Pet DNA Firm Identifies Humans as Dogs

It told one reporter she was mostly Alaskan malamute
By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff
Posted Mar 13, 2024 7:25 PM CDT
Dog DNA Testing Firm Identifies Human as Malamute Mix
The lab told a CBC reporter he was part beagle.   (Getty Images/Sergey Nazarov)

A swab sample sent to dog DNA testing company DNA My Dog came back as 40% Alaskan malamute, 35% shar-pei, and 25% labrador—but the sample was a cheek swab from Christina Hager, a 100% human reporter at WBZ News. She also sent samples to two other dog DNA companies: Orivet, which said it "failed to provide the data necessary to perform the breed ID analysis," and Wisdom Panel, which said there wasn't "enough DNA to produce a reliable result." This is the second time Toronto-based DNA My Dog has identified a human sample as canine, WBZ reports.

Last year, WBZ's investigation team sent the company a sample from pet owner Michelle Leininger. It came back as 40% border collie, 32% cane corso, and 28% bulldog. The company's service director, Jessica Barnett, said at the time that the "results provided would not be possible on a human sample." In a similar experiment earlier this month, the CBC sent samples from two dogs to four companies and received very different results from each firm. They also sent samples from reporter Travis Dhanraj and received breed results from two companies. Accu-metrics said he was mostly Central Asian shepherd dog, and DNA My Dog said he was part basenji and part beagle. "I'm going to have to have some hard discussions with my parents," Dhanraj quipped.

The results cast doubt on the accuracy of the pet DNA testing industry, which Zion Market Research estimates will be worth more than $700 million by 2030, the Guardian reports. Scientist say breed definitions are too fuzzy for testing to deliver accurate results, but geneticist Elinor Karlsson, who runs the Darwin's Ark lab, tells WBZ that pet DNA science has value when it's done right. "We might be able to figure out which dogs are at risk of getting cancer, and screen them more often and be able to diagnose it earlier," she says. "We might be able to develop new treatments for that cancer." (More DNA test stories.)

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