Many animal shelters label incoming dogs according to their appearance, since it’s the easiest, quickest, and seemingly most obvious way to identify a dog’s breed or type. However, any misidentification of a breed could affect their chances for adoption, especially for dogs mislabeled as a stereotypical aggressive or unsociable breed. For example, any dog labeled as a pit bull or rottweiler will have a significantly lower chance of getting adopted because of society’s perception of these breeds. By determining a breed only by size, facial looks, and other physical features, rather than by DNA, vets and shelter staff are seriously impacting the likelihood of certain breeds being adopted - all because of the way they look.

For many pet owners and animal advocates, DNA testing in shelters is an obvious remedy to this problem. In addition, many pet owners want to know a thing or two about the genetic makeup and history of the dog they intend to adopt. If the technology exists, then there are certainly many benefits for both pet owners and animal shelters when breeds are assessed properly through DNA testing.

What is DNA testing? 

Every human has DNA that provides detailed information of our genetic history and physical attributes that place us in certain categories. The same goes for every species, including all dogs, and breeds are their general categories. Breeds that are closely related are likely to have similar DNA. In other words, the parent breeds (or pure breeds) of a dog have unique markers and features that are passed on to that particular dog. 

You can test for a dog's DNA by simply doing a cheek swab on the dog and collecting the sample. In special cases, blood samples can also be collected. The small bit of DNA is then sent to a company that finds matches of dog breeds by running DNA samples through its records of specific markers. When the markers have been identified, the owner of the dog can easily find out certain certain things about the dog’s genetic history. 

Why proper dog DNA testing is important

Many animal shelters that carry out DNA tests use many different types of kits or outsource to other companies, thus resulting in inconsistent results. While some results come back accurate, others are more generalized. Most shelters take in dogs with similar genetic markers as the few breeds in their database, not keeping in mind that there could be differences. These unique traits can affect the way the breed reacts to certain foods and weather conditions as well as behavioral attributes.

Understanding the genetic makeup of a particular breed helps vets and dog owners learn how to handle the dog properly. In addition, potential owners who want to adopt dogs from a shelter may want to find out the dog's genetic history. Inaccurate testing and misinformation can reinforce perceptions about certain breeds, both positive and negative, as well as inaccurately “confirm” prior knowledge. It also affects the reputation of the breed, vets, and shelter itself. For example, imagine a customer who believes they’ve adopted a collie, feeding it high-protein foods - but after a while it hasn't grown bigger than a chihuahua. Will they think highly of the shelter after this experience? And more importantly, Will they no longer want the dog and return it to another shelter, once again giving it an uncertain future?

What animal shelters should do

Shelters should keep in mind that accurate dog DNA test results are dependent on quality DNA samples. Even if a shelter suggests that owners conduct their own DNA tests, they should also teach them how to collect samples by cheek swab. Furthermore, the type of test kits used also determines the accuracy of the results. 

It’s extremely important that shelters conduct proper dog DNA tests, for pet owners, vets, and the dogs themselves! When potential pet owners begin to understand the benefits of DNA testing, they will demand it from their vets and shelters, and hopefully in the future we will see an almost universal use of DNA testing.

Author's Bio: 

I am shahbaz ahmed author of many sites