Is that dog a pit bull? A cross-country comparison of perceptions of shelter workers regarding breed identification

J Appl Anim Welf Sci. 2014;17(4):322-39. doi: 10.1080/10888705.2014.895904. Epub 2014 Mar 27.


Bull breeds are commonly kept as companion animals, but the pit bull terrier is restricted by breed-specific legislation (BSL) in parts of the United States and throughout the United Kingdom. Shelter workers must decide which breed(s) a dog is. This decision may influence the dog's fate, particularly in places with BSL. In this study, shelter workers in the United States and United Kingdom were shown pictures of 20 dogs and were asked what breed each dog was, how they determined each dog's breed, whether each dog was a pit bull, and what they expected the fate of each dog to be. There was much variation in responses both between and within the United States and United Kingdom. UK participants frequently labeled dogs commonly considered by U.S. participants to be pit bulls as Staffordshire bull terriers. UK participants were more likely to say their shelters would euthanize dogs deemed to be pit bulls. Most participants noted using dogs' physical features to determine breed, and 41% affected by BSL indicated they would knowingly mislabel a dog of a restricted breed, presumably to increase the dog's adoption chances.

Keywords: animal shelter; breed identification; pit bull.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Animal Welfare / legislation & jurisprudence
  • Animal Welfare / statistics & numerical data*
  • Animals
  • Dogs*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Species Specificity
  • United Kingdom
  • United States
  • Young Adult