Dogs that are labeled as pit bulls in shelters wait three times as long to be adopted than dogs that look like the breed but are classified differently, according to a study published Wednesday.
Researchers found that potential pet owners were less likely to take home a dog if shelters called it a pit bull because the breed is negatively perceived and considered less friendly and more aggressive than other breeds. “We were surprised how very similar looking dogs sometimes get labeled ‘pit bull’ and other times as something completely different,” said Lisa Gunter, the author of the study published in the journal PLOS ONE. “These dogs may look and act the same, but the pit bull label damns them to a much longer wait to adoption.”
Gunter and the other researchers said assigned breed labels at shelters can be inaccurate and based on sometimes misleading appearances. The research suggests that dogs could be inadvertently penalized when labeled as a pit bull breed. “In the shelter, removing breed labels was associated with increased adoptions and reduced length of stay for all breed groups, particularly pit-bull-type dogs,” the study said. “Given the inherent challenges of breed assignment based on morphology, removing breed labels from kennel cards and online adoption profiles may be a simple, low-cost strategy to improve shelter dog outcomes.”