UF study finds dogs often mislabeled at shelters
Published February 19th, 2016
GAINESVILLE, Fla.--A University of Florida professor published a study revealing dogs were often mislabeled at shelters.
"We've noticed in shelters all over the state that they're guessing on dog breeds and frequently staff within the same shelter don't agree on what a breed is," says Dr. Levy of the UF College of Veterinary Medicine.
That's why she decided to conduct a study to determine exactly how many dogs are mistakenly identified as pit bulls. For her study, Dr. Levy focused on 30 dogs in four Florida shelters.
"We collected several staff members and had them look at the same dog at the same time in the same shelter and then compared how well they agreed and the truth is they don't agree very well. Over half of the dogs in our study were mislabeled by at least one staff member," says Dr. Levy.
Alachua County Animal Services community liaison and second year UF vet student Corinne Thompson says the shelters face a tough task providing answers to potential dog owners.
"People always want to know, their first question when they meet a dog is what kind of dog is that? And so the shelter likes to give them an answer, but it's really just our best guess. Shelters have a pretty hard job of it because they have such a high volume of dogs coming in," says Thompson.
If shelter staff and veterinarians can't correctly identify these dogs, what are the chances the general public can?
"We actually did a larger study comparing 120 dogs and we had over 5,000 people in an online survey guess what the breeds were based on pictures and we found the exact same result dog experts are not able to correctly identify mix breed dogs most of the time," says Dr. Levy.
This becomes a problem where certain breeds--like pit bulls--are banned. All of Miami-Dade, for instance.
"As a future veterinarian, I won't ever be able to work in Miami because I have 'pit bulls,'" says Thompson.
Dr. Levy was able to correctly identify the breeds of dogs by a DNA test, which is about $80 a dog, and something most shelters can't afford.
"Most shelters are really struggling to pay for even just the basic care of animals and getting them adopted," explains Dr. Levy.
So instead of focusing on the breed, Dr. Levy recommends finding a dog based on its personality.
Dr. Levy's study was funded by Maddie's Fund and the Merial Veterinary Scholars Program.
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