Pit bull label may triple length of stay in dog shelters

March 23, 2016
A figure from the PLOS ONE Manuscript: Gunter LM, Barber RT, Wynne CDL (2016) What's in a Name? Effect of Breed Perceptions & Labeling on Attractiveness, Adoptions & Length of Stay for Pit-Bull-Type Dogs. PLoS ONE 11(3): e0146857. Credit: Arizona Animal Welfare League

Dogs labelled as "pit bulls" may wait three times as long to be adopted from shelters than differently labelled lookalikes, according to a study published March 23, 2016 in the open-access journal PLOS ONE by Lisa Gunter from Arizona State University, USA, and colleagues.

Previous research had suggested that certain types of take longer to be adopted from shelters, but it was unclear how much breed identification influenced adoption decisions. Since pit bull breeds are often negatively perceived, the authors of this study wanted to know if the "pit bull" label affects adoption.

The authors initially assessed perceptions of pit bull dogs compared to other breeds. They then analysed the effect of the "pit bull" breed label in dog shelters by surveying the perceived attractiveness to potential adopters, based on factors including perceived friendliness, aggressiveness and intelligence, of dogs labelled as pit bull breeds and of differently labelled lookalikes. They also examined length of stay in shelters.

They found that pit bull breeds were perceived by study participants as less adoptable than other breeds such as Labradors, considered less friendly and more aggressive. In shelters, compared to lookalikes that were unlabelled or labelled as other breeds, dogs labelled as "pit bull" breeds were again seen as less 'attractive', and waited over three times as long as lookalikes to be adopted.

Lisa Gunter notes: "We were surprised how very similar looking dogs sometimes get labelled "pit bull" and other times as something completely different. These dogs may look and act the same, but the pit bull label damns them to a much longer wait to adoption."

Assigned breed labels can be inaccurate, based on sometimes misleading appearances, and this research may indicate that dogs could be inadvertently penalised when labelled as a pit bull breed. The authors state that removing breed labels seems to be an easy way to improve the experience of pit bull type dogs in animal shelters.

Explore further: Dogs are aggressive if they are trained badly

More information: Gunter LM, Barber RT, Wynne CDL (2016) What's in a Name? Effect of Breed Perceptions & Labeling on Attractiveness, Adoptions & Length of Stay for Pit-Bull-Type Dogs. PLoS ONE 11(3): e0146857. DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0146857

Related Stories

Dogs are aggressive if they are trained badly

April 24, 2009

Many dogs are put down or abandoned due to their violent nature, but contrary to popular belief, breed has little to do with a dog's aggressive behaviour compared to all the owner-dependant factors. This is shown in a new ...

Recommended for you

Herbicides can't stop invasive plants. Can bugs?

August 31, 2016

Over the past 35 years, state and federal agencies have spent millions of dollars and dumped untold quantities of herbicides into waterways trying to control the invasive water chestnut plant, but the intruder just keeps ...

Smarter brains are blood-thirsty brains

August 30, 2016

A University of Adelaide-led project has overturned the theory that the evolution of human intelligence was simply related to the size of the brain—but rather linked more closely to the supply of blood to the brain.

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.