In Bolzano, located in the Trentino-Alto Adige region, a unique and controversial initiative has been set in motion to combat the issue of unsightly dog waste in public spaces.
Dog owners must now subject their dogs to DNA tests, with each test costing €65. The aim is to build a comprehensive database that authorities can use to identify the owners responsible for the dog droppings that mar the city streets.
The procedure involves swabbing the pets for DNA, and the results are put into the database. This resource will allow authorities to pinpoint the culprits and hold them accountable. Owners found guilty of not cleaning up after their pets may face fines ranging from €292 to €1,048.
The law, enacted to address the pervasive issue of dog waste, mandated that the approximately 45,000 dogs in the province undergo DNA testing by the end of December 2023. However, reports from the Italian press suggest that only 5,000 dogs have complied with this requirement.
The initiative has sparked controversy, particularly among responsible dog owners who diligently clean up after their pets and now find themselves obligated to bear the cost of the DNA test. The mandatory €65 fee has been a point of contention, raising questions about the practicality and fairness of this complex and costly program.
Critics have also raised concerns about the logistical challenges the authorities may face, particularly when dealing with strays or dogs owned by tourists.
Madeleine Rohrer from the local Greens party expressed scepticism, stating, “It is easier said than done. It will only be an additional expense for the municipality and for the police, who have many other things to do.”
Arnold Schuler, a provincial councillor, defended the initiative, saying the database is still in the implementation phase. He mentioned that additional veterinary professionals have been enlisted to facilitate the DNA testing process, making it more accessible for pet owners. Schuler said the compulsory DNA tests would become effective at the end of March, and substantial fines would be imposed on owners who fail to register their pets.
Paolo Zambotto, the director of Bolzano’s veterinary department, affirmed the importance of the DNA database not only in identifying those who neglect to clean up after their dogs but also in addressing other issues, such as identifying dogs involved in road accidents or those responsible for attacks on other animals or people.
Despite the criticism and petitions organised by animal associations calling for the repeal of the law, Schuler pointed out that other Italian regions have shown interest in adopting a similar approach.