UF Study: Shelter dogs often mischaracterized

FOX 35 News at 10 p.m.

- There is a new study out at the University of Florida that more dogs are being mislabeled as Pit Bulls at animal shelters.  

Sweet dogs like Ramona, who is part pit bull, sometimes get a bad rap just because they are either part or whole pit bull, or even just look like one.  

“Shelters do struggle everywhere with pit bulls,” said Dr. Julie Levy, a professor of Shelter Medicine at the Maddie’s Shelter Medicine Program at the University of Florida. “They come in in higher numbers than other breeds, and they’re less likely to be adopted.”

Dr. Julie Levy and her team decided to do some research. They spent a year asking staff at several Florida shelters to ID 30 different dog breeds.

Levy explained  “What we found was even at the same time, in the same shelter that the staff members disagreed on what breeds the dogs were more often than they agreed.”

Levy went on to say  “We found out that the shelter staff misidentified dogs as pit bulls most of the time. They also missed dogs that really did have pit bull-type DNA.”

Often, Levy said shelters have to guess a dog’s breed, like a stray, without a history.

Levy explained “Very often when a dog is called a pit bull, it can lead to restrictions such as where people can rent, or whether their homeowner’s insurance will cover them.”

Right now, it’s illegal to own or keep an American Pit-bull Terrier in Miami-Dade County. That’s punishable by a $500 fine.

Carma, the dog, doesn’t have it easy either. Alachua’s humane society says people have shied away from her, because she looks like a Pit Bull.

They’re not sure if she is. But, In sometimes, being labeled a pit-bull can be a death sentence for them, Levy said.

Levy said “It can be a death sentence for a dog to be labeled a pit bull. Even in areas where they’re not restricted.”

Dr. Levy recommends abandoning the use of breed labels, when shelters don’t know the breed. Instead, focus more on developing personality profiles on each dog.

Levy said “So we can make a great match with a new family.”

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