There’s a startup for everything these days. This one will pay you to collect your pet’s feces in the name of science and give you cash in return. Charming, right?
Oakland-based startup AnimalBiome has made a public call for poop. The startup asks East Bay residents to contribute to AnimalBiome’s growing stool bank, a biorepository of sorts that collects cat and dog feces for veterinary research.
It sounds like a gross request, but the startup is making the deal a little less smelly: Participants will receive $100 per month per pet to collect the solid deposits our furry friends leave behind. AnimalBiome will also reimburse annual vet exam fees and monitor the donor animal’s gut health. Pet owners don’t even have to deliver the stool samples to the lab.
The startup, founded by microbial ecologist Holly Ganz, primarily researches the microbiome of companion animals—in other words, the gut health of your dog or cat. The company is trying to grow a stool bank from healthy pets to better understand causes, cures and treatments for cats and dogs with gut problems.
"From talking with people who volunteered to participate in the study, I learned that, similar to people, about 20 percent of cats and dogs suffer from chronic digestive conditions," Ganz said. "We developed a way of delivering a fecal transplant in a shelf stable capsule that can be delivered orally at home."
One of its key programs involves fecal microbiota transplantation, or poop transplants, which can help ailing pets that need important gut bacteria normally found in healthy feces. In other words, healthy poop from the stool bank can be transferred to the intestines of a sick animal.
“This research helps veterinarians, the pet health industry, and pet parents solve pet health challenges, such as diarrhea, itchy skin, allergies, bad breath, and other gut microbiome-associated ailments,” said AnimalBiome in a statement. “The success of this cutting-edge work depends on access to healthy poop from pets.”
Yes, there is a catch. Only East Bay residents between San Leandro and El Cerrito can participate, and medium to large-sized dogs are “ideal candidates” for stool bank donations. Cats of all sizes, however, are welcome to participate. Pets also have to have no underlying health problems and pass a pre-screening application.
Pet waste management has been a perennial problem for the San Francisco Bay Area. Famed San Francisco supervisor Harvey Milk originally campaigned for office on a poop-centric platform, and reports of animal and human feces on SF streets have only ballooned in recent years.
Companies like AnimalBiome are tapping into a niche but seemingly growing corner of the pet waste industry: finding use for the refuse our pets crap out. AnimalBiome’s work, for example, repurposes pet feces for the sake of veterinary research, while one New York borough composts about a half a ton of dog poop per year—all to help flowers grow on street medians.
One man’s trash is another’s treasure, I guess.
Interested East Bay pet owners can sign up for the study here.
Correction: A previous version of this article incorrectly stated Harvey Milk was the Mayor of San Francisco, Milk was in fact a member of the Board of Supervisors.
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