Wednesday, August 3, 2011

American Shelter Dogs

This is Peter, an American Shelter dog sent to show you how easily a well-mixed dog can be mistaken for a pure-bred mix.

The American Shelter dog is a type of dog that is too well mixed to assign a predominant breed with any degree of certainty. Recent research has shown that shelter workers are wrong in identifying a mixed-breed dog's component breeds 87.5% of the time.

Many shelters (such as The Lewis & Clark Humane Society, The Humane Society of Charlotte, The Animal Welfare Society, Kitsap Humane Society, Multomah County Animal Services and Second Chance Pet Rescue) have recently begun to use the term because of how often they are simply guessing about a shelter dog's lineage-which can have unwanted consequences whether the label is desirable or not.

MCAS noted that a dog described as a Lab Mix may let down his potential adopters when they discover that he or she does not retrieve or enjoy water, but simply looks "labbish". In addition, this family may overlook a dog that does actually likes to swim and retrieve because he or she is labled a pit mix.

At Kitsap Humane Society, this exact situation did happen. Hershey was labeled a Chocolate Labrador Retriever (which is very likely, take a look!), but he was not a pure-bred lab. His family, expecting a lab in looks and behavior was surprised when he exhibited behavioral issues and returned him. Only then did the shelter do a DNA test on Hershey which showed that he was part Staffordshire Terrier (or Pit mix) which would require more diligent and specific training techniques than a regular lab.

While shelters may feel that they can get more pit-mixes adopted if they claim they are shepherd, terrier, or lab mixes-- they are actually contributing to a high return rate. Adopters need to know exactly what they are adopting based on the dogs' personality and train-ability- not on its looks.

So to reduce the number of returns, shelters have replaced the term "Mutt" with ASD (American Shelter Dog). The director of public relations and development at Kitsap said, "The ASD is our way of saying 'You can't judge a book by its cover.' When people come in to adopt an animal, they need to be focused on what's the best dog for their lifestyle, not what is the breed known for."

The point is not to mis-label pit mixes as ASDs, but rather to label pits as pits when they are clearly pits, and to refrain from calling a dog a pit-mix when it simply has a square-ish head, or a long-haired dog a German shepherd mix.

So far, the program appears to be working. The return rate at Kitsap has dropped from 5% of all adoptions to 3%. At Lewis and Clark Humane Society, they are even developing personality profiles to take the place of "breed" to help potential adopters find the right fit for them. They say, "So, instead of introducing you to a Pit mix, we will show you a brindle American Shelter Dog who is a bit introverted, but very playful. Or perhaps you would be interested in the medium-sized black American Shelter Dog with an agreeable and extroverted personality?"

Here are some American Shelter dogs available at participating shelters across the US for adoption:




1 comment:

  1. I read your blog regularly! I am the Volunteer Coordinator at the Animal Welfare Society in W. Kennebunk, Maine. Imagine my surprise when I saw us listed in your post and a photo of our girl Ginger ;o) I'm happy to announce that Ginger went home over the weekend to a great family. We are all very happy for her. Thanks for this great post about the American Shelter Dog description as many people don't understand it yet.


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