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40,000 dog DNA samples from former Suffolk charity sent to Cambridge University

PUBLISHED: 09:53 29 July 2020 | UPDATED: 17:44 29 July 2020

The Animal Health Trust  at Lanwades Park in Kentford, near Newmarket, announced in March it was in financial trouble, compounded by the coronavirus pandemic, and will now formally close at the end of July 2020. Picture: DUNCAN LAMONT

The Animal Health Trust at Lanwades Park in Kentford, near Newmarket, announced in March it was in financial trouble, compounded by the coronavirus pandemic, and will now formally close at the end of July 2020. Picture: DUNCAN LAMONT

Thousands of DNA samples kept at a world-famous Suffolk animal research charity forced to close earlier this year have been transferred to Cambridge University.

Scientific work being carried out at the Kennel Club Genetics Centre at the Animal Health Trust in Newmarket. Picture: HEIDI HUDSON/ANIMAL HEALTH TRUSTScientific work being carried out at the Kennel Club Genetics Centre at the Animal Health Trust in Newmarket. Picture: HEIDI HUDSON/ANIMAL HEALTH TRUST

The 40,000 samples of dog DNA plus data and biological material belonged to the Kennel Club and were stored with the Animal Health Trust at its Kentford headquarters near Newmarket.

However following a funding crisis the Trust (AHT) will formally close at the end of this month.

The Kennel Club, the UK’s largest organisation dedicated to protecting and promoting the health and welfare of all dogs, had kept its genetics centre at the AHT since 2009.

Led by Dr Cathryn Mellersh, it worked to identify and treat health issues in dogs and develop simple mouth swab screening tests to determine affected and carrier animals.

Dr Cathryn Mellersh outside the Kennel Club Genetics Centre at the Animal Health Trust in Newmarket. Picture: HEIDI HUDSON/ANIMAL HEALTH TRUSTDr Cathryn Mellersh outside the Kennel Club Genetics Centre at the Animal Health Trust in Newmarket. Picture: HEIDI HUDSON/ANIMAL HEALTH TRUST

Dr Mellersh said: “Since the Genetics Centre was founded in 2009, by collaborating closely with dog breeders and veterinary surgeons we have developed DNA tests for 22 different inherited diseases which benefit around 50 different breeds of dog.

“We know that breeders make good use of DNA tests to reduce the frequency of these mutations and thus improve the genetic health of countless dogs.

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“There is no reason why this ethos should change now that the information is stored in Cambridge and the Kennel Club Genetics Centre staff are relieved and grateful that all this information and resources have been saved.”

HRH the Princess Royal was president of the Animal Health Trust and a regular visitor. Picture: AHTHRH the Princess Royal was president of the Animal Health Trust and a regular visitor. Picture: AHT

Bill King, chairman of the Kennel Club Charitable Trust, said: “The Kennel Club and the Kennel Club Charitable Trust have long supported and worked together with the AHT to improve dog health, so it is a very positive development that the Kennel Club’s considerable investment in this area has been saved in spite of a few weeks of uncertainty. safeguarding our resources.”

The AHT, which had close ties to the Royal Family, announced it was facing financial difficulties, compounded by the coronavirus pandemic,in March.

It ceased services from March 24, and at the start of July announced it would formally close from July 31.

Founded in 1942, it provided care to sick and injured dogs, cats and horses.

The AHT researched and monitored equine diseases. Picture: AHTThe AHT researched and monitored equine diseases. Picture: AHT

It was awarded a Royal Charter in 1963 and the Queen served as its patron from 1959 until 2016, while Princess Anne was its president from 1991.

It employed more than 250 staff and was at the forefront of work in cats and dogs.

It also researched and monitored equine diseases, work that was vitally important to the UK’s multi billion-pound horse racing industry.

MORE: Board confirms Animal Health Trust to close


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