There’s something rotten in the air of Baden, for generations an Austrian spa town refuge for weary Viennese.
First mentioned in Roman times, Baden’s hot springs were a favourite with Beethoven and the Austrian royal family. In 1889 the town made world headlines when crown prince Rudolf took his life at the nearby Mayerling hunting lodge in a suicide pact with his teenage mistress, Mary.
Now the town is making headlines again, this time over a whiff even more pungent than the aroma of rotten eggs that escapes from the sulphurous springs underfoot. The city’s growing dog poop epidemic has reached crisis proportions and, fearing damage to its reputation, Baden has made a modest proposal: to introduce DNA testing on all dog poop discovered on the streets and trace it back to the source.
“This contamination is not just a nuisance for the eye and noise, it also represents a hygiene risk,” reads a resolution calling for DNA tests.
Baden’s hot springs were a favourite with Beethoven and the Austrian royal family. Photograph: Getty Images
Mayor Stefan Szirucsek tracks the growing dog poop problem back to the Covid-19 pandemic, with a local surge in pandemic puppies and a restricted dog walk radius. In addition, he suggests dogless locals on their own walks became more conscious of the problem while restricted to the same streets.
As the pandemic has cut the cost of DNA testing, Mayor Stefan Szirucsek says the time has come to turn dog do into dog don’t.
“Each sample tested would generate a cost of around €40-80, so the fine would have to be higher while remaining proportionate,” he said.
The proposal has one big catch – it requires a DNA databank of all local dogs, collected via a mouth swab either retroactively or when owners have their dog chipped.
The proposal has divided opinion in Baden but Mr Szirucsek is confident of a broad coalition of support at the upcoming town council meeting.
“I hope the opposition parties will also back addressing this problem that stinks to high heaven,” he said. “There’s little more unpleasant that stepping into some dog poop and having it stuck to your shoe.”