There is a myth that pit bulls are easily identified by appearance, however many breeds are incorrectly assigned in animal shelters; even veterinarians can get it wrong. “A team of researchers from the University of Florida’s College of Veterinary Medicine has found that animal shelters often misidentify dogs as Pit Bulls, which can hurt their chances of being adopted1.” There are plenty of people who agree with anti-pit bull propaganda that any dog with a “blocky, head, shark mouth and small pig eyes,2” must be a pit bull. Although those vague and woefully ignorant descriptions may work for some, they ignore many mixed breeds that have little or no genetic link to pit bulls. “It’s been shown that nearly 90 percent of shelter dogs visually identified as a particular breed are mislabeled.3” In the aforementioned study, the researchers “examined DNA samples from 120 dogs at four shelters and compared the results with how the staff, including four veterinarians, had identified their breeds. They found that dogs with Pit Bull-type breed heritage in their DNA were correctly identified at best 75 percent of the time. Meanwhile, dogs who didn’t have Pit Bull heritage in their DNA were labeled as Pit Bulls up to 48 percent of the time.1” This can be problematic not only in shelters, but in an area with breed specific legislation, leading to friction between neighbors or even legal problems for pet owners.
Poor Identification Leads to Bad Data
It can also lead to poor data being collected about dog breed and the behavior associated with an identified dog. Once a dog has been visually identified (more often than not, wrongly) as it enters a shelter or by a witness to a crime it can then be entered as fact into databases from which research studies are done and claims about dog behavior can be harrowingly inaccurate. “All 5 studies completed so far that specifically address visual breed id… bring into question the findings of any studies which attempt to link breed to behavior based on visually identified study populations and demonstrate a need for eliminating visual breed identification as a data source for ongoing canine behavioral studies.4”
Dogs Are Individuals
“Don’t judge a book by its cover” is a cliché saying that comes to mind in instances like this. Find the pet that’s fits your family and your requirements rather than making decisions on poorly conceived opinions. Mutts are generally considered genetically healthier than purebreds anyway. “Every dog is an individual, no matter the breed. Right now, thousands of families in our country have one or more pit-bull-like dogs as pets. Some are couch potatoes, some are agility dogs, some are service and therapy dogs, and others are simply someone’s best friend. And we believe that’s worth caring about.3”