By Tom Ballard, Chief Alliance Officer, PYA
Ever wonder what the top concerns of owners and managers of apartment complexes and similar properties are? Chances are you could guess some of them.
Finding and keeping tenants, damage and unexpected maintenance expenses, and managing tenant complaints are near the top of the list. One concern, however, might surprise you, but it has provided a significant growth opportunity for a Knoxville technology company founded in 2008 by Tom Boyd.
J Retinger, Chief Executive Officer of BioPet Laboratories, says one of the top five concerns of apartment managers is dog poop. “It’s a catch 22 for them,” he explains. “They want to recruit residents with dogs, but they also are concerned about residents that don’t clean-up after their pets.”
When Boyd founded BioPet, it was focused on working with canine breeders to provide breeders with lineage certification with what Retinger calls “DNA Proof of Parentage” along with a couple of ancillary services – testing for veterinarians and breed identification. While the company still offers – parentage, the area that has grown significantly was not anticipated at the time.
You might think of it as CSI or forensic science to identify the origin of deposits that dog owners do not clean-up.
Today, the company’s signature product – PooPrints – claims 4,000 properties as clients across the globe with a majority in the U.S. At its facility and laboratory on Baum Drive in West Knoxville, BioPet’s seven DNA specialists receive an average of 200 packs of dog waste daily that they analyze to identify the specific dog that created the deposit by matching the DNA in the pack to its proprietary registry that numbers more than 300,000 dogs and is growing steadily.
“We’re using technology to solve a behavioral and environmental problem,” Retinger explains, adding, “We are founded on three important pillars.” They are promoting responsible pet ownership, protecting the environment (“dog poop is not a fertilizer,” he says), and expanding pet access to allow owners to take their dogs wherever they want but in an environmentally responsible way.
With the end goal in mind, Retinger says that “we’ve spent a lot of time perfecting the process.” As such, BioPet Laboratories is the only ISO-accredited DNA fecal company in the world.
So, how exactly does the PooPrints system work? As a B2B (business-to-business) provider, BioPet Laboratories contracts with an apartment complex. The service includes educational materials for the residents.
Retinger explains that all tenants of its client properties that have dogs must agree to register their canine(s) in the program. To do so, they simply take a cheek swab and send it to BioPet Laboratories where the DNA is entered into the firm’s database. Then, if a deposit is found within the property, a small sample is collected in a kit with a proprietary solution that preserves the DNA and then sent to BioPet Laboratories for processing and identification.
The apartment complex manager determines the penalties that are imposed on the dog’s owner for violation of the policy of not cleaning-up after the canine.
While the current client base is apartment complexes, Retinger says there are significant growth opportunities for BioPet Laboratories and its PooPrints product. Those include canine-focused services as well as other areas.
“There are more than 90 million dogs in the U.S. alone,” he notes. “Millennials are more likely to have a pet than to start a family and also more likely to rent than to own.”
One potential area of expansion would be sections of cities that want cleaner sidewalks. “We did pilots recently in London (England) and Roanoke (VA),” he said, but noted an important requirement: “There has to be enforcement.”
With the underlying technology and a forensics laboratory designed on the FBI protocols, food source testing could also be a growth possibility in the future.
Retinger spent 15 years in healthcare before joining BioPet Laboratories in May 2017.