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British Columbia Landlord hounds dog owners for fecal samples to sniff out ‘poopetrator’

Mustache the dog walks outside a apartment building in Burnaby, B.C. Tuesday, May, 5, 2015.

JONATHAN HAYWARD/THE CANADIAN PRESS

It was just before midnight when Claude Paulin-Dupere and his dog left their second-floor apartment to descend for the pooch's last potty before bed.

Mr. Paulin-Dupere had hardly cracked the stairwell door when the pair got a wicked whiff.

"I thought somebody had died," said the 23-year-old, who led his Shih Tzu-cross to the elevator instead. "A dog had diarrhea going up the stairs, so it made quite a mess."

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He shrugged off Saturday's olfactory assault – until the next morning.

The afflicted landlord at the Waldorf Manor in Burnaby, B.C., unleashed his inner pet detective to find the offender.

A blanket memo was pushed under the doors of all tenants in the three-storey suburban Vancouver apartment building, declaring that "the technology exists" to identify the culprit.

Owners of the 30-plus dogs were ordered to submit samples of their animal's excrement or face "immediate eviction."

"Refusal is not an option, rather admission of guilt," read the letter, which had a baggie for the waste attached. "The law is on our side."

The scat scrutiny does exist, and it's provided in Canada by a U.S. subsidiary company that does DNA analysis on dog droppings.

But while Calgary-based PooPrints has had calls from hundreds of strata councils and municipalities over the year it has been in business, operations manager Maggie Ashley said it hadn't heard from that building's manager.

"His approach is really unorthodox," she said, but added PooPrints will be ready if he collects the samples.

Scapegoating is a common frustration that's been expressed to the company, said Ms. Ashley, where owners of dogs who poop then don't scoop have been recorded on camera but then argue their pet "may have squatted, but he didn't drop anything.

"DNA is DNA, it's pretty much irrefutable. There's no getting around this was your dog."

The company and its DNA analysis offers the backbone for pet policies requiring owners to provide cheek swabs from dogs upon moving in, creating a database where evidence can later be matched.

She said jurisdictions with full implementation, such as in Tennessee where the program was developed, have seen the problem virtually eliminated overnight, though occasionally someone tests the system.

"And then it spreads like wildfire through the complex that, 'Oh my God, this person was caught.'"

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But the fecal surveillance doesn't have legal legs to stand on in the Burnaby apartment scenario, said residential tenancy lawyer Lisa Mackie.

A retroactive investigation and eviction is not permissible under the province's residential tenancy branch, she said.

"I could see that a landlord might try to insert a clause in their tenancy agreement which requires tenants to submit to random poo-testing, perhaps," said Ms. Mackie with the Alexander Holburn law firm.

"But that clause hasn't been tested."

No one answered calls to the Waldorf Manor office.

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