Portsmouth Humane Society will no longer categorize dogs by breed

An "American Shelter Dog" up for adoption at the Portsmouth Humane Society. The shelter has announced that it will no longer refer to dogs by their breed. Credit: WAVY/Erin Kelly

PORTSMOUTH, Va. (WAVY) — The Portsmouth Humane Society has announced it will no longer categorize dogs in its shelter by breed, but will refer to all dogs there as “American Shelter Dogs.”

“Breed labels, even when accurate, can be misleading since every dog is an individual. Even though PHS may not be able to say unequivocally what breeds our adoptable dogs are, we can tell you everything about their personality, commands they know, and whether or not they will be the best fit for you and your family,” PHS said in a release.

PHS said few dogs arrive at the shelter with information about their breed, and performing DNA tests on all of the animals is unaffordable for most shelters, leaving staff members to make their best guess.

External Affairs Director James McLaughlin said he is hoping the change will increase adoptions.

“When it comes to labeling the dogs, it can actually impact their adoptability, especially when you’re talking about a ‘bully breed’…A lot of people will look at a breed and label that dog as, ‘Oh it’s this, so it’s not going to be good with kids,’ or ‘It’s going to be good at this,’ and the reality is that these are dogs that have been mixed. They’re not purebred, and to judge them based on just a quick glimpse, we’re trying to get people to focus on the dog as an individual,” he said.

Ribbons on the kennels now read “I’m an individual.”

Ivy Tatum of Portsmouth said he adopted his dog Scooby from the Portsmouth Humane Society 13 years ago. He supported the change in policy.

“I think it’s great because most people go to a shelter looking for a companion, not for a particular breed, so they’re looking for someone to adopt to take home,” Tatum said.

McLaughlin said Portsmouth is the second shelter in the state to eliminate breed labels.


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