Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

How does the DNA Protected service work?

DNA Protected is a forensic DNA profiling service for dogs.  DNA extracted from the cells collected using a simple mouth swab are tested in the laboratory to produce a DNA profile which can identify your dog.  DNA Protected uses a Canine DNA marker system that has been specifically developed for forensic analysis.  The test works like human ‘DNA profiling‘ and looks at 18 markers, or areas of the dog’s DNA, that are known to be highly variable between individual dogs.  This variability allows us to discriminate between different dogs (even related animals) and provides a DNA ‘identity’ for your dog.  The test also includes a marker that determines the sex of the dog.

The dog’s DNA profile can then be stored on a database which means that it can be compared against the profile of any dog that might be found or recovered following loss or theft in order to reunite the dog with its owner.

Because a dog’s DNA markers are inherited from his or her parents, the dog’s DNA profile can also be compared with the dog’s sire and dam to confirm parentage.

Can I take the sample myself?

For ease, convenience and to reduce costs, we have set up the DNA Protected service so that you can take your dog’s DNA sample yourself – taking a DNA mouth swab from your dog is simple, painless and only takes a few seconds.

Please read and follow the sampling instructions included with the kit and watch our one-minute sampling video.

When taking the sample please make sure that you wait for at least an hour after your dog has eaten or, if your puppy is very young, at least an hour after he or she has suckled, before you take the swab.

As part of the sampling process, you will sign the sample collection card as well as an online declaration to confirm that you are correctly registering the details for the dog that you have swabbed.

Is there a lower age limit for taking a DNA swab

There is no age limit for taking a DNA swab from a dog – the dogs’ DNA remains unchanged from birth throughout its life, which is why it is nature’s ultimate identification system!

If swabbing a very young puppy that is still suckling, it is particularly important to wait for at least an hour after feeding before taking the mouth swab.  Otherwise, you may collect some DNA from the mother’s milk which could interfere with the test result.    

Why do I need to wait for an hour

Like human forensic DNA profiling, the dog DNA Protected test targets specific regions of the DNA called Short Tandem Repeats (STR) markers.  The STR tests used in a forensic laboratory are designed to be species specific.  So, for example the dog STRs do not produce a result from human DNA, just as the human STRs do not produce a result from dog DNA.

However, if a dog’s mouth swab is contaminated with DNA from another species (such as the chicken, sheep or cattle meat found in some dog food) it can make the laboratory analysis more difficult.  Also, if a mouth swab is taken from a very young puppy that has recently been fed by its mother, the DNA in the mother’s milk could interfere with the test result.  This is why we request that buccal samples are taken at least an hour after your dog has eaten.

Will DNA Protected give me an indication of my dog's breed?

No, this type of DNA profiling test is for forensic purposes.  It is to help identify a stolen dog or to establish family relationships.  This type of DNA profiling test on its own does not provide any information about the dog’s breed.  However, carrying out a parentage test by comparing the DNA profile with DNA samples from the dog’s pedigree parents, is a way to confirm your dog’s pedigree.     

Will it give me an indication of any health problems/genetic diseases?

No, this type of DNA profiling test is for forensic purposes.  It is to help identify a stolen dog or to establish family relationships and does not give any indication of traits or disorders.

Who holds my data/what data is held and who is it shared with?

The data you supply is held by Cellmark on an intelligence database.  The database is maintained in compliance with the requirements of the Forensic Science Regulator’s Codes of Practice and Conduct for reference collections and databases.  In addition to holding information about your dog we also need to hold your contact details so that in the event that your dog is stolen and recovered, we will be able to search the database on behalf of the police, or other investigators, to help ensure that your dog can be identified and safely returned to you.

Cellmark has extensive procedures in place to securely manage data for all of its customers which includes the police and government departments.  Cellmark is certified to ISO 27001 and Cyber Essentials Plus which are independent certifications for the stringent data security procedures that the Company maintains.

Who holds the database, what will it be used for and who will have access to it?

Cellmark holds the Forensic Dog DNA Database and will allow the police and other investigators to search a dog DNA profile against those on the database in order to reunite a recovered dog with its owner.

Can I get a copy of my dog’s DNA profile?

When we have completed testing we will provide you with an electronic certificate which provides details of your dog’s DNA profile and will confirm that the DNA profile has been loaded to the Forensic Dog DNA Database.

We are planning to make a service available shortly so that you can obtain a framed image of your dog’s DNA profile.

What happens if I move or the ownership of the dog changes or if my dog dies?

It is important that you notify Cellmark of any changes of details including a change of address or ownership. You can also request that the DNA profile is anonymised and your personal data removed if you no longer want your, or your dog’s details to be held, for example if your dog dies.

Has the technology been used and accepted in court?

Yes, Cellmark has presented Canine DNA results in evidence in a number of criminal cases.  Two case examples are provided on the DNA Protected website - read our case studies.

What happens if my dog is stolen or lost?

If your dog is lost or stolen you should in the first instance report it to your local police force and let them know your dog’s DNA is on our database.  There are several organisations that you can contact online to help find a lost dog and your pet insurance company might also be able to assist.  Please also notify Cellmark by sending an email to dnaprotected@cellmark.co.uk so that we can record that your dog is lost on the database.  We can also, if you wish, publicise that your dog is lost on our DNA Protected website.

How long does testing take?

We are currently routinely reporting results in 2-4 weeks. 

Shortly after your sample(s) arrives at our laboratory we will write to you to confirm its receipt and give you an indication of when we expect to have completed testing.

How will dogs be identified using the Forensic Dog DNA Database?

Once your dog’s DNA has been profiled, it will be automatically stored securely on the Forensic Dog DNA Database, together with some information about your dog as well as your contact details.  This means that if the police recover an unidentified dog they can arrange to have it DNA profiled and the profile of the unidentified dog compared to all the dogs held on the database.  A match will then be reported to police and the dog owner. 

The search algorithms on the Forensic Dog DNA Database will allow any matches to be identified and reported to police and the dog owner.  The DNA system provides excellent discrimination - so far our studies have allowed the individual identification of all the dogs we have tested including siblings in pedigree litters.

Is the DNA Protected service accredited?

The DNA Protected service has been set up and validated according to accredited standards and an application has been submitted to the UK Accreditation Service (UKAS) to add the DNA Protected service to Cellmark’s extensive scope of ISO17025 accreditation.  UKAS is the sole national accreditation body recognised by the British government to assess the competence of organisations that provide forensic testing for the police and for use within the Criminal Justice System. 

Cellmark is a member of Secured by Design, the flagship UK police initiative to help ‘design out’ crime through the use of high-quality, innovative products and processes.  Cellmark’s DNA Protected Service meets Secured by Design’s Police Preferred Specification.  

What are the chances of identical twins within a litter?

As with humans, identical twins (known as monozygous twins) have the same DNA and therefore share the same DNA profile.  However, the scientific literature reports that the incidence of identical twins in dog litters is rare, although the data is limited.  It is therefore very unlikely that your dog will share its DNA profile with one of its siblings.  As the number of dogs on the Forensic Dog DNA Database grows, if there are lots of examples of dogs from the same litter if should help increase our understanding of the frequency of monozygosity in dogs.

What’s in the DNA Protected sampling kit?

The kit comprises an easy to use mouth swab, an 'FTA' DNA collection card, simple to follow instructions and a prepaid return envelope to send the sample to us for testing.  Also included in the kit is an ‘I’m on the forensic dog DNA Database’ enamel dog tag and window sticker.

Is there a discount for breeders or organisations with multiple dogs?

Yes – please contact us for further details, we would be pleased to hear from you.