When the Legends at Oak Grove in Knoxville, Tenn. opened its doors in June 2010, leasing consultants were happy to promote the pet-friendliness of their 264-unit community.
But in less than two months, property managers knew they’d have a problem on their hands. It was almost impossible to keep the grass clean in between 10 buildings on no less than 22 acres of land.
“We already had 50 to 60 dogs by the time September hit,” says Adam Chavira, the Legends’ property manager. “We were filling up fast and were getting complaints very quickly.”
The problem is faced by many communities with manicured lawns–tenants have to be careful where they step in order to avoid the waste remains of their neighbor’s dogs.
To solve the problem, the Legends relied on the help of Knoxville, Tenn.-based PoopPrints.
The two-year-old pet waste management service, an affiliate of BioPet Vet Lab, tapped into its own natural resource to police residents on their clean-up duties. The model is simple: residents have their dogs’ mouths swabbed for DNA, which PoopPrints then registers on a secure management system that only property managers can access. There, managers can identify which dog is responsible for the waste found in their community.
“It’s easy to set up for residents,” says Eric Mayer, director of business development at BioPet Vet Lab. “Usually speaking, the residents are very encouraged by the program. The majority of them want to make sure everyone else is cleaning up, too.”
The DNA swabbing at Legends at Oak Grove was completed in two weeks, the prices of each test kit ranging from $35 to $55. It’s an additional cost for PoopPrint to send employees to clean up and test fecal matter, which is about another $60.
But the payoff was greater for Legends in the end–the threat of being caught and charged a hefty fine immediately solved the problem.
“When we sent out that first letter and said this is what the DNA testing would entail, the community almost cleaned itself overnight,” Chavira said.
The turnaround time is typical for much of PoopPrint’s clients, Mayer says, as properties see close to 100 percent clean up after using the program. By encouraging residents to participate in the program with rewards, or just the mere mutual desire to keep the community clean, it’s easy to add pet addendums to leases. It’s even easier to pass the costs off to them.
The Legends originally spent close to $2,000 out of pocket to pay for DNA testing when they first introduced the program, and recouped losses by increasing their one-time pet fee, which starts at $350. The lease-up community would then charge a $75 clean-up fine to start, effortlessly paying for the PoopPrints clean-up and testing.
The Legends initially collected between one and two samples a month in 2011, and is now collecting between three and five per month with new residents coming in, who often “test the waters,” Chavira says. The offenders are never repeat, considering that clean-up fines can increase to $150 and residents are held accountable for their own actions, apologizing for leaving messes behind.
“This isn’t about making money for us,” Chavira says. “It’s about keeping the community clean. With that relationship aspect, it keeps residents from getting upset at what we’re doing.”