Groundbreaking Dog-Fighting DNA Database Unveiled

The nation's first criminal dog-fighting DNA database has been unveiled by leading animal welfare organizations.

Known as CODIS (Combined DNA Index System), the database is designed to help the criminal justice system investigate and prosecute dog fighting cases and address the growing problem of dog fighting using 21st century technology. The database is jointly established by the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA), The Humane Society of Missouri (HSMO) and the Louisiana SPCA (LA/SPCA), and will be maintained at the University of California, Davis (UC Davis) Veterinary Genetics Laboratory.

"Dog fighting is a multi-million dollar criminal enterprise that leads to the cruel treatment and deaths of thousands of dogs nationwide every year," said Tim Rickey, the ASPCA’s Senior Director of Field Investigation and Response. "This database is an unprecedented and vital component in the fight against animal cruelty and will allow us to strengthen cases against animal abusers and seek justice for their victims."

The Canine CODIS contains individual DNA profiles from dogs that have been seized during dog-fighting investigations and from unidentified samples collected at suspected dog-fighting venues. The HSMO provided the 400 original and initial samples of dog DNA collected from dogs that were seized last July during the nation’s largest dog-fighting seizure ever. The database is similar to the FBI’s human CODIS, a computerized archive that stores DNA profiles from criminal offenders and crime scenes and is used in criminal and missing person investigations. DNA analysis and matching through the database will help law enforcement agencies to identify relationships between dogs, enabling investigators to establish connections between breeders, trainers, and dog-fight operators. Blood collected from dog fighting sites will also be searched against the Canine CODIS database to identify the source.

DNA samples from animals have been used in forensics investigations for over 15 years to help solve criminal investigations. In some cases, the animal may be related to the suspect, the victim or the crime scene. In other cases, the animal itself is the victim or perpetrator. In dog-fighting investigations, the dogs’ inner cheeks are swabbed to collect DNA in their saliva at the time they are seized. These swab samples are then submitted to UC Davis Veterinary Genetics Laboratory for DNA testing. Law enforcement agencies also collect DNA at suspected dog-fighting venues in samples of blood, saliva, tissue, bones, teeth, feces and urine. These unidentified DNA samples can be submitted to the laboratory at UC Davis for analysis and archiving in the database.

When an agency submits a sample to the Veterinary Genetics Laboratory, the DNA is analyzed and the Canine CODIS database is then searched for corresponding DNA profiles. In the event the database search locates a match for the submitted DNA, the lab will notify both the agency that submitted the new sample and the agency that submitted the existing sample. The Canine CODIS database is only available to law enforcement agencies; analysis is part of the cost of testing.

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