I read a couple of blog posts recently about an animal shelter that said it removed all breed labels from its dogs’ kennel cards and Facebook posts.
When adopters look at the dogs available at the Fairfax County (Va.) Animal Shelter, the dogs are not labeled as “Lab mix” or “pitbull mix” or “dachshund.”
Instead, the dogs are identified by their actual personalities, behaviors, energy levels, size, age, friendliness, etc.
The reasoning is when you remove breed labels you’re looking at dogs as individuals first and breed second.
According to the Fairfax County Animal Shelter, removing breed labels has been a successful experiment, and the group has seen a significant increase in adoptions.
What do the rest of you think about removing breed labels at shelters?
Personally, I love the idea.
I’m not sure if it’s the right way to go, but it’s something shelters and rescues could at least consider.
Most dogs are mutts, and everyone will always have a different opinion on what a dog is mixed with. The labels we give mixed-breed dogs are usually just someone’s guess.
Even within a breed or breed mix, every dog is an individual. I’ve written about this many times. You can’t predict a dog’s behavior or personality based on breed alone.
For example, people assume my Lab mix Ace is friendly because they see a “black Lab.” But my dog is only 50 percent Lab, and they shouldn’t assume he’s friendly just because he looks like a Lab. (He is friendly, but they shouldn’t assume.)
Removing breed labels opens up more opportunity for discussion
Most adopters DO want to know what kind of breed mix they’re getting. I certainly would.
But removing the dog’s breed opens up more opportunities for discussions between shelter volunteers and potential adopters because more people will be asking questions.
This is an opportunity for shelter volunteers to talk about the dogs’ personalities first and breed second. Ideally, this will lead to more positive outcomes for the dogs – getting them adopted vs. killing them.
Adopter: “What kind of dog is Jasper?”
Shelter volunteer: “Oh, isn’t he cute? Would you like to pet him? He’s definitely a mix. He’s great with other dogs and loves to play fetch. We think he might be a mix of boxer or pitbull. What do you think?”
Adopter: “I think he’s part vizsla. That’s a vizsla mix. Can I take him for a short walk?”
Shelter volunteer: “You might be right! Yes, I’ll put his leash on and we can take him for a walk. He seems to really like you!”
Will adopters feel like they’re being tricked?
I can see why adopters could feel angry or like they’re being “tricked” into adopting a certain type of dog.
I read another blog where a couple went to a different shelter looking to adopt, and the staff there had also removed breed labels. They labeled all the dogs as mutts or “American Shelter Dogs.”
There’s nothing wrong with that, but when the couple asked about the breeds of the dogs, the staff members were cold and unhelpful, at least according to the couple.
The staff refused to offer any guesses on the dogs’ breeds, which was frustrating for the couple. They simply wanted to know what kind of dog they would be getting, which is a fair thing to ask.
Instead of taking this opportunity to talk about the dogs’ personalities and potential breeds, the staff got irritated that they were asking such questions.
In this case, the couple walked out of the shelter without a dog and felt prompted to write a blog post about their negative experience at the shelter.
They ended up going to a breeder and got a purebred puppy instead.
This is just one example, but it shows there obviously needs to be a balance. A shelter is never going to please every potential adopter, but the workers do need to have awesome marketing skills and positive attitudes. It should not be so difficult to adopt a dog.
Leaving out the ‘pitbull’ label
The rescue I work with rarely uses “pitbull” on its breed labels. I’m not sure if this is intentional, but it seems that way.
Leaving out “pitbull” and calling a dog a “Lab mix” or a “boxer mix” does seem to help get the dogs adopted.
Most adopters love pitbulls or are indifferent to them, but some apartment complexes and insurance companies still ban “pitbulls” which makes them a little harder to get adopted.
Another factor is to make sure adopters are aware of potential discrimination against the dogs they adopt, even when breed is removed.
If a purebred or mixed breed dog looks like a “pitbull” to someone, the dog and the owner could unfortunately still be banned from some apartments, dog daycares, insurance policies, etc. This is changing, but it’s still an unfortunate obstacle for some.
I’m not sure if removing breed labels from shelter dogs’ bios is part of the solution, but it’s an idea I’m open to. I think it’s worth discussing, and I’m curious what the rest of you think.
Do you think removing dog breeds from kennel cards and bios is a good idea?
Do you think it would have a positive or negative outcome in your area?
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