Williamson County animal shelter sheds breed labels

The Williamson County Regional Animal Shelter is eliminating breed labels for its dogs. (KXAN Photo/Lauren Kravets)
The Williamson County Regional Animal Shelter is eliminating breed labels for its dogs. (KXAN Photo/Lauren Kravets)

GEORGETOWN, Texas (KXAN) — We’ve heard the phrase “Don’t judge a book by its cover,” now the Williamson County Regional Animal Shelter is saying “Don’t judge a dog by its coat.”

The shelter is no longer labeling shelter dogs with specific breeds, unless staff members are absolutely certain of the breed.

“We wanted to focus more on the personality of the dog, instead of what they look like,” said Joel Hess, kennel manager at WCRAS. “People will shy away from dogs because it has a specific breed label, it’s a German Shepherd, it’s an Akita, it’s a Pit Bull.” By focusing on personality, Hess says they can nix the stereotypes.

“Somebody might not even know what a pit bull is and they come in and see one and are thinking about adopting it, and they hear somebody else say, ‘I’ve had a pit bull,’ or ‘they bit my neighbor,’ or ‘they took them away,’ they’re just going to change their mind right away. If I had small children I probably would too quite honestly,” explains Jill Phinney, who is looking to adopt a dog from the shelter.

Phinney wants a small dog, but breed doesn’t matter. “I’d rather just take a dog and learn to deal with it and make it your own, because they’re all going to have their own little issues.”

By focusing on personality, the shelter can do a better job pairing up families with the right dog for them. “What activities are you going to do with the dog, what behaviors do you want, what are you going to use this dog for,” says Hess.

Staff at WCRA also don’t want to guess what kind of dog they’re sending to your home. The shelter points to a study by the Animal Farm Foundation, which showed staff members who assigned breeds to shelter dogs were wrong at least 75 percent of the time. The animal shelter is now calling their dogs “mixed breeds” if they aren’t certain of the breed. If a potential adopter wants the shelter to guess the breed, they will offer their unofficial opinion.

The shelter currently has 171 dogs in its care, compared to 163 dogs on this date last year. Shelter leaders say this is their slow time for adoptions.

In 2016, the shelter adopted out 2,297 dogs, a decrease from 2015 when 2,505 dogs found their adoptive homes. So far this year, the shelter has had 200 dog adoptions.

Also in 2016, 239 dogs were returned to the shelter within 30 days of adoption for different reasons including behavioral issues, a living situation changed, not all members of the family agreed to the adoption, or the dog was “too big.”

WCRAS will offer free adoptions on all adult dogs and cats from Friday through Sunday, Feb. 10-12. If you don’t want to wait until the weekend, current adoptions for adult dogs and cats are $14  through Feb. 14. Kittens and puppies are $75 to adopt.

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