How We Could Save More Dogs From Death Row by Changing One Thing
By: Jessica Ramos
March 29, 2016
Whether we like it or not, labels matter — even for dogs. New research from Arizona State University published in PLOS ONE, suggests labels could even lead to a potential death sentence, if you’re a pit bull.
Pit Bulls Wait 3 Times as Long to be Adopted
The pit bull went from America’s darling dog to one of the most feared (and misunderstood) dogs today. Their fall from grace is evident in stories like Olive’s. Olive the Pit Bull was brought in as a stray and stayed in the shelter for approximately 11 years. Olive was lucky enough to find her forever home, but so many dogs like her aren’t — and our arbitrary labels aren’t helping their cause.
According to Science Daily, researchers from Arizona State University wanted to know if breed identification influences adoption. The researchers found that dogs labeled as “pit bulls” could wait three times as long to be adopted from shelters into their forever homes compared to their lookalikes without the label or labelled as another breed.
Compared to other breeds, like Labradors, pits were perceived as less friendly and more aggressive. They also were considered less “attractive” than their lookalikes. Weird, right?
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Even the researchers were surprised by how much the pit bull label influences perception and, ultimately, adoption. As researcher Lisa Gunter from Arizona State University explains, “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,” reports Science Daily.
Ultimately, the researchers recommend losing the pit bull label to stop inadvertently penalizing these dogs in the shelter setting.
Heartbreaking Pit Bull Statistics
If you thought that Olive’s story was sad, she’s actually one of the lucky ones — not only for getting adopted, but for staying in the shelter system for the 11 years that she did.
According to Pit Bull Rescue Central (PBCR) 200 pit bulls are euthanized in Los Angeles County animal shelters every single day.
PBCR emphasizes that “for homeless pit bulls the death sentence is almost always automatic.”
Villalobos Rescue Center (made popular by the TV show Pit Bulls and Parolees) had this to say about the pit bull plight in Los Angeles: “The pit bull population has now risen to 40% of all the dogs in 12 shelters in Los Angeles. That means that almost half of the entire Los Angeles dog population is pits or pit mixes! Most are strays, tossed out like dirty laundry. It’s heartbreaking.”
Sadly, the plight of pit bulls is not limited to Los Angeles County. A 2013 Nat Geo Wild infographic reveals that:
60 percent of the total dogs euthanized in U.S. shelters are pit bulls
30 percent of the total dogs admitted to shelters are labeled pit bulls
86.7 percent of pit bulls admitted to open admission shelters are euthanized
Do you know what the worst part of this sad situation is? There’s no such thing as a pit bull.
As Bark Post explains, the pit bull label is just “an umbrella term that most people use to refer to different types of dogs – the American Pit Bull Terrier, the American Staffordshire Terrier, the Staffordshire Bull Terrier, any mixes thereof, and any dog that vaguely resembles these dogs.”
The breed isn’t real, but the stigma has real consequences. And time and again pit bulls prove that they can be great dogs with the correct guidance and training when they get a second chance. Remember how Jericho the Pit Bull went from death row to being an amazing service dog?