For Father's Day, Humane Society Conducting Doggy Paternity Tests

Dog paternity is a contentious issue at animal shelters. Oftentimes, pets are taken in with little knowledge of their ancestry, leaving staff to assume a pet’s breed on its looks. Mary Steffen, director of the Humane Society of Broward County, explains that this guesswork can lead to problems since certain breeds are predisposed to specific illnesses and behaviors.

“There’s more to these dogs than meets the eye,” Steffen tells New Times. “Oftentimes what a dog looks like isn’t necessarily going to indicate what his behavior is or what he’s like medically, or temperament, or activity level.”

So, in honor of Father’s Day, the Humane Society of Broward County will be conducting its own version of the “Who’s Your Daddy?” segment on Maury. On June 18 and 19, they will publish the DNA test reports of 15 of their most contested dogs. The reports are in-depth, sometimes 20 pages long, and will show what percentage a dog is of certain breeds. The results can be shocking.

“Sometimes you’ll find out a dog that you thought was a pit bull is actually part Chihuahua,” Steffen says. 

The DNA tests can be really helpful. Last December, a family adopted a puppy whose breed the shelter wasn't quite sure of. Three months later, the family's landlord said pit bulls were prohibited. The saddened family returned the puppy. But the Humane Society decide to run a DNA test. “We found out that there wasn’t even pit bull in it!” Steffens exclaims. It turned out the dog was actually an Australian shepherd, beagle, and Chihuahua. The family took the detailed report back to their landlord and were able to keep their dog for good.

"It was a win-win," Steffen says.

The DNA tests are easy enough. The dog’s cheeks are swabbed with a Q-tip and the sample is sent to Wisdom Panel, a company that runs the tests and sends back a detailed report. The dog’s lineage is displayed in the form of an ancestry tree. This allows you to see which breeds are present at the parent, grandparent, and great-grandparent levels.

For Father’s Day, the tests results are complimentary at the shelter and Steffen hopes the analysis will make families more likely to adopt certain dogs. They will be running DNA reports for about 15 dogs, but the four dogs below are their most contested:  The adoption fee for these select dogs, all dogs over 40 pounds, and cats 6 months and older will be half- price for Father’s Day weekend. All pets are spayed or neutered and microchipped before going home. They receive preliminary vaccinations, a 10-day limited health care plan courtesy of VCA Animal Hospitals, and 30 days of Trupanion pet insurance (restrictions apply). Dogs over 7 months are tested for heartworm, and cats are feline leukemia tested. Adopters also receive a bag of Purina ONE pet food and more goodies. The regular adoption fee for dogs over 6 months is $100 and cats over 6 months, $30.

The DNA test kits are also sold at the Humane Society if you’d like to test your own dog. They cost $74.99 and proceeds go to benefit the shelter. 
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Jess Swanson is a staff writer at New Times. Born and raised in Miami, she graduated from the University of Miami’s School of Communication and wrote briefly for the student newspaper until realizing her true calling: pissing off fraternity brothers by reporting about their parties on her crime blog. Especially gifted in jumping rope and solving Rubik’s cubes, she also holds the title for longest stint as an unpaid intern in New Times history. She left the Magic City for New York to earn her master’s degree from Columbia University School of Journalism, where she spent a year profiling circumcised men who were trying to regrow their foreskins for a story that ultimately won the John Horgan Award for Critical Science Journalism. Terrified by pizza rats and arctic temperatures, she quickly returned to her natural habitat.
Contact: Jess Swanson