Walk through the aisles of this Virginia animal shelter and you won’t see any pit bulls or Chihuahuas or hounds.
What you’ll see instead is kennel after kennel of All American Shelter Dogs.
For a little while now, there’s been a movement away from labeling shelter dogs by breed.
Breed labeling at shelters is notoriously inaccurate — by and large, shelter dogs aren’t genetic tested, so the labels are mere guesses based on what the dog looks like, and are wrong as often as not.
On top of that, a study last year put out by by Arizona State University found that identifying a dog as a pit bull leads to that dog staying at the shelter three times longer than dogs who look the same but are called Labs or border collies instead.
Lindsey Huffman, director of the Shenandoah Valley Animal Services Center, has also been moving away from breed labeling at the shelter.
Facebook posts about adoptable dogs don’t mention breed, and when potential adopters call or email to ask about dogs, shelter staff tries to focus on things like the dog’s personality.
This past weekend, Shenandoah Valley Animal Services Center went a step further and stopped listing breed on its kennel cards — the sign at the front of a dog’s kennel, that lists his or her name, age and other salient information.
Instead, this is what the kennel cards now look like:
The idea is that that breed labels — inaccurate as they might be — can end up falsely leading someone to think a dog is a good, or bad, match for their family.
Getting rid of those labels will make folks focus on the qualities that will actually matter — like the animal’s energy level, and personality, not to mention how absolutely adorable they are.
“I just think All American Shelter Dog is just a great way to label all the dogs that find themselves in shelters,” Huffman says. “Let’s face it, how often do we actually get the breed correct anyway?”
Huffman says that some dogs got adopted over this first weekend, with the new kennel cards. There are still a lot of dogs needing homes, including some who’ve been at the shelter for months now.
She feels hopeful that these All American Shelter Dogs will soon be snatched up.
“It really is time to start treating each one as an individual and stop placing them in categories that are going to just limit their chances of being adopted,” says Huffman.
“If nothing else I think visitors will walk out of the shelter looking at each of them differently, which is the direction I was going with this.”