions in Leith alone last year. Worse still, across the whole city only 73 penalty notices – and half are unpaid. That’s intolerable.

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In the UK, dogs generate 1000 tonnes of poo a year. Most of it is picked up by responsible dog owners. But a hardcore minority of lazy, ignorant, brass-necked people turn a blind eye to the law and let their pets drop their business behind them without making any attempt to pick it up. If you challenge them they pretend they don’t know anything about it – or shout and swear at you. Now I’m over six foot tall and a good 17 stone in weight so I’m not afraid to confront a dog-fouler. The trouble is that you need either filmed evidence or another witness to form the basis of a prosecution and these mouth-breathers must have invisibility cloaks because so far, in three years, I’ve only caught one guy in the act.

Let’s be honest, the status quo isn’t working. Only 30 per cent of Edinburgh citizens are happy with the situation. It’s great that the council has agreed to put stickers on Leith litter bins encouraging dog owners to dispose of their poo-bags there instead of throwing them up into trees or hanging them on railings. We’re delighted that they’re currently scoping out the costs of trialling a doggy toilet in a Leith park. But if we’re serious about having a dog-mess-free city we need to get radical. We need to give the green light to DNA testing. And if that means creating a new by-law to make it compulsory, so be it. We’ve formed a group called the Poo Fighters and we’re inviting all Edinburgh dog owners and their pets to join us on a dog walk round Leith’s green spaces this summer. We’ll be calling it Dog Day Afternoon and we’ll be campaigning for Edinburgh council to bring in compulsory DNA testing for dogs. We’re not barking, we’re just angry.

What a relief, the derby’s back

“We won a Cup Final 5-1 way before you lot did.” Yup, that’s what I’m reduced to saying when my Hearts mates give me their five-one hand-shapes. I know it’s pathetic but find me a Hearts or Hibs supporter who isn’t addicted to this ritual exchange of abuse. Hearts are supposedly the “big team” and Hibs are the “wee team” but when the ref’s whistle blows at the start of the game, both sets of supporters know that anything can happen – and it usually does.

Sunday was no exception. My Jambo chums were quick to write the script for me on Facebook: “We’ll be out the traps like Mick the Miller. You’ll be 2-0 down in 25. We will pulverise your defence and take the roof off three stands. We ARE the pride of Edinburgh. And we will win this game.” See what I have to put up with? Well, he got the 2-0 bit right. Hearts had two shots on goal in the first 45 minutes and both went in. Each time, Hearts best player Calum Paterson was left in space on the right and his long balls created havoc as first Djoum then Nicholson scored wonderful goals.

At half-time we lip-read Jason Cummings as he went down the tunnel giving voice to the feelings of every Hibs fan in the ground as he said “This is sh***!”

I have to say, I didn’t feel quite so bad. When the camera panned to Alan Stubbs, even at 2-0 he had a wee smile on his face. You could tell he didn’t think it was done and dusted.

But what did Robbie Neilson say to his team in the dressing-room at half-time? I have a pet fly and I sent it in there wearing a wire so I can exclusively reveal that his team talk went like this:

“Brilliant. Brilliant. Tynie is ROCKIN’ out there. We’ve got one foot in the next round and one hand on the Scottish Cup. Youse are steaming forward a wee bit much for my liking, though. One goal and they’re back in it so let’s protect what we’ve got. Blooter it into the stands every chance you get. If a green shirt goes by you, stick a leg oot, especially if it’s McGinn. The Hibees are bowf at set pieces. Let’s hit them oan the break at 95 minutes. 3-0’s going to look magic in the papers, eh. Icing oan the cake.”

We all know what happened next. You wait a whole season for a derby, then two come along at once. I wouldn’t waste any money trying to predict the scoreline at Easter Road next week. But I couldn’t be happier to be playing Hearts again. Come next Tuesday night we’ll know who the “big team” is.

Hunt is ‘a liar’

Is there an award for Stupidest Politician Of The Year? If there is, there will only be one contender: Jeremy Hunt.

To set yourself against junior doctors working ridiculous hours in an under-funded NHS is evidence of considerably more bone than brain. He keeps spinning to the press that junior doctors will get an 11 per cent pay rise in return for providing a seven-day-a-week NHS. But when you look at the detail of the offer, he is clearly lying.

This government isn’t prepared to spend a penny more for their seven-day a week NHS. The doctors know it. We know it. But Jeremy Hunt keeps spouting the same lie.