Researchers found that labeling dogs with certain breed descriptions led to them spending longer periods in the shelter prior to adoption. Something crusaders against breed legislation have long suspected.
The study labeled identical looking dogs with different breed descriptions. Those presented as Pit Bulls spent nearly three times as long in the shelter as dogs labeled as breeds with more positive public reputations, like Labs or Boxers. Potential adopters tended to be deterred by preconceived notions regarding traits associated with specific breeds.
Michael Morefield of the AAWL told KTAR News:
"Breeds are an aspect of a dog but they don’t make up everything about that dog. Their personality, their temperament, the life they have led so far before you meet them in the shelter. Those life experiences really make up who that dog is, more than who their parents were five years ago or what their color markings make you think they are as a breed. That’s really what makes up the pet you want to take home."
At AAWL the adoptable pups’ description cards read less like lists of stats, and more like dating profiles. The focus is on what type of home environment each dog is most likely to succeed in. Characteristics that may be construed as negative are given a positive spin. A cute pup named Myrtle’s ID card reads “Kids: Middle School +”, rather than “No Small Children”. Instead of “Extremely active”, it reads “I would be a great running or biking partner!”
Pit Bulls are not the only breed that face unfair stereotypes. Chows, Dobermans, German Shepherds, and Rottweilers all conjure images of dangerous, snarling attack dogs for some people. These breeds and several others have legislation limiting or banning their ownership all across the world.
Recent research has more citizens and lawmakers realizing that breed is not an accurate indicator of bite potential, leading to many of these discriminatory laws being abolished. However, all too many regions still have Breed Discriminatory Laws on their books.
The findings of this study are further evidence of the damage breed stereotyping can cause. Focusing on the individual dogs, rather than preset judgments about their breed prevents potential adopters from instantly disregarding them for unwarranted reasons.Hopefully, other shelters will follow the AAWL’s lead and more deserving dogs will find themselves in the loving arms of adoptive families.
Written by: Dina Fantegrossi