BUFFALO, N.Y. -- Talk to someone who works at a dog rescue and chances are you'll hear about an unfair reputation that pit bulls and ertain other breeds have that makes them difficult to find homes for.
In fact, in Rochester stigmas associated with certain breeds are part of the reason adoption programs and animal shelters are dropping the labels.
For one, determining a dog's breed can be no easy task, something the people at the Erie County SPCA know well.
"We've got this girl marked down as a yellow lab, think Old Yeller," said Gina Browning, Chief Communications Officer of the SPCA of Erie County. "Oakley here is recorded and was signed in as a terrier mix."
According to Gina Browning, they lean heavily on information provided by the surrendering party as well as their own expertise when establishing breed. That lack of scientific data has been the reason for a push within the shelter industry to use DNA testing to do the job more accurately. It's something her organization has just started discussing, but it's not without drawbacks.
"They're very expensive,” Browning said. “Would we love the ability to run them on every single dog? Well, sure. We'd also love those tests to come back in 24 hours so we can get the dog up for adoption. Right now, it's unrealistic." They are, however, considering whether or not to drop the breed labels for the dogs they have up for adoption.
While the SPCA of Erie County is not considering DNA testing dogs due to cost and length of time to receive the tests back, dog owners can purchase DNA test kits from private testing companies on their own.
The SPCA has found homes for 2,235 surrendered dogs since March 6th of last year, but the average length of stay for those dogs at the shelter can vary greatly. Those classified as either pit bull of Staffordshire terriers stayed at the shelter an average of just over 10 days longer.
Emily and Matthew Hegel adopted Harley, a mixed breed, from the Buffalo Animal Shelter 2 years ago.
"I don't think it would have affected our decision because the minute we saw her we fell in love, but I think it's a good idea because you see a lot of people with stigma against dogs they view as pit bull type dogs and a lot of times they're not even pit bulls," said Emily.
Gina is also quick to remind people that breed is only one factor in how well a dog will fit into a new environment.
"A dog may maintain a completely different personality in a home environment regardless of what breed we say it is,” she says. “Regardless of what the DNA says it is."