Dogs Get Adopted Faster When Shelters Don’t ID Breeds, Study Finds


When a New York shelter removed breed labels from dogs’ adoption cards, it helped dogs of all breeds find new homes more quickly, a new study found. The authors suggest that other shelters would do well to follow suit.

Nicole Passmore Cohen, a Hunter College master’s degree alumna, Professor Martin Chodorow of Hunter College and The Graduate Center, and Sarah-Elizabeth Byosiere, director of the Thinking Dog Center at Hunter, were authors on the study, published in PLOS One.

When staff members at animal shelters write down a dog’s breed, they’re often just making an educated guess, the authors say. Unfortunately, these guesses can be inconsistent and inaccurate, and this has consequences. Dog breeds that carry stigma, such as pit bull-type breeds, spend more time in shelters, and would-be pet owners can have a hard time adopting because of bans on some breeds by landlords and public housing rules. Even some home insurance policies ask about dog breeds and charge more for certain types.

Bideawee, which has shelter locations on Long Island and in Manhattan, phased out the use of breed labels between December 2017 and January 2018. The new study compared two 16-month periods—one when labels were still in use and one after they were removed. The median length of stay for dogs of all breeds decreased by 11.3 days, and the average length of stay decreased by 8.3 days when labels were discontinued.

Interestingly, the rate of people returning dogs they had adopted stayed the same. While a dog’s breed appears to be an important piece of information that helps adopters make their decisions, once they take a dog home, other factors likely influence whether things work out.

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Work By

Nicole Passmore Cohen (Master's alumna, Psychology) | Profile 1
Sarah Elizabeth Byosiere (Director, Thinking Dog Center, Animal Behavior) | Profile 1
Martin Chodorow (Professor, Psychology) | Profile 1 | Profile 2