FOS Eliminates Breed Labels for Dogs

Wednesday, January 15, 2020

As of January 1, 2020 Friends of Strays is no longer identifying our dogs by breed. In a growing nationwide trend, shelters are dropping breed labels from cages and kennels, no longer identifying adoptable dogs by their breed alone. Going forward, all of our dogs will be labeled as a “mixed breed” unless we have a valid reason to label them otherwise. 

A study by The Animal Farm Foundation found that adoptable dogs in shelters are misidentified more than 75% of the time when shelter staff and volunteers rely on appearance alone to determine a dog’s breed.  This form of stereotyping can be especially detrimental to certain breeds, like rottweilers or pit bull-type dogs, who have a lingering stigma in public attitudes, municipal breed bans, and housing restrictions based on DNA alone despite the many studies discrediting any link between breed and aggression. In addition to proving breed labels wrong, the study showed potential adopters identical photos of dogs labeled with different breed names. The dogs labeled as ‘pit bull’ were considered less approachable, trainable, intelligent, and friendly than dogs labeled as another breed – despite being the exact same dogs. 

“How a dog is labeled or their physical appearance is not an indication of their personality, past or future behavior, or ability to adapt to a home environment,” says Friends of Strays Shelter Director, Mari Salls. “Friends of Strays believes that each dog is an individual and should be treated that way. Much like people, dogs have unique personalities and lovable quirks. Previously, when a dog would enter our care, our staff would make their best guess of breed based on nothing more than the dog’s physical characteristics. The majority of dogs that enter our shelter are mixed breed and to arbitrarily label them based on looks seems unfair to both the dogs and our adopters. A dog’s appearance gives little indication to its behavior, and we don’t want our adopters to judge a dog without getting to know him or her first. Plus, everyone who’s ever loved a dog knows that breed doesn’t matter once you lock eyes and make a connection with that individual. We invite everyone to meet our amazing dogs and to learn about their individual personalities to find the perfect fit.”

Top shelters across the country have adopted similar policies and have found that dogs are adopted much quicker and with a lower rate of return. When an adopter thinks their dog is a specific breed, they develop certain expectations which the dog then often fails to meet. By eliminating this aspect of animal sheltering, we hope our community will realize that breed has nothing to do with how much love a dog has to offer. 

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