This past week the Journal of Applied Animal Welfare Science (JAAWS) published a timely piece of research titled “Effects of Phenotypic Characteristics on the Length of Stay of Dogs at Two No Kill Animal Shelters.” The research focused on the influence of age, sex, size, breed group and coat color on the length of stay (LOS) until adoption of dogs at two facilities in New York State (Tompkins County SPCA and Humane Society of Yates County).
I was so excited to see this piece of research and even more excited that the article is available as a free download for this quarter of the journal publication – meaning you have direct free access to it.
As I have been recently blogging on other research that puts a bit of doubt into the idea of Black Dog Syndrome, I was really excited to dig into this piece of research. While I have recently become the co-editor of JAAWS, I was not involved in the editorial process with this manuscript, so it was a great, late holiday gift for me when I opened my email update for the journal.
As you may know, I was a bit shocked at the level of energy and interest around my suggestion that maybe Black Dog Syndrome is a myth – so I read this most recent publication with great interest.
I suspect you may be reading with bated breath to hear what they found with this study, which included 1,266 dogs. They found some interesting effects due to size – with extra small dogs remaining in the shelter for the least amount of time. More interesting is that the size of dog with the longest LOS was not the large or extra large dogs – but instead the medium-sized dogs!
The study also found an effect with age. For adult dogs, LOS increased approximately one day per year of age… statistically, and more importantly welfare-wise, a significant increase in LOS!
In this study, coat color did not have an influence on LOS. This is an exciting piece of information to add to our conversation around Black Dog Syndrome. Color was not a driver for LOS in this study – period.
What we see anecdotally and what proves out through our data may be different – and what we see in the data may be different community to community and shelter to shelter. Step one – collect and analyze the data– and then watch for the interpretation! Correlation does not mean causation. If you find that at your shelter black dogs are more likely to stay at your facility longer, is that because they are less desirable to the public or because they are the dogs somehow more likely chosen as non-adoption candidates by staff? Is it that the majority of black dogs have been defined as “pit mix” by the adoption staff, and adoption and behavior criteria are different for dogs coded as such?
The recent research I have highlighted over the past few weeks certainly makes the “fact” of Black Dog Syndrome less of a fact. I encourage you to read the research yourself and share your thoughts here!
ASPCA Vice President, Equine Welfare
Dr. Emily Weiss, PhD, CAAB, oversees strategic direction of the ASPCA Equine Welfare program, a part of the ASPCA's Anti-Cruelty Group. Weiss is a lifelong horse owner and trainer and has conducted research regarding adoption and rehoming of horses. Recently, she began leading the ASPCA's collaboration with The Right Horse Initiative, a collective of industry professionals and equine welfare advocates working to improve the lives of horses in transition by increasing training opportunities for horses and promoting adoption. Weiss leads efforts such as a pilot program with veterinarians and global animal health company Zoetis to provide access to vital veterinary care and increase the likelihood horses can remain in their homes. She also served as the ASPCA’s VP of Research & Development, overseeing research related to the animal sheltering field and developing assessment tools for shelter animals, including the SAFER assessment and Meet Your Match Canine-ality, Puppy-ality and Feline-ality. Before that she created training programs to improve husbandry and decrease stress for many zoo animals. Weiss is co-editor of the Journal of Applied Animal Welfare Science and has published and lectured extensively in the field of applied animal behavior.
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