ROANOKE, Va. – Downtown Roanoke is trying to tackle a stinky problem.
Dog owners who don't pick up after their pet will soon have to face serious consequences, including having to find a new place to live.
Downtown pet owners will register their dogs in the PooPrints program by administering a DNA cheek swab from a free kit provided by Downtown Roanoke Inc. That database will allow property owners to find out who is not scooping their pet's waste.
Although the kit itself is free, tenants will have to pay a one-time fee of $40 to register their animals. If they don't register their dogs by the deadline, they will be fined $250.
"We constantly email all of our tenants, pretty much weekly, saying, 'Please be responsible. Do the right thing. Clean up after your pet.' Most do. Some do not," said Glenn Gilmer, district manager for the Richmond Loft Company.
So far, 16 large residential properties downtown have decided to participate. The list includes the Locker Room Lofts, the Aurora, Grammercy Row, and the Cotton Mill. More properties are expected to join.
Property owners will be responsible for monitoring and administering the program.
Starting June 1, downtown renters will be fined $250 by their property owners for the first offense. Second offenders could get slapped with a $500 fine and potentially have their leases terminated.
"I hope I never have to fine anybody. I hope people start being more responsible. It's a city ordinance that they have to clean up after their dogs. It's a health issue if they don't. That's why we're really getting involved in this is just to try to get people to do the right thing," Gilmer said.
Pet owners have mixed reactions about the policy.
"It seems a little high, but if it's too low, people aren't going to do anything. It's not going to change," Mark Owen said. "$250 and then doubling it a second time is probably going to get people's attention, so it's fine by me."
"Providing more doggie bags would definitely help, but the DNA thing just seems a little intrusive," Deidra Stillwagoner said.
DRI is kicking off the program with a free "Yappy Hour" in front of the Virginia Museum of Transportation that will feature free activities and pet-friendly businesses. That will take place on April 23 from 4 p.m. to 8 p.m.