Preponderance of pooch poop in Adams triggers concern, ire

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ADAMS — It's a doggone shame — and it's starting to pile up.

Town officials are considering a number of options to help curb the problem of dog poop along some of the town's more popular walkways.

Those options range from increased police patrols to better signage to a system called PooPrints, which uses DNA to help identify canine scofflaws.

"It's an ongoing problem, and with Adams being a relatively poor community, it's a struggle for some folks to live here," said David Rhoads, chairman of the Adams Board of Health. "Some people just do what they can, but that's no excuse. You have to pick up the poop."

Rhoads said a few residents came to the Board of Health meeting this week to express frustration with the amount of poop gathering in high-traffic spots such as the Ashuwillticook Rail Trail and the Greylock Glen.

"People have been complaining about this for a long time," he said. "There is a lot of anger. They wonder why people feel like they have the right to let feces just lie there. It's a matter of being respectful, and it's a health hazard."

He noted that, under current town law, owners who don't pick up after their dogs already face a $50 fine. But asking the Police Department to enforce it more strictly is a challenge.

"We just don't have the manpower, and the police have plenty of other things on their plate," he said.

He suggested placing more bag receptacles for owners to use, or having Department of Public Works staff periodically clean debris in the town's public spaces. But that, he noted, would come with a price tag in a town already facing many financial challenges.

"We need to engage with the police and DPW to find a way — maybe a regular cleanup company, or put up more signs," Rhoads said. "It's a really steep hill to climb."

Karen Rose, of Cheshire, was among those who attended the meeting to vent about the problem. She said she frequently walks her three dogs on the trail into Adams.

"This is a serious health problem," she told The Eagle. "And it's out of control. I don't want to expose my pets to it."

She sees enforcement as the best remedy.

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After their meeting with frustrated residents, a representative of PooPrints contacted the town, Rhoads noted.

PooPrints is a subsidiary of Knoxville, Tenn.-based BioPet Laboratories.

BioPet CEO J Rettinger said the PooPrints program is in use in over 3,500 communities — mostly apartment complexes or condominium developments, although there are some municipalities as well.

He said the client community would run a campaign to get pet owners to conduct a swab of their dog's inner cheek to get a sample of their DNA. The sample would be sent to PooPrints, where it would be catalogued in a database.

Once the campaign is complete, a small sample of waste could be sent in, tested for DNA signature and matched to a sample in the database. If there is a match, the owner of the dog would receive a fine.

Rettinger said the more pets in town that are in the database, the better the system works. If people don't give samples, or a dog is from a neighboring town or is just visiting, those samples would have no match in the database.

The company representatives work with communities to set up such a campaign to register doggie DNA at local veterinarians, parks, community events, or even throw a registration party, he noted.

"There is always going to be a certain percentage or no matches," he said. "But over time, as more families send in samples and there are more entries in the database, the system will be more effective."

Rhoads said he will invite a company representative to make a presentation.

New Town Administrator Jay Green agreed that the poop problem is pervasive, and the solution would likely be multifaceted.

"Clearly, we have a large dog population," Green said. "And some people don't seem to realize that it's not a healthy thing to do. So, education should be part of the solution."

He added that a combination of other factors, including enforcement, signage and generally asking residents to take pride in the town and its assets, will help to alleviate the situation.

"So, we will be asking residents to help carry the load, and pick up after their pets," Green said.

Scott Stafford can be reached at sstafford@berkshireeagle.com or 413-629-4517.


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