Championship mutt in Manhattan ready to keep surprising the competition

NEW YORK (WABC) -- A championship dog in Manhattan, who also happens to be a mutt, is raising the profile of mixed breed dogs and highlighting advancements in the science behind DNA tests.

Four-year-old Plop is the All-American agility winner at Westminster, but he was never bred for competition. His owner, Lisa Topol, picked him up from a rescue group in Florida, by way of a kill shelter in Alabama.

She did the DNA test as part of Plop's entry into Westminster.

"He's 40% Australian cattle dog, 29% rat terrier," Topol said. "He's 12.2% Australian shepherd, 7.1% American bulldog, and 5% super mutt."

These at-home kits can run for between $50 and $200, and they are exploding in popularity. Many of them use a cotton swab that's shipped in the mail, but there's several different brands on the market.

Veterinary Oncologist Dr. Joshua Lachowicz, with Blue Pearl in Queens, recommends dog owners do their research and go with a brand that's been around for a while.

"It's reputable," Dr. Lachowicz said. "It's been tested on thousands of different patients, and so you have a lot of information that's built up to it. So it's the scientific information that goes into it, which you can find online by researching these tests."

Topol's test came from Boston-based Embark. They've been around for two decades, but the company's founder and CEO Ryan Boyko told Eyewitness News the science is now better than ever thanks to their database of dog saliva samples now hundreds of thousands strong.

"We can tell almost 200 genetic diseases now for dogs," Boyko said.

But there's more. Soon, Boyko wants to use the science to tailor health information not just to the breed, but to individual dogs.

"Half of golden retrievers die of cancer, but really being able to learn which half are going to get cancer and then being able to aggressively monitor those dogs," Boyko said. "So you can catch cancer early, or even be able to identify them to run drug trials."

Topol's test showed Plop and her 13-year-old Doberman/Labrador mix Schmootzy have no risk signs for disease. It means Plop is ready to keep surprising the competition for years to come.

"Here we are in a sports where a lot of people spend a lot of money to get almost like little racehorses," Topol said. "They spend a lot of money to get the dog they think is going to win in agility, and here I am with two rescue dogs, two mutts that kicked butt."

Eyewitness News reporter Derick Waller also performed a DNA test on his dog Barney, whom he rescued from Puerto Rico after Hurricane Maria. Look for his results soon on his social media pages.


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