Stop Discriminating Against Shelter Dogs


Target: President of the ASPCA, Matthew Bershadker

Goal: Stop listing breeds on incoming shelter dogs’ paperwork when the pedigree is not known.

Visually identifying dog breeds is more arbitrary than originally thought, especially when it comes to pit bulls, according to a new study published by The Veterinary Journal. Incoming shelter dogs who match a pit bull’s stocky frame and square head often get mislabeled as a pit bull, seriously limiting their chances of being adopted.

While there is a pedigreed breed of American Pit Bull Terrier, there is no DNA test that can appropriately identify them. Instead, DNA tests can point to “pit pull heritage,” which is usually around 12.5 percent American Staffordshire Terrier or Staffordshire Bull Terrier.

The listed breed of a shelter dog can impede its chances of being adopted. Assumptions about a pit bull’s temperament are widespread. Some shelters won’t place pit bulls up for adoption, and some landlords won’t rent to tenants with pit bulls, making housing these dogs exceedingly difficult. Pit bulls are disproportionately euthanized in shelters because of the reluctance of families to adopt them. In breed restricted areas, dogs thought to be pit bulls can be seized from families and euthanized without a DNA test.

By removing breeds from shelter paperwork and focusing on personality traits, dogs will be better matched with families who care more about their well-being and not the potentially inaccurate information about their DNA. Stop shelters from listing dog breeds on paperwork to foster more open, loving adoptions.


Dear Matthew Bershadker,

A recent study by The Veterinary Journal indicated that handlers often mislabel dogs based on their outward appearance–specifically pit bulls. Labeling incoming shelter dogs by breed must be stopped.

Pit bulls are the most difficult breed of dog to adopt out. Assumptions about temperament and breed restrictions in regional areas and housing rentals often discourage families from adopting dogs labeled “pit bull.” When shelter workers assume stocky dogs with square heads are pit bulls, these dogs are disproportionately euthanized in high-kill shelters. Even DNA tests can’t properly identify pedigreed American Pit Bulls. Analysts look for “pit bull heritage,” which is typically around 12.5 percent American Staffordshire Terrier or Staffordshire Bull Terrier.

Experts at The Veterinary Journal suggest that labeling dogs without knowing their specific pedigree is useless. Shelter workers without breed labeling experience may say, “this dog looks like a [breed],” but not give further information on the breed without knowing the pedigree. Dogs and adopting families are better served by focusing on personality traits and other information that will lead to a successful adoption.

Please encourage the ASPCA to remove breed labels on shelter dogs and reduce needless euthanizations among dogs that resemble pit bulls.


[Your Name Here]

Photo credit: Matthew Roth

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  1. they must give pitbulls more chances to get adopted because they are great dogs now.

  2. This is bad business. These employees need to be Fired for misrepresentation of the dogs.

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