The Veterinary Genetics Laboratory (VGL), originally known as the Serology Laboratory, was established in the 1950s under the direction of Dr. Clyde Stormont for the purpose of verifying parentage for cattle registries. At that time, all identity and parentage testing was carried out with blood typing analysis of serum proteins and red blood cell surface proteins. Blood typing was developed for horses in the 1960s and for llamas and alpacas in the 1980s. Today, under the direction of Dr. Cecilia Penedo, the laboratory is a self-supporting unit of the UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine, providing animal parentage verification, identification, forensic services, genetic diagnostics and genetic disease research.
VGL was a pioneer in the development of DNA-based animal parentage verification. In the early 1990s, VGL began the development of parentage tests using microsatellite DNA markers also referred to as STRs (short tandem repeats). VGL was the first animal parentage laboratory to offer DNA testing to the horse, cattle and camelid industries in the mid-1990s and has since introduced DNA-based tests for elk, deer, dogs, cats, sheep, goats and primates. Utilizing this technology, the VGL has generated over 2 million DNA profiles.
The International Society for Animal Genetics (ISAG) recognizes the parentage tests offered by VGL as international standards. The laboratory has been an active member of the ISAG since 1974 and takes part in the biannual horse, cattle, sheep/goat, cat and dog parentage comparison tests carried out under their auspices. The biannual ISAG meetings provide a venue for data comparison and the establishment of test standards for all animal parentage laboratories. The VGL has trained visiting scientists and technicians from laboratories in the US and abroad since the 1970s in both blood typing and DNA typing technologies. VGL is now considered the leading animal DNA parentage verification laboratory in the world.
In response to inquiries, VGL began development of a small-scale veterinary forensics program in the mid-1990s. This program has continued to expand and is now recognized as a leader in the field of veterinary forensics. VGL Forensics is involved in high-profile criminal cases both nationally and internationally.
For several decades, VGL has been a leader in equine genetic research and, more recently, in the international equine gene map project. The laboratory has developed and currently offers diagnostic tests for a number of equine genetic diseases and coat colors and has an active research and development program in this area. Please browse the other areas of the Veterinary Genetics Laboratory website to read about VGL genetic research in cats, dogs, wildlife and ecology, and canid diversity. Also visit our Informatics and Engineering page to learn what makes VGL run.