What’s been happening with pit-types and Chihuahuas in shelters over the past year? Dr. Emily Weiss shares the ASPCA’s latest data.
About a year ago we took a look at the data in our shelter stats database (CARDS – Comprehensive Animal Risk Database System) regarding dogs commonly labeled as “pit-type” dogs in shelters, and found some really interesting stuff. You can take a peek at what we found here.
I thought it might be time to take another peek – but this time look to see if there may be change over time from a data set of the full calendar year 2013 vs. 2014. As dogs who have the basic physical appearance of a pit-type dog continue to gain in popularity, what do we see reflected in the shelter data? We wanted to know…
First – a bit about the data set. There are 45 shelters represented – most of which we are partnering or working intensively with in a way that requires individual animal data collection. 24 are municipal facilities, and the rest are nonprofit shelters. This sample is just that – a sample, not necessarily a national representation. However, it does include data from all four United States quadrants.
We focused on the top five breeds for each of the indicators – Intake, Return to Owner, Adoption and Euthanasia. I want to point out that we fully recognize that the breed-mix identification is a wishy washy affair – but that this is how the dogs were represented in the system. Many of these dogs were likely mixes, and the data set was pulled by “primary breed.” Under the category of “pit-type,” we included the breeds commonly put in a pit bull-type bucket – American Staffordshire, American Pit Bull Terrier, Staffordshire Terrier, pit bull, etc. It is likely that some of the general “terrier” category also includes some pit-type dogs, but we kept that category separate as terrier, since the variety is wide depending upon shelter location.
So, starting with good news… There were fewer pit-type dogs entering these shelters in 2014 compared to 2013 – and in fact, intake was down for all of the top 5 breeds.
And how about some knock-it-out-of-the-park news? Pit-type dogs were adopted more than almost all other categories (other than Chihuahuas)! Yes – the second most popular dog adopted in this sample were pit-type dogs. This is an increase over 2013, when they ranked number 3. Their adoption rate also increased! The myth that no one wants a pit-type dog is simply that. Plenty want them – they are growing quickly in percentages of the dog types seen in veterinary clinics, and registrations of purebreeds are climbing, in addition to more adoptions.
When it comes to intake and euthanasia, it is still the pits for those bully breeds – ranking number one for both categories. However, both intake and euthanasia were down compared to 2013. In fact, euthanasia of pit types dipped below 50%. While there is still a long way to go, risk is decreasing.
Chewing on the Chihuahua data, we see a bit of a different trend in outcomes. While Chihuahuas are ranked number two for intake, they have a 48% adoption rate and much lower euthanasia rate of 15%. There are obvious differences between Chis and pit-type dogs – size being one obvious one. But less obvious, Chihuahuas are very prevalent in some parts of the country and more rare in other parts of the country, while pit-type dogs seem to be well represented in shelters in almost all parts of the country. Both size and prevalence impact transport and relocation options when there are simply too many to choose from in one location. Relocating an under-represented breed can result in quick live releases for those pups (where they may have languished or been euthanized if they remained at the shelter where there were just too many), but there are not many locations that do not already have a good number of pit-type dogs of their own.
Of course we know it is not just size and national representation in shelters that impact pit-type dogs. Breed-specific legislation and housing restrictions play a very strong role, and one we continue to work to eliminate. Another strong driver that is under your control are the restrictions animal welfare organizations put on the adoption of dogs in the bully category. Landlord checks, home inspections, mandatory family introductions, mandatory age restrictions, mandatory dog-to-dog introductions… are all not uncommon requirements for those wanting to adopt a pit-type dog. While the individual dog, no matter what his breed mix, may need special support, most just need to get the heck home.
With plenty wanting them, and many sources for puppies and dogs within most communities, what about adoption in the locations where the highest intake is coming from? You may saturate the area with vaccinated, spayed or neutered dogs and open the door to safety net programs to help both save the dogs in the shelter and decrease the intact population in homes.
Things are sure trending in the right direction. Let’s take this one all the way and get – and keep – these puppies home where they belong!
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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