When it comes to animal adoption, breed shouldn’t matter, and here is why…
When It Comes to Animal Adoption
As a staff member at IndyHumane, I hear variations of the “pit bull problem” all the time – “shelters are full of pit bulls, “why are there so many pit bulls in shelters?” and so on. The short response is we don’t know that there are more “pit bulls” at IndyHumane than any other kind of dog. Without a DNA test, there’s no way to know what the breakdown of certain breeds in our shelter may be.
We do know that pit bull type dogs are fairly common in shelters due to a number of factors. They include discriminatory housing policies, inaccurate breed-sight identification and societal taboos. A “pit bull” is not a recognized breed of dog; it’s an umbrella term which covers about a dozen varieties of dog, as well as dogs who might possess features such as square or heart-shaped heads, floppy triangular ears, white chests and more. So, there’s a cycle of dogs being labeled as pit bull based on vague descriptors. And then being unfairly discriminated against by insurers, housing complexes and society itself, causing them to be re-homed, surrendered or abandoned.
At IndyHumane, we don’t assign breed on a dog’s adoption profile. First, we have no way to know what breed a dog may or may not be. Even if we did, we don’t gain much valuable insight into their personality or necessary care by their breed. Temperament is not based on breed but on the environment from which it came and how it has been socialized, trained and treated. For example, some dogs can meet new people with ease. But others need a long time and lots of TLC to warm up. Some dogs have learned to jump on people to solicit attention, others have been trained that a calm, quiet demeanor will earn them snacks and pets. We look at each dog individually, not based on breed, and we encourage potential adopters to do the same.
Any dog, when adopted into a new home, will need positive socialization, training and time to adjust to their new lifestyle. Adopters should have reasonable expectations and be able to provide for the needs of the dog. That includes being able to socialize the dog, exercising it enough and taking the time to train it.
Legislation, housing policies, and breed-restrictive insurance coverage have not proven to reduce the number of dog bites or to increase public safety. They’re only succeeding in making it harder for people to own these animals. One common problem we see in Indianapolis and other cities across the country is breed-specific legislation, insurance laws and other housing restrictions. Many insurance policies won’t cover individuals with pit bull type dogs, and many apartments, houses and HOA communities ban them. With a lack of documentation regarding breed history, many landlords in particular have used these policies in predatory ways. This forced residents to re-home their dogs based on their looks rather than presumed public safety concerns.
Breed restrictions will not cut down on dog bites. When you look at the cause of dog bites, a lot of it comes down to human behavior and how they are interacting with a dog. Educating new dog owners, regardless of breed, is one of the best ways to stop bites before they happen. If you can recognize the signs your dog is uncomfortable and teach others how to interact with the animal, bites can be avoided.
Breed Discrimination Research
There is mounting research against breed discrimination and breed bans for those who are interested. We think some of the best research that individuals can do. Especially if you’re looking to potentially add a new pet to your family, is to come see these dogs for yourself. Visit IndyHumane, or any other shelter in your community. And spend some time with dogs of all shapes, sizes, ages and personality types. Learn about these dogs on an individual basis and find the pet who is the best fit for your family and lifestyle, regardless of what breed they might be.