Monday, April 26, 2010

Beware of dog DNA tests

What is the biggest benefit of being a newspaper reporter? You have a reason to spend time getting questions you have answered.
I had never heard of DNA tests to identify what breed of dog your mutt is when another reporter here quoted a local attorney as saying the tests are used in Waterford Township to enforce breed bans on pit bulls.
“What?” I asked her, flabbergasted. “Did you say DNA tests? There’s no such thing.”
“He said there is,” she told me. “Want his number?”
“Yes, I do,” I said, and immediately turned to my computer to begin some online research.
I found three mainstream brands of these DNA tests and I couldn’t believe it. All my research about dogs up to that point had been that one dog breed can’t be differentiated from another based on DNA alone.
When I brought it up in a news meeting, everyone was interested to learn more and so that was that — I was writing the story.
What I found was not surprising. These tests may work for a particular dog, perhaps the offspring of a purebred Golden Retriever and purebred Beagle or something. But even in those cases, they may not.
I know one thing for sure — based on what I found out for my story, I wouldn’t waste a dime on these expensive, feel-good but worthless tests. (Read the full story, What's your Mutt? by clicking here)
It’s been almost a year since the story published, but thanks to the Internet it lives on. A woman contacted me about a month ago, Michele Mackintosh, thanking me for the story.
She lives with a tall, 24-inch sandy colored dog named Keetah who weighs 83 lbs. The long-haired dog wears a thick undercoat and has an appearance that is strikingly similar to a Briard or even a Wheaton Terrier.
“The results came back as one parent was a purebred and in that space, there is German Shepherd Dog. The next space is blank, the next is Pembroke Corgi and the last space is Poodle and Chihuahua,” she wrote. “I really did not get the results I was expecting. After reading your article online, I felt much better ... Needless to say, I think it is a scam of some sort.”
Me too.
Now, is it possible her mixed breed might have some German Shepherd or Poodle in her past? Maybe. But I’m doubtful of the Chihuahua or Corgi history.
Upon further investigation, it turns out the company who offers the service doesn’t even test for Wheaton Terriers or Briards — a real shame since these are such old breeds.
And seriously, those ears are a pretty distinctive trait. I do think there’s a good chance her dog is half or more Briard.
“From now on, when I take my dog for a walk and they ask me what kind of dog she is, I will tell them a Briard cross,” Michele wrote.
Michele contacted the company and got a refund. Good for her.

Anyone got an opinion on what breeds might make up this mixed breed dog? Join the conversation and leave a comment.

No comments:

Post a Comment