by Claire Wiley VMD, DACVIM, Executive Director, AKC DNA Program
and Mark Dunn, Executive Vice President Registration Management
The AKC DNA Program, established in 1996, has the world’s largest canine DNA database with nearly one million samples. Harnessing the power of genotyping technology, the AKC DNA Program was established to ensure the integrity of its registry and to assist breeders with the accuracy of their breeding records. In the future the AKC DNA Program has exciting plans to offer new products to help breeders in their mission to produce better dogs.
HISTORY AND TECHNOLOGY
The current AKC DNA Profile Program is comprised of 13 Short Tandem Repeat (STR) markers and a gender marker. Implemented in 2003, this panel provides a dog’s AKC DNA profile for identification and parentage; it does not provide any information about the conformation, breed, or the presence/absence of genetic diseases. Each new AKC DNA profile is systematically compared to the genotypes of all previously profiled AKC registered dogs and litters whelped on or after January 1, 2000, allowing the AKC to determine whether the progeny are from the tested dam and sire with greater than 99% confidence.
With the current DNA database containing nearly 1 million profiles, the AKC can evaluate the integrity of the registry with great precision. Each year the AKC receives over 40,000 DNA samples, and, when available, each resulting profile is compared to its parents and/or its progeny, with fewer than 3% of the samples requiring follow-up research to resolve possible parentage or record-keeping questions.
However, newer technologies, leveraging use of genome-wide genetic variance, offer improved cost efficiencies and sample throughput, as well as the ability to easily and inexpensively collect additional markers to support canine research and/or offer future services to AKC breeders. Therefore, in 2019, AKC supported a research study at North Carolina State University (Drs. Breen and Allwood) to evaluate cross platform genotyping and recommend a new technology for the AKC program. The study led to the development of a new proprietary panel of 201 single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) for AKC use which will become the AKC standard before 2023.
CURRENT AKC DNA PROGRAMS AND PRODUCTS
The AKC has a comprehensive set of programs used to provide dog owners and breeders assurance regarding identification and parentage, including:
- Voluntary DNA Profile Program
- Kennel Inspections/Compliance Audit Program (CAP)
- Frequently Used Sires Requirement (FUS)
- Fresh-Extended/Frozen Semen Requirement
- Multiple-Sired Litter Registration Policy
- AKC Parentage Evaluation Program
- Imported Breeding Stock Requirement
- Conditional Registration
Voluntary DNA Profile Program: An AKC DNA Profile containing the dog’s registration information, genotype, and a unique DNA Profile number is issued for each dog sampled. This DNA Profile number will appear on subsequently issued AKC Registration Certificates and Pedigrees. Many breeders opt to voluntarily submit for DNA profiling in advance or anticipation of AKC mandatory requirements such as FUS.
Kennel Inspections/Compliance Audit Program (CAP): DNA samples are sometimes collected by AKC Field Inspectors who perform approximately 3,000 kennel inspections each year.
Frequently Used Sires Requirement (FUS): This AKC Board Policy requires the mandatory genotyping of all sires prior to the registration of a 4th litter in any calendar year or a 7th litter in a sire’s lifetime. All breeders, but especially those who purchase breeding stock or stud duty from other breeders, are encouraged to use AKC’s voluntary DNA program to verify parentage of purchased breeding stock well before FUS Requirements to avoid future problems.
Fresh-Extended/Frozen Semen Requirement: Since October 1998, the AKC has required the mandatory genotyping of all stud dogs whose semen is collected for frozen or fresh extended use. DNA profiling is not required for artificial inseminations wherein both dog and bitch are present.
Multiple-Sired Litter Registration Policy: Since September 1998, AKC has required the mandatory genotyping of all potential sires as well as the dam and all puppies of any multi-sired litter. As of October 2022, no penalty fee is required for multi-sired litters.
AKC Parentage Evaluation Program: The AKC will evaluate the parentage of a litter and provide a Parentage Evaluation Table and written report based upon genotypes on file with the AKC. Breeders need to submit DNA samples for any canines not already present in AKC’s DNA database at the time of the request for AKC Parentage Evaluation. The canines sampled do not need to be AKC registered to participate in the evaluation.
Imported Breeding Stock Requirement: Imported dogs registered on or after March 1, 2006, must have an AKC DNA profile prior to registering an AKC litter whelped in the United States. This requirement applies to both males and females.
AKC Conditional Registration
If dogs with unresolved parentage exclusions are believed to be purebred, then excluded dogs and their progeny are issued AKC Conditional Registration Certificates and Pedigrees instead of being cancelled. “Unknown” will be noted on the registration or pedigree for the ancestor in question and any male/female bred to a dog with AKC Conditional Registration is required to have DNA on file with AKC in order to register a litter. The downgrade to conditional status will remain in effect for the excluded dog(s) and all progeny until a three-generation pedigree of AKC DNA verified parentage is established. The documents issued to conditionalized dogs are clearly labeled as Conditional. AKC Conditional Registration allows breeders to work though parentage issues without totally removing purebred dogs from the gene pool. By fully documenting and disclosing the incident of unknown parentage, breeders and dog owners can make their own informed decisions about whether they will buy or breed a certain dog.
FUTURE – HEALTH TESTING AND RESEARCH INITIATIVES
In the next year we plan to launch a cost-effective genetic health test that focuses on breed-specific needs. We also aim to provide breeder-specific services, including genetic counseling for breeders. Our goal is to provide accurate information to empower breeders to make the best decisions for their breeding programs.
Additionally, genetic tests rely on robust breed-specific data. Caution should be made when extrapolating test results into a separate breed or even a subgroup of the breed. Public genomic sequences of dogs are expanding rapidly, but not all breeds are represented equally. For more common breeds, these sequences may not reflect the full spectrum of genetic diversity within the breed. To address these problems, the AKC is planning to sequence thousands of dogs to develop a gold standard database of genomic information for each breed and to help further canine health research. Using the registry to produce elaborate breed pedigrees, the AKC is in a unique position to ensure that the genetic diversity within the registry is represented. Ultimately, this information will be in the hands of breeders to help them achieve their goal of producing better, healthier dogs.
The AKC DNA Program is one of the oldest continuously operating canine DNA operations in the world. With nearly one million canines profiled, more than 500,000 canine DNA samples in storage, and more than 250,000 participating breeders, the AKC remains a leader and innovator in this important field. Now in its third decade, the program is well positioned to take advantage of new and emerging technologies to assist breeders and dog owners alike.