- Associated Press - Sunday, September 18, 2016

LYNDHURST, Va. (AP) - While the kennels are full with dogs at the Shenandoah Valley Animal Services Center, there are no pit bulls, hounds, beagles or shepherds. In fact, there are no breeds at all; SVASC has dropped using breed titles and started labeling each dog as an all American shelter dog. Director Lindsey Huffman hoped this would help dogs and humans find their perfect match.

When the shelter posts a dog on Facebook, Huffman said the number one question is, “What breed is it?” She wanted people to know that breed doesn’t matter, and even if it did, they have no way of knowing for sure what the dog is.

“It’s a guess,” she said about dogs that end up in the shelter. “We don’t know; it’s a mutt.”

Besides the fact of them not knowing the breed, Huffman hoped dropping labels would help drop stereotypes.

“Many breed labels go off bias and characteristics of a general idea,” Huffman said. “People see pit bull and they automatically shut down, but really those are some of the best dogs. It limits the possibility of adoption for certain breed labels.”

Instead of listing the breed on the kennel information sheet, SVASC has started to post the dogs’ stories and focus on personality traits.

For example, Tallahassee, a two-year-old all American shelter dog’s bio reads, “I’m the sweetest dog ever.don’t believe me? Just take me out and I will show you how good I can cuddle! Just don’t know how you could resist this face and adorable ears! My adoption fee is free.”

Huffman hoped focusing on personalities would create better forever home compatibility between dogs and humans than focusing on breed would.

SVASC staff came up with the all American shelter dog label.

“It encompasses any dog that enters a shelter,” Huffman said. “They all come in for different reasons and most of the time it’s no fault of their own.”

So far, the initiative has received a positive response.

“I feel like it’s helped the dogs and people,” Huffman explained. “We’ve had very few people walk through the shelter and ask us what kind of dog it is.”

To celebrate dropping breed labels, SVASC has held an all American shelter dog promotion. With this, dogs and cats have waived adoption fees to approved adopters. They are able to sponsor this through the Petco Foundation and other donations or grants.

About 30 dogs have been adopted or fostered through this promotion. SVASC will keep it running until Sept. 24.

Every dog has a unique personality and qualities, Huffman said. With the new all American shelter dog labeling, she hopes adaptors will see individuality over breed.

“We all can characterize ourselves by nationality, religion and put labels on ourselves, but what good is that really doing us?” Huffman compared. “We’re not labeling one person by their gender, color or religion. That individual has characteristics that make them different than anyone else.”

Huffman said that is the idea behind dropping dog breed labels.

“Labeling them as a breed doesn’t do good for anyone. They’re individuals that have special characteristics and traits that make them who they are and that’s what we want to present to people.”


Information from: The Daily Progress, https://www.dailyprogress.com

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