The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, The Humane Society of Missouri and the Louisiana SPCA reported Tuesday that they have launched the nation’s first criminal dogfighting DNA database, known as the Canine CODIS (Combined DNA Index System).
The database, which will be maintained at the University of California, Davis, Veterinary Genetics Laboratory, is designed to help the criminal justice system investigate and prosecute dogfighting cases. Dogfighting is a federal crime, as well as a felony offense in all 50 states.
The Canine CODIS contains individual DNA profiles from dogs who have been seized during dogfighting investigations and from unidentified samples collected at suspected dogfighting venues. The ASPCA describes the database as being 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 dogfighting operators, according to the ASPCA. Blood collected from the dogfighting sites will also be searched against the Canine CODIS database to identify the source.
In dogfighting investigations, the dogs’ inner cheeks are swabbed to collect DNA in their saliva at the time they are seized. Law enforcement agencies also collect DNA at suspected dogfighting venues in samples of blood, saliva, tissue, bones, teeth, feces and urine. Swab samples and the other samples are then submitted to the laboratory at U.C. Davis for analysis and archiving in the database.
When an agency submits a sample to the laboratory, the DNA is analyzed and the database is then searched for corresponding DNA profiles, according to the ASPCA. 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 ASPCA noted that the Canine CODIS database is only available to law-enforcement agencies.