Dog Shelter to Remove Breed Labels on Adoptable Pets

“Breeds are an aspect of a dog but they don’t make up everything about that dog,” said Michael Morefield with the Arizona Animal Welfare League.

3.28.16 - Arizona shelter


An Arizona shelter is going to be taking the breed labels off of the kennels that adoptable dogs are occupying, waiting for a forever family.  This is in response to a study that took place at Arizona State University, which makes the case for these labels actually adding time to the length of stay for adoptable dogs.  Basically, putting things like “pit bull mix” and the like as a label on a kennel, makes adoption for that dog less likely.

“Breeds are an aspect of a dog but they don’t make up everything about that dog,” said Michael Morefield with the Arizona Animal Welfare League.

The title of the study is “What’s in a Name?  Effect of breed Perceptions and Labeling on Attractiveness, Adoptions and Length of Stay for Pit-Bull-Type Dogs.”  It was authored by Lisa Gunter and colleagues, and showed how putting a breed label on a dog had an immediate and direct effect on how long a dog might stay in a shelter, and not find a family.

According to Morefield, “Dogs that were labeled as pit-bulls [for example] were staying at the shelter longer, while the dog that looked just like them was labeled as a border collie or a Saint Bernard was getting adopted in almost one-third the time.”

Hopefully, this will break down some of the barriers that particular dogs have getting rehomed.  The Arizona Animal Welfare League is completely removing all of the labels starting immediately.  The information will be replaced with more about the nature and personality of the dog.  They figure that getting more of that to potential adopters, will close more deals for dogs.

“Their personality, their temperament, the life they have led so far before you meet them in the shelter,” said Morefield.  “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.”

67 thoughts on “Dog Shelter to Remove Breed Labels on Adoptable Pets

  1. We had a rescue dog, I was scared of dogs as a youngster, we went to the rehoming centre, I had no idea what sort of dog i wanted beyond one that was friendly. Came home with a collie . The choosing was a partnership between me and the dog we chose each other. She could have been any breed, it was of no importance to me.

  2. I think that is a bad idea, information is knowledge. A dog’s breed can tell you a lot about the animal. Mine is a basset mix, and yes, he is Lazy!!!!

    1. Brred can only tell you about traits a dog is likely to have. If a dog is, for example, a border collie basset mix, who is to say the dog is going to be hyper active or bone lazy?
      If the dog is of a recognizable breed, then people can assume that is what the breed is, and proceed. If they’re really curious, they can have a breed ID DNA test done.
      By the way,, Bassets are NOT lazy dogs. Have you seen hunting bassets? They are working dogs that can track all day, much like their long legged cousin the bloodhound. They are like Sam Wilson, they do what bloodhounds do, just slower, lol.
      This is aside form the fact that most dogs have misidentified breeds, and this has been proven by comparing what the dogs were labeled as in the shelter with their breed ID DNA tests.
      This is what you need to know about a dog… The size or estimated size as adult (yes, knowing the breed can help with estimated adult size as puppies), the energy level of the dog, and how well the dog gets along with other dogs, cats, small animals and children.
      If you need a dog of a certain breed, go to a breed specific rescue or a breeder.

  3. I love this idea, granted, it is good to know what the breed may be prior to adopting, however, when I adopted one of my dogs, she was listed as a Boxer mix, and when I had her tested, she was not Boxer at all, but an AmStaff, Bulldog, Cocker Spaniel Mix (mostly AmStaff–and I couldn’t be happier 🙂 ) I’d say, unless they know 100% what the breed is, it should not be listed at all, since like in my case, their guess could be completely wrong. A potential adoptive family can always ask the shelter what they think, but in the end, it’s best to get the dog tested to know for sure… I used Wisdom Panel.

  4. I just don’t like this idea for only one reason – most breeds have a certain temperament that people should take into consideration. If you don’t have the time/energy for a high energy dog, say like a Jack Russel, then you should steer away from them. I do love that this removes the stigma attached to certain breeds. Pros and cons to it!

    1. On that note, you just need to know the energy level of that particular dog. One of the laziest dogs I have ever known was a jack russel, for example. Yes, he was an outlier for his breed, but it happens.
      As I said to someone above, bassets are not lazy dogs, working hunting bassets can track all day. I have even known a lazy border collie.. Shall I tell you about the lab that wouldn’t fetch? Mind you, this lab came from working field trial lines, his father was the number one field lab in the country at one point, his mother was top ten, her father was also number one in the country at one point. This dog wouldn’t retrieve to save his life.
      Breed can give you an IDEA of what to expect from a dog, but dogs like people are individuals, All you need to know is size and estimated adult size (if a puppy and yes, knowing the breed can help with that), energy level and how safe the dog is with other dogs, cats, small animals and children.

    1. What do you need to know? You need to know the size of the dog, the dogs energy level and if the dog is safe with other dogs, cats, small animals and children.
      Breed really means nothing, unless you want a dog that is bred for purpose. If you are not hunting, you don’t need a hunting dog and many will not have “breed traits” Nor will most mixed bred dogs have breed traits as they are mongrels from pet and show bred dogs that have not been bred to do the job..
      Behavior is NOT only breed based, and they are smart for recognizing it. It can be a predictor, but considering every time they compare what a dog has been labeled by a shelter with the dogs breed ID DNA, the shelter is wrong more times than they are right, how will that help you?
      If a dog is labeled a boxer mix, but it’s actually an American bulldog mix.. how will that have helped you be a responsible buyer?

