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This story is a mixed blessing.  On one hand it's great they weren't able to kill the dog.  On the other it's really miserable that she had to resort to "proving" that her dog wasn't "predominantly pit bull" even though it had not run loose, menaced anyone or otherwise been anything but a good dog.  What if the outcome had been 49.9% or how about 50.1%?  It's the exact same dog - there is nothing different about that dog today from the day before they took it other than now there's a paper saying it's genetic makeup.  argh.

DNA testing in Salina saves pet

Salina Journal

SALINA, Kan. | Animal-control officers knew the dog they saw looked like a pit bull.

It didn’t matter that the dog in question, Angie Cartwright’s family pet Lucey, had never bitten anyone. Nor had she ever acted aggressively.

Lucey’s troubles began when Cartwright was pet-sitting her brother’s dog, which got loose. Someone called animal-control officers, who picked up the brother’s dog and collared Lucey in the process.

The officers explained that they were taking Lucey to a veterinarian for a breed check ’ a professional opinion to determine Lucey’s breed.

Since 2005, Salina has had a ban on owning unregistered pit bulls and mixed breeds that are predominantly pit bull. Today, Lucey is home, and Cartwright credits a genetic test kit that helps pet owners identify the heritage of their mixed-breed dogs.

The test found that a minor amount of Lucey’s DNA came from Staffordshire bull terrier genes ’ a little more than 12 percent, not close to a predominant percentage. ‘Maybe this can save someone’s animal, hopefully,‘ Cartwright said.

Without the test results, Cartwright and her family would have been faced with finding Lucey a home outside Salina, or leaving her at the animal shelter where she might be have to be destroyed.

At least three retail genetic tests are on the market for dogs. One is the Wisdom Panel MX mixed breed analysis, which is offered by a Salina clinic, Town & Country Animal Hospital.

Wisdom Panel is the only one that uses a blood test; two others use cheek swabs for DNA samples.

Cartwright asked the animal control officers who were taking Lucey away if she could check with her own vet, Karen Hale Young, owner of Town & Country, for a second opinion. Cartwright didn’t know then that the clinic had the genetic test available.

Town & Country charges $168 for the service.

‘I was actually pretty desperate and I watch a lot of medical shows,‘ Cartwright said. ‘I said, ‘˜Do you guys do DNA testing on dogs?’ It was actually just a grasp (at a solution). We didn’t want her to go, we didn’t want her to be put to sleep. I was angry and upset, and I was just trying to find a different solution.‘

The family had acquired Lucey as a puppy just a couple of months earlier from a family in Hutchinson that couldn’t care for her anymore.

Young said she thought that, given the shape of Lucey’s head and ears, particularly, Lucey was predominantly pit bull.

‘She said, ‘˜Prove me wrong ’ please prove me wrong.’‘‚‘ Cartwright said. ‘I said, ‘˜I hope I do.’‘‚‘

The test showed that Lucey had no more than 12.5 percent each of bull terrier DNA, boxer, and Staffordshire bull terrier. The largest percentage of DNA, 25 percent, was Bernese mountain dog.

‘Berners‘ are a Swiss breed originally bred as farm dogs and companion animals, used for driving cattle.

The American Kennel Club defines pit bulls as American pit bull terriers, Staffordshire bull terriers, American Staffordshire terriers or any mix of those breeds.

All of the genetic testing companies, in their literature, urge that their products not be used to enforce breed bans. None have reached the point of being challenged in court.

Still, Rose Base, director of the Salina Animal Shelter, accepts the test results.

‘It’s provided through a veterinary clinic. And if they’re that strongly supporting something like that, we feel it must be a quality product,‘ Base said.

Salina veterinarian David Atherton offers the Wisdom Panel test to his customers curious about their dog’s characteristics. He said he thinks the test has validity.

‘If I was going to have a beloved dog taken away, I would demand it,‘ he said.

Posted on Sun, Sep. 13, 2009 10:57 PM