Innovative DNA Testing Leads to Increased Dog Adoptions
The first question adopters ask is, "What kind of dog is that?"
Hillsborough County's Pet Resource Center hopes to eliminate some of the guesswork.
In August the public animal shelter launched a pilot DNA testing program for dogs weighing 40 pounds or more. People generally are less likely to adopt these larger animals, and shelter workers hope awareness of a mixed-breed dog's make-up will make it more desirable.
That seems to be happening. People are adopting more large dogs. Feedback from the community has been positive, and pet lovers are logging onto Facebook to guess the breeds of featured dogs.
Spree, a black-and-white mutt, caught the attention of Facebook followers.
"Min-pin/Jack Russell," guessed one pet lover in the comment section of Spree's photo.
"Lab/terrier," another opined.
The DNA test results revealed Spree is a Chinese shar-pei and American Staffordshire terrier mix.
With the right potential owner and a bit of luck, that knowledge might help Spree find a forever home.
The program is funded with a $10,000 Big Dog Adoption Grant from the Best Friends Animal Society. The County used the money to order 200 DNA tests.
The theory: It costs $30 to $50 to house, feed, and care for a dog every day at the shelter. If a $50 DNA test leads to a big dog finding a home in far fewer days, it is worth the investment.
Potential dog owners want to know an animal's breed or breeds for various reasons.
They are eager to know how a pet will look - including its size - when full grown. Apartment dwellers, for instance, want to ensure the dog they adopt will be practical for smaller living spaces and acceptable to landlords and neighbors.
- Specific breeds tend to behave a certain way, and knowing a dog's genetic make-up gives those interested in adopting some insight on an animal's traits and temperament. That can be important for a pet's training and socialization.
- Pet lovers often are just curious. They want to know as much as possible about the dog they might bring into their lives.
The test is performed by swabbing the inside of a dog's mouth for about 15 seconds. Once the DNA sample dries, it is sent to a lab. Results come back in 10 days or less.
The Pet Resource Center plans to seek more grant money to continue DNA testing after the pilot program ends. While the current program entails testing every dog weighing 40 pounds or more, future testing might be limited to large dogs that appear to be mixes of particular breeds such as those commonly called pit bulls, including American Staffordshire terriers.
For more information about pet adoptions or the pilot DNA testing program, visit the Pet Resource Center at 440 N. Falkenburg Road or call (813) 744-5660. The shelter is open from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m., seven days a week.
Update: The DNA testing program was initiated by Pet Resource Center in August 2016 as pilot program that ran for a month. As of May 2017, PRC doesn't have a DNA test program in place.
- B-ROLL VIDEO Pet Resource Center Dog DNA Testing Available Here (TV Quality h.264, mp4.)