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Thursday, October 7, 2010

Jojo: Vicious Pit Bull or Beagle or Boxer or Neither?

Okay, I have given in.  I am ready to try DNA testing to discover the breed of dog of one of our adoptable pets.  This is going to serve as an educational experience for me, and perhaps for you.  I want to be able to discuss the DNA testing of dogs with my clients and relate it to an experience that I have had, rather than basing my opinion on hearsay.  I have heard people say their DNA test results were right on track, and others say that the results were obviously wrong or inconclusive. 

I have decided to test one of our adoptable dogs out of sheer curiosity.  We named her Jojo.  She is a mixed breed dog that is about 6 months old.  She is full grown.  Her brown eyes make you melt inside, and I swear she is smiling in this photo!  When you look at her adorable photo, you will immediately say that she is a pit bull.  She only weighs about 20 lbs! 

(Photo taken and generously donated by Photography by Becca)

Jojo was found running loose out in the country.  Someone must have had her for the previous five months of her life, but no one claimed her.  The county in which she was running has no humane resource for strays, so the Sheriff's department often calls on our clinic to assist them with the placement of their strays into new forever families. 

I have listed Miss Jojo as a beagle/boxer mix on .  I have no way of knowing if this is her true heritage.  She is the size of a small beagle with longer legs.  She has the build of a miniature boxer.  I cannot explain where the freckled feet come from.  Freckled feet are not a "pit bully" trait. 

I fear that Miss Jojo is missing out on a new forever family of her own due to her resemblance to a pit bull.  I am not claiming that she is not a pit mix.  I don't know or care if she is a pit mix.   I don't even know if this testing will help us in her plight for a new home, or hurt us.  I do know that she likes dogs, cats, and kids.  She has showed us no signs of aggression.  She is a playful happy puppy awaiting a family to love her, yet she continues to be passed over.  She is in a foster home learning to behave in a home setting, being potty trained, and living happily with two other dogs.

Watch Video 1 of Jojo

Watch Video 2 of Jojo

With breed specific legislation becoming the societal "norm", I worry about this little girl.  I have had clients and non-clients with mixed breed dogs say that they have been approached by police officers enforcing their local "vicious dog ordinances".  Perhaps little tiny Jojo would fall into this category of legally vicious dogs despite her sugar-coated sweetness. 

These ordinances define dogs as vicious by breed rather than behavior.  People with dogs that are gentle and loving are being forced to prove their pet is not a pit bull or rottweiler or german shepherd, when there is no true way to do that if you do not own "papers" on the dog.  Sometimes, the dog in question is a purebred boxer or bulldog that I am comfortable declaring "This dog is not a pit bull."  Other times, the dog might be a boxer mix, a pit mix, an american bulldog, but I cannot declare that this dog is not a pit bull or pit mix with any degree of certainty based only on appearance.  If you mix a wrinkled nose, purebred boxer with almost any other dog (ie lab, shep, golden), you are going to lengthen that nose, and the mix puppies will suddenly appear "pitty".  These dogs would all be susceptible to this type of breed specific law or legislation. 

Another issue with this legislation is that the affected, breed-defined dogs often have no aggressive history.  They are being blamed for crimes that they have not committed. This is not unlike racial profiling.  It is breed profiling.  Dogs should be deemed vicious by historical documentation of vicious actions, and punished or cited as a result of these actions, rather than on their appearance.  I discuss this in a previous blog, Breed Specific Legislation or BS Laws? .

I don't want to place blame on the law enforcement officials.  They are following the rules bestowed upon them by others.  This is their job.  It is the breed-biased laws and the people that pass them that need to be addressed.

I found a photo on the Internet that expresses my concerns about laws such as these:

I have ordered one of each of the following DNA test kits:

Mars Veterinary Wisdom Panel
170 breeds
$79.99 free shipping, used coupon code INSIGHTS10 and got $10 off
total cost $69.99

DDC Animal DNA Testing
Can detect 62 of the AKC's most common breeds.
$68 free shipping No coupon codes

Heritage DNA
Over 100 breeds
$79.95 free shipping.  accepts coupon codes but unable to find any.

I ordered all three tests between 8 am and 9 am on Thursday, September 30, 2010.  The test kits vary in price, and vary in the number and kind of breeds they test for in their procedures.  More information can be found on their websites linked above.

Once we receive the tests, we will post new blogs and let you follow us through the testing procedure.  You may join us here as we perform the tests, and as we anxiously await the results of each test.

I am putting my own dollars and my "breed guessing skills" on the line and inviting you to follow along with our testing of Jojo, and her results. The results of each test will be discussed, and you can voice your own opinion.

I hope these tests can identify a primary breed in Jojo.  I have heard that they often do not.  We may continue rowing in the same boat of uncertainty at the end of this expensive and time-consuming testing procedure.  My hope is that by the end of the procedure, Jojo is already with her new forever family regardless of the results.

I am not saying that Jojo is not a pit mix...she may be one.  Unless these three DNA tests concur and identify substantial primary breed results, I have no way of knowing that. Unfortunately, neither do our law enforcement officials when they look at your dog.

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Marguerite said...

As municipalities are faced with the extraordinary expenses of trying to enforce breed specific legislation, many are repealing those laws, particularly when bite statistics don't change after such laws are passed.

In my state, PA, there is a statewide law that makes breed specific legislation illegal. One municipality tried to get around that by specifying that any breed that was responsible for the most bite reports in a given year would have to be restricted with muzzling, liability insurance requirements, kenneling requirements and other requirements designed to protect the community from the designated vicious breed. One year it was dachshunds, so they quickly repealed the law. The law was in effect for only two or three years at most, but pit bulls were never the breed with the most bite reports.

