DNA Breed Testing in Dogs
New technology has created DNA tests that determine, with varying degrees of precision, the breed(s) present in mixed-breed dogs. A recent study by Victoria Voith, D.V.M., demonstrated the disparity between visual and DNA identification of dogs, and should guide policies related to dog adoptions and breed-specific legislation.
In a study published in the Journal of Applied Animal Welfare Science (Vol. 12, No. 3, July 2009), a group of mixed-breed dogs adopted from several California agencies were given DNA tests to determine their mix of breeds . Those findings were compared to the breed designations given by the adoption agencies. Dr. Voith found that in only 25% of the dogs was at least one of the predominant breeds identified by the adoption agency later identified through DNA analysis; and that in 87.5 percent of the dogs, breeds identified through DNA analysis were not reported at all by the agencies. Visual identification is a highly flawed and an inaccurate basis for categorizing dogs of unknown origin.
Dr. Voith believes that the discrepancy between breed identifications based on opinion and those based on DNA analysis, as well as concerns about reliability of data collected based on media reports, calls into question the validity and enforcement of public and private polices pertaining to dog breeds. Adoption agencies should be encouraged to base their assessments of any dog in their care and decisions regarding the dog's suitability for an adopter on the basis of the dog's personality, rather than on a breed designation. As well, Dr. Voith's report is an argument against breed-specific legislation, and any discrimination that penalizes dogs who are arbitrarily categorized.
In her book The Pit Bull Placebo: The Media, Myths and Politics of Canine Aggression, Karen Delise notes that different breeds of dogs have been demonized over the last 150 years, including bloodhounds, Dobermans, German shepherds, Rottweilers, and now pit bulls. (Pit bull is not a breed, but describes a group of dogs that includes American Staffordshire Terriers, Staffordshire Bull Terriers, American Pit Bull Terriers,
an increasing number of other pure breeds, and an ever-increasing group of dogs that are presumed, on the basis of appearance, to be mixes of one or more of those breeds.) Such demonizations have produced negative stereotypes with little basis in fact, though they have become prominent in public legend.
The ASI's policy paper Dog Bites: Problems and Solutions, examined the reported data and concluded that there is no evidence that one type of dog is more responsible for serious dog bites than another type, a fact that municipal breed bans and media reports do not reflect. The policy paper concludes that the responsibility for the humane custody and control of any dog rests with his or her guardian. Dr. Voith's findings are a valuable affirmation of the paper's recommendations.
Published by firstname.lastname@example.org on 08/17/2009 14:03:00
Modified by 2009-08-17 14:03:51 on 11/30/-0001 00:00:00