The Boston Globe this week had an interesting story about DNA Tests and testing entitled "Mutts Decoded". There were a lot of interesting things about this article, so you should definitely read it yourself. But here are some of the highlights:
1) One veterinarian who said they've been classifying dogs for 10 years "and when these DNA test results started coming back, I realized I didn't know squat."
2) The results of the DNA tests have come back so surprising that the Massachusettes SPCA is starting to lable all of their dogs as "American Shelter dogs". "In the end, a dog is a dog."
3) Interestingly, a couple of the shelters that were interviewed noted that many dogs that look like 'pit bulls' they are labeled as such. "Even if a dog winks at you like a pit bull, we have to say it's a pit bull, because someone else might." This is why the Animal Rescue League errs on the side of caution and labels all look alikes as pit bulls, just so people aren't thrown off by stigmas, laws, insurance policies, etc that might affect the ownership of the dog.
4) It makes you wonder if cities' fascination with 'pit bulls' has led to the large number of them seemingly ending up killed in the shelters -- because they're all getting labeled as pit bulls by the shelters to protect future owners. This certainly is true of breed ID in dog bites too. Seems like most of our 'pit bull' problem would go away if "dogs were dogs" and it included pit bulls.
5) The story talks about one person who had a DNA test on a dog, and it came back as a certified, DNA tested mutt. This is how Nikko's test came back earlier this year.
6) Their Veterinarian, Dr. Hugh Davis, said "I do a lot of work in Southern Mexico spaying and neutering real mutty dogs. There's a basic dog type that emerges and she looks pretty close to it." According to Dr. Davis, it sounds like there is almost a breed standard for mutts -- and they look an awful lot like pit bulls. This is another reason why so many different looking dogs get classified as "pit bulls"
I've seen a few of these DNA tests. Here's what I'll say about them. They might be complete bunk. Every "expert" I've ever talked to that has worked with DNA tests and dog breeds has been stunned by the results. They may be crap. Or, they may be 100% accurate and be picking up on the hundreds of years of mixing dog breeds that humans have done to get ideal characteristics -- which means that most "purebred" anything are really just perfected mixes over a history of time. Basically what Labradoodles will be like in 150 years.
As we continue to have discussions of Breed ID in the context of "pit bulls", it becomes really interesting. If we truly use the standard that people are innocent until proven guilty (the Consitution should give us this right), cities will at some point have the onus on them to "prove" a dog is a pit bull via something 'more reliable' than sight testing. Which means the city, not owners, will be required to pay the $75-200 per dog for DNA tests. That will be a HUGE taxpayer expense. And then, they'll have to decide how much 'pit bull' is to much. And if they start accepting "any" amount of pit bull is too much, the Lab, Boxer, Bulldog, Ridgeback, Mastiff, etc owners are going to be in for a huge problem. It will be quite a mess.
I've always said, that even as much time as I spend around 'pit bulls', there are many dogs that I meet that I doubt whether or not it's a pit bull. But I've never seen a dog that I was afraid of that I had any doubt whether or not I had reason to be afraid of it. Which is one reason why this whole BSL thing is nonsense in the first place.
For more, read Bad Rap's "Identity Crisis".
And Help Fido has a research project related to this as well. You should give them a hollar if you've had your dog DNA tested...