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DNA bank could help to fight horse thefts

A new DNA storage service for horses offers owners an alternative to microchipping or freezemarking – and could help in the fight against theft.

Two science graduates from Bangor University, Richard Storey and Daniel Struthers, set up PetGen in 2010.

The company offers DNA extraction and storage for the purposes of pet security and identification.

Using a specially designed kit, owners take a mouth swab from their horse and post it to PetGen, where it is stored on a database and kept for up to 50 years.

“We initially concentrated on cats and dogs, but soon realised there was the potential to expand into the horse industry, where theft is a very real threat,” said Mr Storey.

By advertising the fact that animals can be traced from their DNA, Mr Storey believes it will make them a less attractive target for thieves.

Neither microchipping nor freezemarking are foolproof,” he added. “But a horse’s DNA can’t be tampered with.”

Although DNA parentage testing is already used elsewhere in the equine industry – it is compulsory for thoroughbreds registered with Weatherbys, for example – PetGen’s service should make the technique accessible to all.

H&H vet Karen Coumbe welcomed the concept, but warned that at present the potential of DNA-based identification is limited.

“Although microchipping is a legal requirement for issuing horse passports, DNA typing will only have limited uses,” she said.

While it is relatively common for microchips to go astray in cats and dogs, in horses it is rare for them to fail – they are deliberately embedded in a very tough neck ligament.”

PetGen DNA storage kits cost £25 and can be ordered online at www.petgen.co.uk

H&H readers are offered 20% off the price, using the discount code “H&H”.

This news story was first published in the current issue of H&H (19 January 2012)

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