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Photo: Corbin Carson
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Arizona dog shelter to remove breed labels on adoptable pets

Photo: Corbin Carson

Don’t judge a pooch by the color of its fur. A Valley shelter is removing breed labels from adoptable dogs, following a study at Arizona State University.

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

The study, “What’s in a Name? Effect of Breed Perceptions & Labeling on Attractiveness, Adoptions & Length of Stay for Pit-Bull-Type Dogs,” by Lisa Gunter and colleagues, showed that breed labels led to premature judgments made by potential adopters of shelter dogs.

Morefield said the research focused on how animals are labeled and their length of stay at the shelters.

To determine how breed labels influenced adopters, researchers compared dogs that looked identical and labeled them differently.

“Dogs that were labeled as pit-bulls [for example] were staying at the shelter longer,” Morefield said, “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.”

Now, the Arizona Animal Welfare League is removing breed labels as part of a pilot program in hopes it will help some dogs get adopted more quickly.

The no-kill shelter is replacing the breed names with more personalized information, such as “their personality, their temperament, the life they have led so far before you meet them in the shelter,” Morefield said. “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.”

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