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According to a study published in PLOS ONE, animal shelter staff correctly identify a dog’s primary or secondary breed 67 percent of the time. When asked to identify more than one breed, their accuracy dropped to just 10 percent.
Breed identification at shelters is often made based on the dog’s visual appearance. It is not common for animal shelters to conduct genetic breed testing.
To conduct the study, DNA was collected from over 900 shelter dogs from the Arizona Animal Welfare League and Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals in Phoenix, Arizona, and the San Diego Humane Society and Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals in San Diego, California. The data was collected using the Wisdom Panel Canine Dog DNA Test, which can detect more than 250 breeds.
The study collected the largest sampling of shelter dogs’ breed identities thus far. The sample identified 125 dog breeds in total, with 91 breeds present at both shelters.
“The level of genetic diversity in the shelter dogs exceeded our expectations,” Lisa Gunter, the study’s lead author, says in a statement.
During their research, the scientists also found that dogs with Pit Bull-type ancestries at the San Diego shelter waited more than three times as long to be adopted than other dogs.
"Breed identification has quite an outsize role in people's perceptions of dogs," Clive Wynne, professor of psychology and head of the Canine Science Collaboratory, says in the press release. "'What breed is he?' is often the first question people ask about a dog, but the answer is often terribly inaccurate."
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