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April 29, 2011

Groundbreaking Dog Fighting DNA Database Launched

Earlier this week, the ASPCA announced the launch of the nation's first criminal dog fighting DNA database, known as the Canine CODIS (Combined DNA Index System). Similar to the FBI's human CODIS—a computerized archive that stores the DNA profiles of criminal offenders and crime scene evidence—the Canine CODIS contains the individual DNA profiles of dogs who have been seized during dog fighting investigations and from samples collected at suspected dog fighting venues.

This new, state-of-the-art system will provide an essential tool for law enforcement to prosecute dog fighting cases nationwide.

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

During an investigation, seized dogs will have their cheeks swabbed, and their DNA will be searched against the Canine CODIS database. Matching results will help law enforcement agencies identify relationships between dogs, and enable investigators to establish connections between breeders, trainers and dog fighters.

"Juries expect forensic science to support the evidence that's presented to them, and animal cruelty cases are no exception," says ASPCA Forensic Veterinarian Dr. Melinda Merck, who testifies in animal cruelty cases around the country. "This database breaks new ground in supplying that evidence for dog fighting investigations."

The ASPCA worked in conjunction with the Humane Society of Missouri (HSMO) and the Louisiana SPCA (LA/SPCA) to develop the Canine CODIS. The system will be maintained at the University of California, Davis (UC Davis) Veterinary Genetics Laboratory.

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