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What's in a name? Effect of breed perceptions and labelling on shelter adoptions for pit bull breeds

L. M. Gunter, R. T. Barber, C. D. L. Wynne

PREVIOUS research has shown that certain breeds of dogs stay longer in shelters than others. The authors of this research carried out four studies to determine how perceptions of breeds and differences in labelling could impact on outcomes for pit bull breeds in shelters.

Study 1 investigated the perceived attractiveness of three dog breeds (labrador retriever, pit bull and border collie) and the influence of different handlers on the dog's attractiveness when viewed in photographs. Participant responses showed that pit bull-type dogs were perceived more negatively than the other breeds. Perceptions of the pit bull's approachability, friendliness and adoptability increased when photographed beside an elderly woman or a male child.

In study 2, length of stay and perceived attractiveness of dogs that were labelled as pit bull breeds were compared to ‘look-alikes’, that is, dogs that were phenotypically similar but labelled as another breed. The average length of stay was 42.07 days for pit bull-type dogs and 12.80 days for look-alikes. When participants were asked to rate photographs of both groups of dogs without breed labels, there was no difference in the …

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