  5. I’d say put temperament vs. breed. Most info about breed is inaccurate anyway. If potential adopters want to know more, they should look at the temperament and check how it fits with their lifestyle.

  6. What about people with allergies? They need to know what kind of dog they’re adopting so they don’t have to return it later when it makes them sick!

    1. If someone has allergies, knowing what mix a dog is isn’t going to help them. All whatever doodles are NOT hypoallergenic. Pure bred dogs are easily recognizable for what they are and if they REALLY need to know the breed, maybe they should get a pure bred dog form a breeder..

  7. I understand the need, however what happens when the “landlord” wants to know what breed of dog it is and they don’t know OR have a DNA test done and find out they aren’t allowed to have that breed. The pet is then returned…. You shouldn’t have the family or family pet get attached and then break up. ? I work for a shelter and see returns and/or landlord issues all too frequently.

  8. . There are alot of rentals that do not allow pit bulls or mixes. You cannot allow someone to blindly adopt a dog if they are a renter. Not to mention some homeowners insurances will not offer coverage for the same thing. However, sometimes the shelter does just slap a label on a dog based on what they THINK the dog looks like.

    1. Then don’t adopt a dog that looks like what people think a stereotypical bully breed mix looks like. Problem solved. If the dog doesn’t look like a bully breed mix, then no one would think it’s a bully breed mix.

  9. My 1st reaction was that it was a good idea. However, after reading the comments, I can see it both ways. Hard to choose one way or the other………for me, anyway!

  10. This is idiocy who will be prosecuted when someone takes home an unlabeled dog that kills their three old the second day after they buy it at the pound?? Moronic

  11. Who’s to say what a stray dog is or isn’t! We had DNA testing done on my rescue, and it was not what we all thought he was! I volunteer with a Schnauzer Rescue group and I went and pulled an obvious Schnauzer mix, that was labeled German Shepherd, at the shelter!

  12. the reason the adoption is less likely is that it is IMPOSSIBLE to rent an apartment or home with this type of dog. I hate these ridiculous breed restrictions. good luck finding a landlord that does not care or you have to buy your own house/

  13. There are no guarantees that the dog is what they think it is. And prejudging isn’t much better than being a racist. Animals respond to love, try being a kind and loving dog owner. Lots of labeled aggressive dogs are teddy bears and very loyal.

  14. The problem with removing breed labels is that many homeowners insurance companies will not allow certain breeds in the household. The dog could end up back in the shelter . My insurance will not allow me to have pits, dobermans, Rottweilers and I think German shepherds.

  15. People can see what the dog looks like and adopt or not adopt as to their needs and where they are renting. I think most shelters can inform would be adopters of temperment etc. This is a great idea

  16. Great move!!! My beautiful Samson wasn’t adopted for a long time because they labeled him a St Bernard mix. People thought he’d be HUGE. In reality, he’s most likely an aussie/staffie mix of some kind…about 75 lbs. Big (but not huge), lovable, loyal, & not an ounce of aggression. This move may help people focus more on personality rather than breed.

  17. I went on a dog site to try to find a Golden Retriever to adopt and all they ever sent me was pics of pit bulls, calling them Golden Retriever Mix. I finally deleted the site. Anyone who knows a pit bull knows they don’t look anything like a Golden Retriever.

  18. What they need is to get rid of insurance breed bans. I think there’s a lot of people who would be happy to adopt a “pit mix” if it weren’t for the fact that insurance won’t cover them and they can’t rent either.

  19. Many people can’t tell different less well known breeds apart but all breeds have different characteristics ( high/low energy; general growth size & feeding costs/ stamina/coat growth & grooming costs etc) as well as insurance & landlord restrictions. No family wants to fall in love with a dog & then have to return it because it is totally unsuitable or banned by their landlord. Not defining where reasonable or not giving reasonable ID where possible, is just unfair on both the dog & the family & is really irresponsible.

  20. ok I get it, but that’s not going to change the world and it’s ignorance. Just a little surprise til you get home.. Kind of sucks big time

  21. Great idea! Most are just mixed. Why is everyone worried about insurance? Do your research and get an insurance that does not discriminate. Change is inevitable! Free your mind.

  22. It is always a guess. They have no way of knowing what breed a dog is. They are going on looks alone and that can be very deceiving. We knew this when we rescued our girls but I guess some people take it as fact. Our foster girl has been labeled a pit (she acts more like a hound to me) but I would love to do a DNA test to know for sure. The name itself is such a turn off to so many people despite how sweet she is.

  23. I am sick and tired of insurance companies demonizing certain breeds! If you own a German Shepherd, Doberman, Rottweiler or any breed associated with “pit bulls,” prepare to have your insurance cancelled or raised to prohibitive rates! That is what makes it very difficult to find homes for these dogs! I’d rather have any of the above dogs than some little dogs I know who are much more likely to bite!

  24. while I love this concept, it is not fair for people who can’t have certain breeds or mixes (due to homeowners insurance rules) or folks in apartments that may have breed restrictions to go to the shelter fall in love with the dog, adopt it and then find out later they can’t have it. also people SHOULD know what they are adopting, each breed or mix has certain breed traits and diseases they are succeptable to. some dogs are very active, some not, some are good with kids, some not. people should be more informed, not less informed.

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