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New Uses for Animal DNA

Pet DNA Testing
Using DNA to Fight Dog Fighting

Another goal of the UC Davis Veterinary Genetics Lab is to help eliminate dog fighting. It has come together with the ASPCA, a Missouri humane society, and the Louisiana SPCA, to form the Canine CODIS (Combined DNA Index System).  This is the first ever database dedicated to collecting DNA profiles from dogs that are seized during dog fighting investigations, as well as blood samples from suspected venues. The DNA is used to identify relationships between dogs, and thereby allow officials to expand their investigations to those who breed and train dogs for fighting. 

Advances in science have enabled the decoding of several animals' DNA. Knowing the genome of a species has enabled medical professionals to detect some diseases that have a genetic basis. But it also has other uses, even in the criminal justice system.

The Veterinary Genetics Laboratory Forensic Unit at the University of California, Davis is the first accredited crime lab dedicated to animal DNA profiling. There are three main types of cases: where an animal is a victim, where the animal is the perpetrator, and where the animal is a witness.

DNA can be used to confirm the ownership of an animal that has been stolen or to identify the remains of a lost pet.  Tissue samples can be compared to items that would have the animals DNA on it, such as brushes, bedding, or food and water bowls.

When an animal is suspected of being the perpetrator, samples from the victim may lead to the culprit. Collection of samples from bite wounds, or clothing if the victim is a person, can be studied to determine what species performed the attack, and even to determine which individual is guilty. 

Cases where animals are a witness are usually human crimes. Animal DNA can link a suspect with a crime scene or a victim. Transfer of DNA from saliva, blood, hair, stool, or urine can occur during the commission of a crime.  The UC Davis Veterinary Genetics Lab has been involved in solving or proving several serious crimes. One was a kidnapping and domestic abuse case in West Virginia where they analyzed hair from around a drill bit and blood on a hammer owned by the suspect and matched them to two puppies belonging to the victim. Another case in Texas involved a serial rapist who rolled in dog feces during an attack. The victim owned three dogs, and they matched the stool found on the suspect to the victim's chihuahua.  He was found guilty after lab personnel testified.

In a triple murder case in Indiana in 2000, a suspect denied he had ever been at the location of the murders. An examination showed that he had a very small amount of dog feces on a shoe. The UC Davis lab was able match this to the only dog on the property where the slayings occurred. The killer is now serving life in prison.

The use of DNA is opening up a whole new field of science, just one aspect is its use in the criminal justice system. The UC Davis Veterinary Genetics Lab is still in the process of informing criminal investigators of their capability of analyzing any type of animal DNA. Who knows how many cases can be solved now? 

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Testimonial

Don't take a good vet for granted, that's what I say. I currently live in another state and have taken my 10 year old dog to numerous vets over the years (California, Colorado, Vegas, and then some). Never have I ever received the attention and care I've gotten w/Dr. Hines. Within the past 3 months alone, my dog went to 3 different vets for a horrible and painful skin problem that broke out all over her body.

The first vet: I spent more time ponying up the $175 for the visit than the Dr. spent actually looking at my dog. He performed a woods lamp exam for ringworm. Even without Google or a veterinary degree, I could tell it wasn't ringworm. Thanks for taking my money.
Second vet: "Here's some spray, now here's your bill. Bring her back in two weeks so I can charge you another visit." No tests, nothing.
Between the two, I felt like I got nowhere. No definitive answer on why this affected my dog and the medication given wasn't even for a diagnosed condition. Just some general topical spray. I could have bought it at Petsmart and saved myself the time and money.
Recently, on a visit to Idaho, I planned ahead to bring my dog to the Rupert Animal Clinic. I asked the same questions, had the same concerns and now have different results. Dr. Hines gave me options on what route to take, ran appropriate tests and communicated with me every step of the way (even calling me personally when test results came in). My primary concern was cancer. Our dog is like our child- we'll pay the money if we can keep her healthy and safe. In the future, I've resolved to bring my dog to Rupert Animal Clinic on our annual trip for all of her exams. I know she won't be treated as a little cash cow to exploit an owner's love for pets.

Sung L.
Rupert, ID

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