Accuracy of Breed Identification in Shelter Dogs

October 5, 2016

Audience: Executive Leadership, Shelter/Rescue Staff & Volunteers, Veterinary Team

Organization: Berkeley Animal Care Services
Investigator(s): Anne Runkel, Amelia Funghi and April Stevenson
Grant Amount: $2,500
Project Type: Basic Research
Project Status: Research Complete

Project Summary

Berkeley Animal Care Services (BACS) assessed the accuracy of breed assignment by shelter staff and whether the display of DNA analysis on kennels impacted adoptability. The study found that displaying DNA results tended to improve a dog's adoption potential. Predominant breed assigned by shelter staff was often inaccurate, which is consistent with other studies, and did not increase a dog's adoption potential.

Objective(s)

To provide accurate breed identification of shelter animals; to educate shelter staff, volunteers and the general public about breed identification; to examine assumptions about adoptability of dogs based on appearances; and to promote the adoption of shelter dogs based on behavior and suitability for the home rather than appearance.

Methods

From June to September 2015, 46 dogs were assigned a breed by BACS staff. Samples were submitted for Wisdom Panel® DNA analysis. Shelter staff assessment was considered to match DNA analysis if one predominant breed was guessed correctly. For the second part of this study, two different surveys were administered to people visiting the shelter (e.g., potential adopters). Surveys contained the same pet photos and document format. One survey displayed dog pictures alongside the DNA and breed data. The second survey displayed dog pictures alongside the breed assigned by BACS shelter staff. In total, 212 people completed the DNA-based breed survey and 209 people completed the guess-based breed survey.

Results

Part 1: Breed Identification

  • 67% percent of dogs in this study were incorrectly identified by shelter staff; 33% of dogs were correctly identified.
  • Mixed breed dogs were more susceptible to inaccurate breed identification, as the predominant breed was identified only 16% of the time. Eighty percent of the dogs in this study were mixed breed dogs.

Part 2: Potential Adopter Perception Survey

  • Visitors to BACS reported being above average in their knowledge of dog breeds, and felt that breed influences behavior.
  • The top 5 preferred dog breeds (those thought to make very good pets) were: Labrador Retriever, Golden Retriever, German Shepherd Dog, American Staffordshire Terrier/American Pit Bull Terrier and Rottweiler, respectively.
  • There was a trend toward DNA testing improving adoptability (DNA analysis mean 3.85; Breed guess mean 3.65).
    - Adoptability was significantly increased in 23% (5/22) of dogs in the survey.
    - Adoptability was significantly decreased in 5% of the dogs (1/22) in the survey.

Conclusions

DNA analysis trended toward improving a dog's adoption potential. Predominant breed assigned by shelter staff was often inaccurate, which is consistent with other studies, and did not increase a dog's adoption potential. BACS recommends providing information about dogs' behavioral characteristics instead of continuing to utilize inaccurate guesses about breed.

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