There are probably several breeds in the ancestry of your little guy. I agree that there seems to be beagle in there, but if there is you should be able to tell from the sound of the voice.

I also wonder if there isn't a bit of border collie in that pup. Could be a number of different dogs. Beagles, of course, get freckles, so do some border collies. Hopefully, your blog will get this pup the attention and home he deserves.

Tammy Hartwig said...

I think it is absolutely wonderful that you openly state that you don't care what the mix is but that you only care about the dog!
Having fostered dogs for a local shelter for nearly 7 years these are my feelings exactly! To me, each dog is as individual as every person is. There ARE breed traits just as there are racial traits but, each animal or person has their own personality.
I'm very excited to see how this plays out because everyone I know who has had their dog DNA tested thought the results were ridiculous. We must also remember that many strays may have a long lineage both in number of breeds as well as generations.
Glad to see you doing this!

Anonymous said...

I remember one time (maybe last year) you posted a test that consisted of numerous pictures of dogs and you had to decide if it was a pitty or not. The results were eye-opening as many breeds that someone would assume was a pit - was not! Maybe some of our law enforcement folks who have to uphold these ridiculous laws should have to pass a test like this before they can start making judgements that have a major impact on lives - both human AND canine.


Immydog said...

Way to go PA! If you follow the link to this blog, it has the link with the quiz to what Anonymous is referring...

Jennifer Akes said...

We have a pit mix we adopted on Valentines day 2010. She is brindle in color, but wide in her chest cavity. She looks like a pit/whippet mix. We adore her, we also rescued a pit former fighting dog and after rehabilitating her for dog aggression found her a forever home. She was so starved when we got her that we didn't know she was pregnant until mere hours before the arrival of 7 pups. 2 of her pups do not look anything like pits. They look more like short hound mixes, and they have freckled feet and freckled tummies. I think because you never know exactly what a mix breed is you can get some odd colors and unusual markings. The two in 7 of her litter with freckles and the rest are black with white chest markings like their mom. Shiva and Snoopy are very low to the ground, with black and white marks and freckled skin underneath. When they were first born they had grey circles around their black markings. If you want to check out pics they can be found on my facebook page at Jennifer Akes in Tennessee.

Anonymous said...

Jojo is a gorgeous puppy and I wish her well whatever breed she is. Frustrating as breed specific laws are you do the cause a disservice by comparing this to racial profiling. It's obvious by your comment that racial profiling doesn't affect you. Were you a victim or a likely victim then you really wouldn't have said something so offensive. I'm a dog lover too, have an adopted boxer, that doesn't mean that I have to offend people in order to care for dogs.

Immydog said...

Dear Anonymous.
I am sorry if my comparison of racial profiling to breed specific regulations offended you. That was not my intent.
I believe that in both cases, people and dogs are judged by their appearance rather than their actions. In both scenarios, this is wrong. People and animals should be addressed by their actions not their appearance.
I was not condoning racial profiling in any way, but I think that is evident. I do not believe the ramifications of the two are equal in effect, either, but the procedure of judgement without knowledge in both scenarios is similar and wrong.
I am not sure how this statement was interpretted as offensive, but I do apologize, as it was not intended in that way. It was simply meant to provide two scenarios in which a judgement is made without evidence or historical fact.

Anonymous said...

First, I have to say that all rescues & shelters must have proof that the dogs are pits before telling people they are. The shelter told my daughter her puppy is a pit mix. We guessed like crazy what combo she could be. I sent for a Dog DNA test. It came back and she is not any part pit or any other terrier. Her "dominant" breeds are Chinese Shar-Pei & Collie, less dominant Akita, and more removed Newfoundland & Rhodesian Ridgeback. Upon reading the breed descriptions provided we can agree 100% that her personality is totally a combo of the first two breeds. My daughter carries a copy of the paperwork and shows it whenever someone is afraid of her "pitbull". I agree that all dogs should be rated on their personality. Pitbulls by nature are not aggressive. People make them that way. I look forward to reading what the results of your DNA tests.

Aimee said...

FYI, ticking is most definitely a trait that is found within the American Pit Bull Terrier and is quite common within certain bloodlines. Dogs that weigh in the low 20s are not uncommon, either.

Anonymous said...

Keep coming back looking for what breeds JoJo came back as? I personally dont think there is any pit in her.
I have also had a few vets tell me that DNA testing is very inaccurate and to not waste my money. Most notably for pit bully breeds. Not that it matters to me what my sweet rescued pit bull looking gentle boy is. : O)

just_thinkin said...

This dog strongly resembles my own, dear sweet Bonny, and we have always suspected she might be a beagle pit bull cross. I hadn't thought of boxer! Whatever she is, she is delightful. She is gorgeous, smart, loyal, smart, goofy, smart, affectionate to man, beast and cats, really smart and shows signs of being protective, but no one could call her vicious. I got to this page because I wondered if there were other beagle/pit mixes with photos on Google. Part of my thinking (idle) was whether or not you could get more like this dog and my Bonny (she is such a bonny lass) if you bred the two breeds.
My facetious name for the breed is American Standard Booglehound, boogle for short. I suggest that a rose, by any other name...maybe that is the answer for dogs like yours and mine. The lineage is anyone's guess. The town and my insurance company just know she is a beagle mix. What more is needed?
I'd never heard of breed specific laws, but I agree that an animal should not pay for the "crimes" of all the breed, especially when the real crime is likely in the dogs' upbringing. Good luck! Deb Tucker