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Dog DNA, 4.29

Pet owners exercise their dogs Monday near a pet waste station at Lakeview Park Apartments. 

Charles Nash is glad he didn't poo-poo his sister's idea.

A few years ago, she was managing a pet-friendly apartment complex in Lincoln and was having problems with residents not picking up after their dogs.

She did a little research and came across a company that promised to solve the problem.

PooPrints uses DNA to track where doggie doo doo came from, allowing apartment owners to track down and fine residents.

Nash said his sister encouraged him to sign on with the company. After doing a little research, he decided to do so.

That was five years ago. Nash became a regional representative and works with PooPrints partners in Nebraska and all or part of five other states — Iowa, Kansas, Missouri, Arkansas and Kentucky.

He has more than 300 clients in that footprint, including 19 in Lincoln. The company has more than 3,000 customers across the U.S.

Nash said the program is so popular because of the proliferation of pet-friendly properties. Apartments.com last year estimated that about 70% of apartment complexes in the U.S. allow pets, while 68% of renters are pet owners.

"The majority of communities are going pet-friendly now because there's a demand for it," Nash said. "Pets are like children to many people."

But having pets, especially dogs, can create problems, especially when owners don't clean up their pets' waste.

Desiree Hiatt, property manager of Lakeview Park Apartments in the Capitol Beach area, said a previous management company she worked for was a "hot mess express" when it came to residents not cleaning up after their dogs.

When the company, which she declined to name, announced it was going to start using PooPrints, "The green space immediately cleaned up."

Lakeview Park also uses PooPrints, and Hiatt said she couldn't imagine working at a complex that doesn't.

"I cannot sing its praises enough," she said.

Hiatt said it is expensive to get started with the PooPrints program, but it's an investment that's worthwhile. In the long term, it saves a tremendous amount of staff time and resources, she said.

Apartments that use PooPrints must get DNA from pets at move-in. This is done with a cheek swab that is sent off to the company's lab in Knoxville, Tennessee, so it can be registered in a database.

When an apartment management company wants to identify a suspected poo perpetrator, it must collect a sample and send it to the same lab. If the dog is registered, a match will be identified, a process that takes about 10-14 days, Nash said.

Complexes can then fine the dog's owner.

Hiatt said Lakeview Park fines first offenders $100 with no warnings issued. The fines increase for subsequent violations.

She said the fine is a pretty good deterrent, and there is rarely an ongoing problem.

Hiatt said that in her time at Lakeview Park there has only been one repeat offender, and no one has been fined more than twice.

Nash said the whole goal is deterrence. Apartment complex managers don't want to collect fines, they want their residents to pick up after their pets.

"Threatening people's pockets seems to get their attention," he said.

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Reach the writer at 402-473-2647 or molberding@journalstar.com.

On Twitter @LincolnBizBuzz.

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Business editor/reporter

Matt Olberding is a Lincoln native and University of Nebraska-Lincoln graduate who has been covering business for the Journal Star since 2005.

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