Check out this photo sent by a reader.
“ATTENTION DOG OWNERS”, it says on the sign. “As part of a pilot program between Northwestern University and the Department of Public Health, this area was selected for improved enforcement of the dog waste regulation. DNA MATCHING AND DRONE MONITORING IN EFFECT. “
In light magenta.
“Found this sign on my block (6500 N. Greenview),” wrote the reader.
What do you think?
Have Cook County and Northwestern Teamed Up to Drone Monitoring of Dog Poo?
Like much of the Internet, the sign evokes the “No, that can’t be, right?” Reflex. You want to dismiss something as an obvious fraud. But there is this little back door of the doubt. Stranger things have happened.
First to Mr. Google. Lean picks. A company in the Netherlands, Dogdrones, said in 2017 it would use drones in conjunction with robots on the ground to clean neighborhoods of dog poo. I sent emails to the two founders and didn’t expect a response.
Inquiries to Cook County and Northwestern – a process we professional journalists call “finding out if something is true”. I heartily recommend it to those trying to do the same by holding new information against their ingrained prejudices to see how well they go together.
Northwestern set up the country’s first forensic crime lab to solve the Valentine’s Day massacre. So that would be in her wheelhouse.
“The university is not aware of such a study,” said Jon Yates, vice president of communications.
The Cook County Health Department pointed out something I should have known: It has jurisdiction over the vast area of Cook County except for Chicago, Skokie, Oak Park, Stickney, and Evanston. They have their own health authorities.
“One of the commissioners saw these signs in the northwest,” said Tom McFeeley, communications manager for the county health department. “It is published outside of their jurisdiction. So the dog poop story is not paying attention. “
The only person who of course seemed to take this at face value is the local councilor Andre Vasquez (40th).
“It seems to be a county initiative,” Vasquez speculated to my reader.
However, just because something is not true, it does not mean that it cannot lead us to truths.
“I got the idea to use DNA,” said McFeeley. “When a building has a lot of dogs, they collect dog faeces samples and test the DNA.”
“Is that a thing?” I said in the colloquial language that I probably adopted from my boys.
“That is actually a thing,” he replied. “It’s a $ 7 million company.”
He’s right. PooPrints, “The DNA solution for dog feces”. A Tennessee company that works with 5,000 residential properties. The apartment management team wipes the inside of the cheeks of resident dogs. The company keeps a register and any, uh, uncollected material can be traced back to the guilty dog owner.
I heard from one of the founders of Dogdrones.
“Unfortunately, our concept never got the chance to get past the first concepts,” says Marc Sandelowsky from the city of Enschede in the Netherlands. “After the initial announcement, it was more of a joke to make people think about the problem and the possibilities that drones offer.”
I noticed the date of their 2017 press release. April 1st. Ah.
A joke. It has to be. If it were just a sign, I might have suspected a grumpy homeowner trying to intimidate dog walkers by exposing this Orwellian threat. There are a number near a college campus suggesting midsummer jokes, perhaps an EEE major doing his thesis project modeling three-phase grid-connected photovoltaic systems in the basement of Tech and seeking weird relief in the sunlight world.
Not that the Dutch didn’t toy with the idea.
“We really thought about really developing the product because we got a lot of positive attention,” wrote Sandelowsky. “At that time, however, the drone legislation in our country was very restrictive, so we assumed that it would take many years for the concept to be accepted for use.”
What a wonderful city: start by puzzling over a sign on a tree in Rogers Park, and finally speculate on the future of Dutch drones.
“We are now seriously developing concepts such as fire-fighting drones and drones to combat the invasive oak processional caterpillar,” wrote Sandelowsky. “Perhaps the time is right for a concept to monitor and control dog excrement.”
Maybe like this.