Results from Research Conducted

Category: Psychology
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This paper explores three published studies that report on results from research conducted on pit bull type dogs’ social stigma and their relationship to the number of them being adopted or euthanized. The studies vary in responses from shelter employees, to “Pit Bull” adopters, to other breeds of dogs’ owners. The first study suggests that breed labeling may influence the dog’s fate, while the other studies suggest that stereotypes and a breed’s history affects its adoption rate. The goal of this literature review is to compare three categories of social stigma and their association with “Pit Bull” adoption.

It is estimated that there are 3-5 million Pit Bulls in U.S. shelters each year, and only one in 600 of those dogs will ever find a loving forever home. Several things are thought to be correlated with the number of Pit Bulls who actually make it out of the shelter. Some examples include, breed labeling, breed-specific legislations (BSL) which ban or restrict certain types of dogs based on their appearance because they are perceived as “dangerous” breeds, history of aggression, and the way people feel about this “breed” (authors of research + year). In the present paper, the role social stigma plays in Pit Bull adoption is investigated. It is hypothesized that Pit Bull type dogs will have the lowest adoption rate and higher euthanization rate than any other dog breed.

Breed Labeling

Shelter workers must decide which breed a dog is, which ultimately influences the dog’s fate. Past research had proposed that certain types of dogs take longer to be adopted from shelters, yet it was vague how much breed identification impacted adoption decisions. Since pit bull breeds are regularly negatively perceived, the authors of the following study wanted to investigate if the “Pit Bull” label affects adoption. In a research study by Hoffman, Harrison, Wolff, and Westgarth (2014), shelter workers were shown pictures of 20 dogs and posed inquiries about what breed each dog was, the means by which that was determined, whether each dog was a “Pit Bull”, and what they expected the fate of each of the dogs to be. The results showed that the participants frequently labeled dogs that were noticeably muscular, had a broad skull, and deep broad chest, to be Pit Bulls. Most participants mentioned using dogs’ physical highlights to decide breed, and 41% influenced by BSL showed they would deliberately mislabel a dog of a restricted breed, presumably to increase the dog’s adoption chances. The term “pit bull” is used to refer to four different dog breeds, which makes its definition relatively loose.

Although these breeds share many physical characteristics, they also differ on some characteristics, such as size, build and tail shape. Even though “Pit Bull’ is not a recognized breed but essentially a term used to depict a variety of mixed-breeds with similar characteristics, no other dogs have the misfortune of bearing their questionable history so obviously in their appearance than American Pit Bull terriers, American Staffordshire terriers, Staffordshire Bull terriers, and American bullies (Staff, 2016). At the point when an innocent dog comes to an animal shelter, it has roughly 72 hours for its proprietor to come claim it. The type of the breed will determine what occurs after those short 72 hours; they will either be put up for adoption or be euthanized. A few investigations estimate that up to 1 million pitbulls are euthanized every year in the U.S., which equals to about 2,800 pitbulls being put to sleep every day. This stigma from being called a “bully breed” has caused innocent pit bull looking dogs to be put down.


Because of their history, everyday “Pit Bulls” face judgment. Yet what individuals neglect to acknowledge is that the breed isn’t born aggressive and vicious, similarly as people are not born that way either. In a research done study by Duffy, Hsu, Serpell (2008), owners of more than 30 breeds of dogs were surveyed to evaluate the typical and ongoing reactions of dogs to a variety of common stimuli and circumstances. “A random sample of breed club members and an online sample yielded significant differences among breeds in aggression directed toward strangers, owners, and dogs. The results showed that breeds with the greatest percentage of dogs exhibiting serious aggression directed toward both humans and dogs included Chihuahuas, Dachshunds, and Jack Russell Terriers” (Duffy et al., 2008). About 20% of Akitas and Pit Bull Terriers were accounted as displaying serious hostility only toward specific targets (dog-directed aggression). “Pit Bulls” are no more dangerous than any other breed, but had a higher percentage of aggression towards unfamiliar animals because of their history in bull baiting, a blood sport in which a bull was attached to a post and canines were set upon the bull to immobilize it, and dogfighting. They were specifically trained to be dog-aggressive, not people-aggressive because if something were to go wrong during the fight, their owners would have to go in the ring and separate them without worrying about getting bitten or attacked. Be that as it may, if a potential adopter doesn’t know the differences in the types of animosity exhibited by “Pit Bulls” and just knows that these dogs have a high level of aggression, it simply will not adopt this breed.


In a research interview by Twining, Arluke, Patronek (2000), 28 of the most recent “Pit Bull” adopters were interviewed to explore how they encounter and handle breed stigma. The interview questions concentrated on participants’ past experiences with “Pit Bull” type dogs, their choice to adopt this breed, responses from strangers, family, and companions, and the manner in which this present breed’s stigma affected dog ownership. The outcomes showed that most of the respondents felt that these dogs were disparaged because of their breed. They made this conclusion since companions, family, and strangers were fearful within the sight of their dogs and because they made allegations about the breeds’ viciousness and unpredictability. Despite the fact that a couple of the owners spoke with disregard about the breed’s open notoriety, the majority of the interviewees expressed concern and anger about this stigma. Respondents admitted to using excusing tactics in order to get past the stigma. They passed their dogs as other breeds, exposed unfavorable media inclusion, and emphasized counter-cliché conduct. This breed’s negative image portrayed by the media has implications for individuals who own “Pit Bulls”. On the one hand, some people are attracted to the breed in the desire for using and perpetuating its vicious reputation as a status symbol for power and aggression in order to make themselves intimidating. On the other hand, others see characteristics in this breed that are no different than any other breed, and try to negate the negative image.

Conclusion and Future Study

When the vast majority hear “Pit Bull”, they immediately think of muscular, blood thirsty dogs that will attack anybody and everybody. Actual pit bull type dogs could not be more opposite than that. “Pit Bulls” are generally misconstrued in this day and age of media and biased opinions. They are affectionate and committed to their families, not the horrible beasts we hear about on the media once in a while. Due to this association, exploitation, and misperception, animal shelters across the United States have research that indicates that this breed of dogs stayed longer in shelters than others and that they are constantly being euthanized when they get turned in.

There have been numerous variables that contributed to the perception of “Pit Bulls” as a risk to society, such as misguided judgments that were not precise depictions of the distinguishing proof of the real issue. The first solution would be to remove labels, which seems to be a simple method to improve the experience of all dogs in animal shelters. Studies were amazed how similar looking dogs sometimes get labelled as “Pit Bull” and at different occasions as something totally different. These dogs may appear to look and act the same, however the “Pit Bull” label promises them to a longer shelter stay. Allocated breed labels can be incorrect, in view of sometimes deceiving appearances, and this exploration may indicate that dogs could be inadvertently penalized when labelled as a “Pit Bull”. The real issue is more complex, consisting of the general public not being properly educated on this topic. “As long as society continues to misrepresent ‘Pit Bulls’ or, more precisely, the variety of breeds associated with pit bulls, owners must take extra precautions and care to protect their pets and enhance the reputation of pit bulls” (Hurst, 2017). All of these results combined confirm the hypothesis that Pit Bull type dogs were the most common breed available in animal shelters and was hand-in-hand with the outcome rates of euthanasia and length of stay.

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Results From Research Conducted. (2020, Feb 11). Retrieved from

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