DOGS in the Castletown area could be DNA tested as a way of combating the problem of fouling in public places.
Landward Caithness Highland councillor Robert Coghill told Castletown and District Community Council on Thursday night that an organisation called Green Paws carries out such tests and may be interested in undertaking a pilot project in the Far North.
The London-based company has developed technology to identify dog waste through the animal's DNA and has carried out testing in parts of Europe.
Mr Coghill, who had originally suggested the idea at a community council meeting at the end of last year, pointed out that DNA testing is carried out in countries such as Italy, Germany and the USA. He felt such an initiative could work in Castletown and other areas of the county where there are difficulties with dog mess.
Mr Coghill, a former NFU area president, said farm animals, including cattle and horses, have passports while sheep are double tagged to help with traceability. He suggested doing something similar with dogs to try and tackle the fouling problem.
Mr Coghill said all dogs could have the DNA test, which is not expensive. Such a move, he argued, would help trace offenders.
He stressed that not only is dog dirt unsightly on public paths and pavements but can be a health hazard to young children.
He acknowledged the majority of dog owners are responsible and it is a minority who cause the difficulty.
Community councillors, who have regularly complained about dog mess in public places, backed such a scheme and said it may help to solve what is an ongoing problem.
They said it could be the only way to deal with dog owners who do not clean up after their pets.
A spokeswoman for Green Paws said the organisation is looking for a location to pilot the project in the UK and it would be interested in an area such as the North of Scotland.
It would take about three months to implement and for the exercise to be 100 per cent successful it would be essential to register all dogs within the chosen area. She added that Green Paws would like to work with a local body such as the council to help raise awareness of the scheme.
Research has indicated that DNA testing could offer a significant reduction in the incidence of dog fouling, she explained.