Monday, March 19, 2012

Identity Problem

This is Lily's picture at the shelter.  I can't believe she was EVER that small.  Her breed was listed as American Staffordshire Terrier, her coloring as Blue Fawn.  We knew what we were getting and were looking specifically for any of the pittie breeds - AmStaff, APBT, or Staffie Bull.  When she came through the door, I called my husband and said, "We've got a dog."
There was never much doubt what her breed that they had gotten her breed right.  As she grew, she seemed to stay mostly true in looks.

My dad, however, pointed out all of her flaws and dubbed her "the abomination" (affectionately, of course).  She was 50 pounds at around 5 months.  She's got Lab or Weim or Mastiff, depending on th day.  But she's a good girl so we don't really care.  My guess is Mastiff based on her aloofness.  No one really calls her aloof but me because I know the breed and she isn't velcro like other pits I've had in the past.  She's never met a stranger, though, and if she meets you once, she spazzes out every time she sees you from then on (we're talking full on zoomies, she's so overjoyed at the sight of you).

So, there is AmStaff in there somewhere.  She's over 80 pounds so we know there are other breeds in there as well. 

This is Lily and her friend, Atlas (on the right).  Atlas was found in a park.  Our best guess on Atlas would be Staffie Bull.  She's short to the ground and 35 pounds of snuggle.  But looking at her face, there's something else in there. 
If Atlas came into the shelter, she would be labeled a Staffie Bull. 

If Lily came in, she'd be labeled an AmStaff.

They should be labeled as such because they are.  We don't want to hide behind "Lab Mix" labels if the breed is clear.

Once they have the label, their chances of ever making it out would be slim.  Even the people who love the breed and want to own one are usually limited.  If they don't have the income for private rentals or owning their own home, they are usually denied their favorite breed in housing.  Which is sad. 

Because of the prejudice, we cannot afford to label dogs with AmStaff or Staffie Bull or APBT or the general label "pit bull mix" if they are NOT.  I'm sure we're all in agreement on the above dogs. Clearly it's in there.

But what about this one?

The dog on the left is Lily's bestfriend and boyfriend, Bubba. 
Bubba came into the shelter and was labeled a "pit bull."  This is not an isolated case, I see it more often than I want to.  He doesn't even remotely resemble a "pit bull."  His owners had to fork over $30,000 in legal fees to clear him of that label and be able to keep him thanks to their Homeowners Association deciding to add an amendment to their by-laws six months after they moved in.

Bubba was lucky.  Other owners would have simply returned him to the shelter.  Where he would have been slapped with that label and likely would have died there.

It's a huge pet peeve of mine.  If you don't clearly see it, don't label it.  I laugh when certain people try to claim that we, as "experts", should be able to identify these dogs.

We can't.  Without a clear pedigree, it's difficult.

Dogs like Bubba, who DNA tested Border Collie and Greyhound (which fit perfectly with his size, speed and personality), are given a death sentence when they aren't even the breed that they are labeled as.  I write this post because I'm watching a clear Lab Mix without any pit in her dwindle down to her last few hours at the shelter.  She's not labeled a Lab.  She's labeled a "Pit Mix".  And she will die because of it.  She will die because she is being called something that she is NOT. 

I write this post because Meredith and I were just attending a meeting where we viewed a news video of a "Pit Mix" therapy dog - and promptly looked at each other to say "WHERE'S the pit???"  There wasn't any.  Shepherd, definitely.  Lab, maybe.  Pit, no way.

It's frustrating.

I have gotten many emails of owners wanting to share their wonderful "pit bull" with me.  Great with the kids, the neighborhood loves him/her, snuggles with the cats, a stellar example of the breed - and 8 out of 10 times, it's clearly got some form of "pit" in it.  But those other 2 times, it's clearly a Boxer, a Lab, an American Bulldog (no, they are NOT related even if you are desperately grasping at straws because you're phony "statistics" just aren't adding up to prove your "theory")...I have even opened pictures to find English Bulldogs staring out at me.  Quite entertaining, but not what their owners thought they were.

If we can't be sure, we shouldn't use the label.  Not right now.  Not when shelters are still killing.  Not when landlords are still under the false assumption that their insurance won't cover our dogs. 

Not when the dogs aren't. 

Only when they are.  When we are sure - when the personality fits, when the looks fit - then we label.  With Lily, it was clear.  With Atlas, it would be clear.

With Bubba?

NOT clear.

He could have paid the ultimate price.  Many dogs are.  Let's not add to the numbers unneccessarily.

What about you - are you sure about your dog's breed(s)?  Have you DNA tested?


  1. What a great post!! I wish I could save all the dogs labeled "pitmix". Our Betsy is a pit mix that someone dumped beside the road as a puppy last July. She was surviving on her own as feral dogs often do. It broke my heart so I took a kennel and my husband's pack of Boar's Head Ham to capture her. I led her with bits of ham into the kennel. Once half of her body was in the kennel I pushed her the rest of the way and slammed the door. My goal was to take her to a rescue group but everyone was filled to capacity. We kept her, worked through a few issues and learned that she is a lovely soul. We are fortunate to not live in a HOA.

    Your Lily is just beautiful!

    Nina, Myshka, Sasha, Betsy, Lucy, Phoebe and Lily

  2. Great post! I am horrible at identifying breeds.