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DNA Testing Transforms Shelter Dogs Into Designer Dogs

Often when you adopt a dog from an animal shelter it’s a mixed breed.   But in this day of designer dogs and DNA testing, shelter animals are getting re-branded and perhaps increasing their chances of adoption.

Two newly minted designer dogs share a room at the SPCA for Monterey County.  “So this is Tom and he’s with Champ.  Champ a lot of people thought was Chihuahua. It’s was kind of hard to guess what other parts were,” says Beth Brookhouser, Director of Community Outreach at SPCAMC.

Both dogs look like Chihuahua mixes.  It’s a very common dog these days for California shelters.  Since the beginning of the year, the SPCA for Monterey County has taken in 290 Chihuahuas and Chihuahua mixes, which accounts for about 25% of all incoming dogs. 

“I first started at the SPCA 11 years ago, and a Chihuahua, when it became available for adoption, would get adopted that day.  If it took three days to find a new home, it was shocking.  And now we’re seeing Chihuahuas and Chihuahua mixes staying with us a long time,” says Brookhouser.

So they decided to try something different to get these pets adopted: DNA testing.

“Tom here. One of his parents was a purebred Chihuahua.  And one of his parents was part Chihuahua and part Boykin Spaniel.  I have to confess I had to google what a Boykin Spaniel is.  I had no idea what it is, learned it’s the state dog of South Carolina,” says Brookhouser.

They’re having a little fun with the designer dog trend by now calling Tom a Chiboykin Spaniel and Champ and Chasa Huapso, since it turns out he’s part Chihuahua part Lhasa Apso.

In all they tested twelve dogs most presumed to be Chihuahua mixes.  The idea came from the Peninsula Humane Society in Burlingame where 25% of its incoming dogs are also Chihuahuas or Chihuahua mixes.  They launched a similar program back in January.

“I don’t think there are many people who came in I’ve always been looking for a Chorgi (Chihuahua Corgi),” says Scott Deluchhi, Senior Vice President of Community Relations at the Peninsula Humane Society.

“Really it’s just a way to make many dogs who on the surface look the same, to play up what makes them different,” says Deluchhi.

And did it work? “It did. We saw many of the dogs get adopted in the first ten days.  So we’ve done 23 dogs, and I think we have just one left in our care,” says Delucchi.

He says there’s always a need for creative adoption promotions.  For a while they waived the adoption fee on Chihuahuas.  Right now DNA tests seems to be working.

At the SPCA for Monterey County, it’s been about a week since the DNA tests have re-branded dogs like 2-year-old Alice who turns out not to be a Chihuahua at all.

“Tibetan Folsh Sporgi. So you never would’ve guessed looking at her, Fox Terrier, Tibetan Spaniel, Cardigan Welsh Corgi, but you adopt her and you have the ultimate designer dog,” says Brookhouser.

DNA tests cost the SPCA $50 per animal, and so far three of the tested dogs have been adopted. Brookhouser is optimistic about these newly minted designer dogs.

She looks to another promotion they did last year when the SPCA had an abundance of shaggy, little terrier mixes.  With the help of social media, they coined a local designer dog called the Monterey Jack Terrier.

“Now we have people coming in asking for Monterey Jack Terriers,” says Brookhouser.