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« A Lawyer's Guide to Dangerous Dog Issues | Main | A historical view of dangerous dogs in the United States »

July 16, 2009

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themacinator

i am not super familiar with DNA testing, but i've heard that i'ts not very reliable- that the database doesn't include all breeds, and that dogs of known parentage can come up with bizarre mixtures of breeds. have you heard any of this?

Brent Toellner

Mac,

There are two different types of tests -- one is completely usesless, the other has some promise.

The swab tests (that use saliva samples) have yielded completely innaccurate results -- and also has a very small list of breeds that it covers. I think the Mars Wisdom Panel test (which uses blood samples taken by veterinarians -- which is what this study is based on) has shown some promise --although it is fair to say that the final verdict on it is not out yet. It has over 100 breeds represented in their database -- so it's fairly robust.

It's a fair question though....and one that I'm sure a lot more research will be done on.

Sarah

i would disagree with the statemtent "Rarely are dogs that enter shelters purebred dogs" - It's not a rare occurence at all. I think the nationwide statistic is something close to 25% of dogs in shelters are pure-bred. At our shelter, it's closer to 50%.

Brent Toellner

Sarah,

By "purebred" in this case, I'm talking dogs that enter the shelter with known heritage. So unless the dogs come in with paperwork, then it is only assumed by shelter staff, based on its appearance, that the dog is purebred. I may very well be that the dog is purebred, but as the data is showing, is that even folks in the rescue business aren't so good at judging dog breeds based on appearance.

So when I refer to pure-bred dogs at shelters, I'm talking dogs with known lineage.

MichelleD

For arguments sake, let's say DNA testing isn't accurate. If you can't tell a breed with science how the hell are people getting away with visual ids standing up in a court of law!?!?

Lisa

This point is key to fighting BSL. It's easy to forget sometimes when you're in the middle of arguing the million different things that are wrong with breed specific laws, but people who support BSL overwhelmingly don't know anything about dogs to begin with.

Start at the beginning. When someone says they want to ban or otherwise restrict pit bulls, stop them at "What is a pit bull, and how do you identify one?" Most of the time, they haven't even thought about it that far into the equation. It's all predicated on the notion that breed is definitive and easily identified.

This is the argument that was thrown out in Denver's ongoing case, but only because the court found that the complainants didn't have grounds to sue because they moved out of Denver. This is the argument that is going to kill BSL, though, as soon as it's heard in court. Every other point--every other fudged study or ridiculous opinion is 100% dependent on the myth of accurate breed ID.

People need to be shown that not only do a lot of dogs end up being falsely IDed as 'pit bulls' based on arbitrary physical characteristics; but also that a lot of dogs that do have a fair amount of bully breed in them look nothing like what they expect.

Go to the Mars Wisdom Panel gallery, where they show pictures of dogs they've tested, and sort the results by "American Staffordshire Terrier" or one of the other targeted breeds. I'd say a good 25% of them would never be visually identified as a 'pit bull.' And chances are pretty good that some of those dogs will look enough like your BSL defenders' dogs that they might have to reconsider their ill-informed positions.

Victor

In regards to your comment about the Blood draw method being better than the cheek swab testing. Isn't DNA just DNA? I have heard of a test for people who have a dog pooping in their yard, and they want ot find out what neighbothood dog it is...you send in a "sample" and they'll tell you the breed of the "offender". My understanding of DNA collection for Canine testing (even human too), is that DNA is DNA is DNA. And I do believe that the cheek swab is not collecting saliva, but rather, skin cells.

Brent

Victor, I think you're probably right about the skin cells vs the saliva...

As for the DNA -- yes, DNA is DNA. However, it's my understanding (and I'm not a doctor, or an expert in this in any way) that there are some ways to get DNA that lead to partial samples and others that get more complete samples -- and that a blood sample would be more complete than the swab method. Also, the swab test does not have nearly as many breeds represented in their back end database which would force the matching system to find the "best" match, even if it's not accurate. The more breeds in the system, the more closely something can get matched.

It's not that the DNA is different per se, it's that it is more complete with a fuller database under the blood sample.

That's my understanding of it anyway...

