Earlier this year, a study from the University of Florida revealed that even experienced animal shelter workers often mislabel dogs as “pit bulls.” The researchers evaluated breed assessments made on 120 dogs by 16 shelter staff members, including four veterinarians at four different shelters, all of whom had at least three years experience. After the assessments, blood samples were taken from the dogs and researchers compiled DNA profiles for each animal. The study concluded that true pit bull-type heritage was positively identified only 33 to 75 percent of the time. Conversely, dogs with no genetic evidence of being pit bull-type dogs were mislabeled as pit bulls as much as 48 percent of the time.
In THE NEW BARKER dog magazine’s feature on Pit Bulls (“The Never-Ending Story,” summer 2015) Page 28 – Luis Salgado, the animal services investigator who enforces Miami-Dade’s Pit Bull ban (Breed Specific Legislation or BSL) said, “There is no reliable DNA testing for that breed. DNA is useless. If you look at where that breed came from, there’s American Bulldog, there’s Terrier, all watered down and mixed together to produce the dog we now call the Pit Bull.” In enforcing the Pit Bull ban, Salgado went on to say that Miami-Dade relies on physical characteristics with a 47-point checklist. “Any dog that substantially conforms to the characteristics of a Pit Bull is considered a Pit Bull,” said Salgado. “Furthermore, it doesn’t have to be a purebred to be considered a Pit Bull. A Cocker Spaniel crossed with a Pit Bull is a Pit Bull. A German Shepherd Dog crossed with a Pit Bull is a Pit Bull.”
Also quoted in The New Barker article is Kris Irizarry, a professor of comparative genomics from the College of Veterinary Medicine at Western University of Health Sciences. “There is no boundary between what genes may or may not be in the breed. That is why it’s not a breed. It’s a general dog and there is no way to predict its behavior from its appearance.”
Labeling dogs “pit bull” keeps them in shelters. The term “Pit Bull” covers any dog with a muscular build and big head. The true breeds most commonly labeled as “pit bulls” are the American Pit Bull Terrier, American Staffordshire Terrier and the Staffordshire Bull Terrier. Many dogs labeled as “pit bulls” don’t even have any DNA belonging to these aforementioned breeds.
However, according to an article in Newsweek earlier this year, shelters are unlikely to stop labeling the dogs as “pit bulls.” Ken Foster, a community dog program coordinator for Animal Care Centers of NYC told the Newsweek reporter that people expect breed labels and most of the inventories or databases that shelters use require breed labels.
An estimated 70 percent of dogs that end up in shelters in this country are classified as pit bull-type dogs. That is a devastating, oftentimes deadly label. Pit Bull detractors say these dogs are more likely to kill. Pit Bull advocates say the only thing they are more likely to do is die.
For more information, visit Miami Coalition Against Breed Specific Legislation. #TheNewBarkerDogMagazine