What breed is that?
Ohhhhh how I loathe that question most days! Is it a lab mix? A boxer mix? No, no, it’s definitely a pit bull. Wait, what is a pit bull? Isn’t a pit bull a made up breed? Ugh. So many unknowns.
A few years back, we coined our own term for our mixed breed masterpieces… The Eastie. What is an Eastie, you ask? An East St. Louis Mutt. A beautiful mixture of German Shepherd, Labrador, Pit Bull and maybe a little Chow for good measure. What does this look like? I’ll show you.
In the community we serve, dogs come from a long line of mutts. Prior to launching our spay & neuter efforts in 2012, many of our community’s pets were unaltered. This is what led to the large stray and feral dog population. An unneutered male can find a female in heat up to FIVE miles away. WHOA! CRAZY! In an urban environment, there are A LOT of dogs in a five mile radius. Big dogs, little dogs, pure bred dogs and A LOT of mixes all within a small community. Now, multiply that by females going into heat every six-eight months and producing 5-10 puppies each time. That’s a lot of dogs… a lot of mixed dogs.
Most of our community members obtained their pets from the neighborhood taking in strays, from friends, family and neighbors. They are doing the best they can to care for their pet that they may not have sought out to own. And for years, sterilization wasn’t accessible or affordable. (I’ll step down off my community support soap box for a sec.)
Back to Easties. Over 20+ years, Easties have been intricately bred to become some of the best family pets. Their mixed DNA has shown us how amazing a dog with a variety of qualities, is not only FREAKING ADORABLE but also loyal, sweet and snuggly. These are really the only qualities we need to be looking for in a dog, right? And making sure it’s a good fit for your family of course.
This is how everyone should compose their adoptable pet search. Find a companion based on the qualities/personality you are looking for and ensure that pet is a good fit for your lifestyle/family, NOT BY BREED. Let me say that again in case you missed it… DO NOT ADOPT OR BUY A DOG BASED ON HOW A DOG LOOKS. Every dog is unique and has a unique personality, like humans. When adding a family member to your home, you want to ensure everyone is happy… you, your children, your other pets and your new pet.
This brings me to my next point, pit bulls. God, I love me some blocky-headed, broad-shouldered, giant-jowled, slobbery, can’t-get-close-enough love muffins. The term LOVE may be an understatement, actually. Everything about them makes me happy. From their boundless energy, their tuck n run zoomies, their constant need to snuggle to their terrible gas, they are the bees knees. But what are they? To be honest, I don’t know. Soooooooo, that leads me to my next point. Do you know? Do state and local governments know? Do your neighbors know?
Not to toot my own horn, but if I don’t know, neither do any of these people/entities. So then why are we writing legislation banning a particular “breed” of dog that we don’t really know anything about. And also, how can you tell what “breed” a dog actually is? (Refer to the paragraph above about our community with HUNDREDS of breeds and the compounding of rampant breeding due to lack of spay/neuter resources.)
So, this brings me to my final point (you are probably sick of hearing me ramble on by now… get to the point, lady!), breed labeling for animal welfare professionals. This is a toughy. Every day it’s hard and it puts limitations on our adoptions. I consider Gateway Pet Guardians a progressive organization. We are small but extremely impactful because of how we position our goals. Over the past few years, we have seen a shift in animal welfare and as a country, we are finally seeing the numbers reflect this work.
Best Friends Animal Society is one of the main leaders that I, personally value and look up to. They do their research on where we are lacking as a society in regard to saving animal’s lives and how we can remedy it. Over my past nine years in the industry, I have seen improved relationships among animal welfare groups, increased focus on shelter intervention programs, affordable spay/neuter (obviously), more open adoption policies, necessary community work, increased social awareness regarding the homeless animal problem and increased resources to high-kill animal control facilities. These are all BIG game changers for our industry. Best Friends’ goal is to have a no-kill country by 2025! For more information on that, see a previous blog post.
You know what else would be an HUGE game changer? The removal of breed labels when listing rescued dogs for adoption! Unfortunately, there are many municipalities (and even states) that allow breed discriminatory language in their legislature. BOOOOOOOOOOO! This means when organizations like ours list our animals for adoption on adoption websites and speak to potential adopters, we have to give our best guess on what breed our mixed-breed beauties are. (Again, we have no geneticists on staff to work on that) Organizations like ours that have a lot of block-headed, broad-chested snuggle butts have to be VERY careful about where we are adopting our rescued pets. Thankfully, the City of Florissant, MO just repealed their breed specific legislation! However, locally there are still a lot more municipalities that we don’t feel comfortable adopting to. Why? Because in some areas, authorities will pick up your slobbery, giant-jowled family member and require you to get rid of them or even euthanize them based on how they look. And who says that just because the pup looks a certain way that is means that it received the personality characteristics of a certain breed (that’s not how genetics works.)
Well, we aren’t quite at a point where breed labeling is a thing of the past (though we are working on it) so we have to fight it. Every. Single. Day. We wanted to really show the community (and social media) that we truly aren’t experts on labeling breeds based on look. So, we thought we would ask YOU! Best Friends Animal Society has donated 30 DNA tests for us to test our adult dogs. But first, we will be asking you to weigh in on what you think the dog is mixed with. The top two “best guessers” will receive a DNA test for their personal pet!
When we rescue an adult dog, we will post their photo. If you choose to participate, you can choose four breeds per guess. You can only submit ONE guess per dog. We will be keeping track of your guesses via your Facebook name. If you are the winner at the end of the contest, we will notify you via Facebook messenger.
So, let the games begin! And remember, just because a dog looks a certain way, doesn’t mean it’s a particular breed!