As you know (because we won’t stop talking about it), visually identifying a dog is not an accurate way of determining a dog’s breed. Not only that, people make assumptions about a dog based on the labels we give them. While breed traits do exist, they are only part of what makes up a whole dog.
We believe in giving people accurate information about the dogs in our care. That means we never want to guess on a dog’s breed. (Even shelter workers are often wrong when it comes to visual identification.) That’s why we pulled our dogs from Petfinder’s system last year. At that time, the company did not offer “unknown” or “mixed breed” as primary identifiers for dogs. Pulling our dogs from the site was a big decision, but one we felt we had to make.
We regularly reach out to software companies that serve the animal welfare community and ask them to add options that allow shelter staff to list their dogs based on factual information – that means adding “mixed breed” or “unknown breed” as primary identifiers. We aren’t the only organization doing this.
And guess what? Petfinder listened! They now offer “mixed breed” as a primary identifier!
(Well be 100% honest, everyone at AFF did a little dorky dance when we found out about this! We’re so thrilled)
We chatted with Jessica Hardecke, Manager of Social Media Issues at Nestlé Purina (Petfinder’s parent company). Here’s what she told us:
“This option was added in December 2016. As you probably know, Petfinder continues to offer general options such as Hound, Shepherd, etc. so that Petfinder members do not have to choose a specific breed when posting pets. The Mixed Breed designation was added at the request of some Petfinder members because some breeds cannot be determined, or for dogs who are best judged by their individual pet profile rather than a breed designation.”
Petfinder goes a step beyond offering a “mixed breed” option. They straightforwardly address the inaccuracy of visual identification with this text, which appears on the top of their breed list:
“Many of these pets are mixes. In these cases, the breed listed is the one that best matches their looks and personality. Also, some of the pets presumed to be mixes may be purebred.”
While Petfinder’s addition of a mixed breed identifier is thrilling news for the shelter and rescue community, the even bigger news is its potential impact on society at large. When you remove labels from a dog, and thus the assumptions that might go along with that label, you’re able to focus on the dog’s individual personality.
It means that people will make adoption choices based on a dog’s personality and not on a specific breed. That translates to people choosing the dog that will best fit their lifestyle – and of course, that equals happier families and happier dogs.
And who doesn’t want happier dogs?