Friday, February 19, 2016

Some shelter dogs are mislabeled as pit bulls

Mislabeled? Misunderstood?
Everybody in the known universe knows I want a new dog, but can't get to the shelter because of my disabilities (and the Craigs dog people are lunatics). Almost as many people also know my daughter was savaged by a pit some yrs ago--17 stitches from a detached upper lip. My sister's greyhound also required intensive surgery from a pit bull attack out of nowhere.

So when I see listings and click on a picture--I go, "Pit," and click away.

But, now researchers at the University of Florida says shelter personnel guess breeds by appearance alone--and this may not be accurate.

Pits are even illegal to own in many states, can cost you an apartment if you have one. The stakes are high for Fido if he resembles a pit bull--assuming you accept the idea that such breeds can be too combative to be safe.

For one thing, pit bull is not a breed, the researchers point out. The term is applied to any bog derived from American Staffordshire terriers or Staffordshire bull terriers. The purebred American pit bull terrier is also lumped in.

The Univ of Florida people looked at the assessments made of 120 dogs by 16 shelter staff members, including veterinarians, at four shelters These staff members all had at least three years of experience.

Then they did DNA profiles of the dogs.

Even when staff members are the same shelter looked at the same dogs, they did not always agree.

And when DNA was brought into it, the dogs were corectly identified only a third to three-quarters of the time.

Basically--the staff could not tell which were actually pits.

Plus you can't tell behavior from appearance--that is the larger takeaway.

The researchers suggested it would be more productive to reduce risk factors for all dogs--supervise children, recognize a dog's body language, avoid unfamiliar dogs in their own territory, neuter dogs, and raise puppies to be socialized to humans.

Does this make me feel better? Not really. I still remember my kid's grossly swollen face and those big, black stitches.

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