New Uses for Animal DNA

Image of a DNA sample.

Advances in science have enabled the decoding of several animals' DNA. Knowing the genome of a species has enabled medical professionals to detect some diseases that have a genetic basis. But it also has other uses, even in the criminal justice system.

The Veterinary Genetics Laboratory Forensic Unit at the University of California, Davis is the first accredited crime lab dedicated to animal DNA profiling. There are three main types of cases: where an animal is a victim, where the animal is the perpetrator, and where the animal is a witness.

DNA can be used to confirm the ownership of an animal that has been stolen or to identify the remains of a lost pet. Tissue samples can be compared to items that would have the animals DNA on it, such as brushes, bedding, or food and water bowls.

When an animal is suspected of being the perpetrator, samples from the victim may lead to the culprit. Collection of samples from bite wounds, or clothing if the victim is a person, can be studied to determine what species performed the attack, and even to determine which individual is guilty.

Cases where animals are a witness are usually human crimes. Animal DNA can link a suspect with a crime scene or a victim. Transfer of DNA from saliva, blood, hair, stool, or urine can occur during the commission of a crime. The UC Davis Veterinary Genetics Lab has been involved in solving or proving several serious crimes. One was a kidnapping and domestic abuse case in West Virginia where they analyzed hair from around a drill bit and blood on a hammer owned by the suspect and matched them to two puppies belonging to the victim. Another case in Texas involved a serial rapist who rolled in dog feces during an attack. The victim owned three dogs, and they matched the stool found on the suspect to the victim's chihuahua. He was found guilty after lab personnel testified.

In a triple murder case in Indiana in 2000, a suspect denied he had ever been at the location of the murders. An examination showed that he had a very small amount of dog feces on a shoe. The UC Davis lab was able match this to the only dog on the property where the slayings occurred. The killer is now serving life in prison.

The use of DNA is opening up a whole new field of science, just one aspect is its use in the criminal justice system. The UC Davis Veterinary Genetics Lab is still in the process of informing criminal investigators of their capability of analyzing any type of animal DNA. Who knows how many cases can be solved now?

Location

Find us on the map

Office Hours

Our Regular Schedule

Monday:

7:00 am-6:00 pm

Tuesday:

7:00 am-6:00 pm

Wednesday:

8:00 am-12:00 pm

Thursday:

7:00 am-6:00 pm

Friday:

7:00 am-6:00 pm

Saturday:

8:00 am-12:00 pm

Sunday:

Closed

Testimonials

Read What Our Clients Say

  • "I began working for Dr. Kaiser at the Animal Clinic of Mandarin over 3 years ago. I decided
    to get a new Lab mix puppy and made the decision to enroll Zuri in Trupanion. I made this
    decision after hearing other employees and Dr. Kaiser talking about how great it has been for
    their own pets and our clients.
    Within the first 6 months my puppy Zuri’s knee kept coming out of place and she would stiffen
    up and could only walk on 3 legs. She had to have surgery and between working with Dr. Kaiser
    and the specialist I couldn’t have been happier that I was able to take care of Zuri and give her
    the treatment that was needed at such a young age. I now have no worries as she grows older
    that I won’t be able to take care of her financially. I recently added a new 1 year old rescue Great
    Dane, Zane to our family. He also has Trupanion because I can’t imagine the cost if something
    happens to him being such a large dog."
    Melissa P.
  • "Dr. Kaiser and staff are awesome. Great customer service. They deal with the pet insurance company directly for you so you don't have to pay what is covered directly out of pocket. They have gone above and beyond to help our fur baby. Super clean! We love to see Harry (the beautiful St. Bernard) growing up as well!"
    Nicole P.
  • "I called and was able to get an appt the same day. The office was very clean and customer service was very exceptional. Dr. Kaiser took her time to go explain everything and get a thorough history. Sick call exam and consultation came up to $51.75. She also offered a deal on pet insurance. Overall we had a very good experience."
    Charlene H.