KC KS Kills Dogs

AMEN! AMEN! KANSAS CITY, KANSAS ANIMAL CONTROL, MAYOR REARDON, AND THE ENTIRE CITY COUNCIL THE WHOLE WORLD REMEMBERS PIT BULL AMNESTY SUMMER 2006. YOU STOLE AND KILLED 250++ DOGS IN TWO WEEKS, THAT YOU THE CITY CLAIMED WERE PIT BULLS.

WE WILL NOT FORGET THAT YOU BROKE THE HEARTS OF INNOCENT DOG OWNERS AND CAUSED THE DEATH OF MRS. MC CONNELL. KANSAS CITY, KANSAS WHO ALWAYS HAD A LOUSY AND CRIMINAL AC DIVISION, BLAMED THEIR LACK OF PROVIDING A BASIC PUBLIC SERVICE - PUBLIC SAFETY - ON A SUPPOSED DOG BREED.

Victor

So really, what you're saying is that the blood draw test just has more breeds available than the cheek swab test...it's not that blood is better. I have been interested in having my dog tested with one of these tests. The little bit of research I have done, it is my understanding that the blood draw test is done by a candy company, and the biggest of the cheek swab tests (that I can find) is done by an actual genetics company. I'm leaning towards the cheek swab test, just for the fact that I would feel a little more comfortable knowing that people that do actual genetic testing on a day-to-day basis, will hopefully provide better results, even though they may have a few less breeds in their database (plus, my dog hates to go to the Vet!). So we'll see!

Selma

Fantastic post, Brent.

"For arguments sake, let's say DNA testing isn't accurate. If you can't tell a breed with science how the hell are people getting away with visual ids standing up in a court of law!?!?"

Bingo, Michelle.

It's because the people who write these laws really don't care about 'pit bulls' - or dogs.

What they are doing is banning all dogs when you drill down and really analyze the language. This may be because they have been fed the animalib line or because they are animalibbers themselves. Either way, it's what they are doing but they use 'pit bulls' to avoid the inevitable backlash if the truth gets out.

That's why they go vague - the vaguer the better because the net is cast wide. While we lambaste them for capturing too many dogs that aren't 'pit bull' types, that is actually the intent of the legislation - to cut a huge swath through the dog population and to associate dog ownership - one of the best things around - with fear and uncertainty. And it's working.

Lisa

At the top levels of the BSL movement, the animal liberation movement is definitely very present. Not so much at the local levels, though. I've talked to a lot of regular schmos and low-level politicians who are behind local BSL initiatives, and almost to a one, they're just plain ignorant. They don't know what animal liberation is, and most of them have dogs that they believe are 'safe breeds.' In fact, I've had a few of them call me a PETA member as an insult.

At least among the small time BSL proponents I've met, they honestly believe that 'pit bulls' are some easily identifiable, discrete type of dog, and that they have evil supernatural powers. One guy actually told me that he defined pit bulls as mean looking dogs over 60#.

It's shocking to me that so many people have such strong opinions about something they can't even articulate, but people like that are very frequently the driving forces behind local BSL.

PoochesForPeace

Thank you for such useful information. And i love the pictures in this post!

Betty

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Betty

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Karin

It isn't that blood is better than cheek cells. The blood draw test is only better because the company has more breeds in their database: 167 vs. 100 or even 58 in a couple of other company's tests. The Wisdom Panel just chose to use blood. Maybe it makes them look more legitimate. I don't know, but the DNA in the other tests isn't inferior. It's their database that's inferior.

The advertising, and the information the other companies provide is simply false. For any breed that isn't in their database, they claim their test will show an "earlier breed in the ancestry," which it can't because the ancestral breeds aren't in their database. For example, Mexican Hairless dogs are not derived from any extant breed, so their test will give you a result, but it will be 100% wrong. Send them wolf DNA and you'll also get a result, but it won't be "wolf" and it won't be "breeds farther back in the ancestry" of a wolf because wolf is as far back as dog ancestry goes. I might trust the Wisdom Panel because the database is so much larger, but the others are worse than a waste of money -- they disseminate false information that people believe because they think "DNA never lies." DNA doesn't lie, but people do.

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