Breed identification is always a crapshoot, especially when dealing with puppies. Readers might remember when we let ourselves get suckered into this situation back in January '07. The high school kid that found this pup did the right thing and, rather than try to sell or give it to his friends at school, he contacted his local humane society in Marin for help. They don't typically take pit bulls and were honest enough to tell him that his foundling was probably a goner in their org. So he googled up BR, and sent this photo with one hec of a heartfelt plea for help. Ack! --- How can you say no to those two faces? So the story of Tank, now Owen, began.
A reputable pit bull kennel took too-young Tank in to be mothered by her litter-experienced bitch and guessed that he was probably full-breed. We shrugged and just hoped that he would grow into a nice dog that sorta kinda looks and acts like a pit bull. After all, it's embarrassing to grow a non-pit when you specialize in pit bulls, but Heartbreak City if a pup doesn't mature with the right wiring to be a steady little ambassador.
So, 18 months later, the verdict is in: Tank-now-Owen grew into a wonderful dog as hoped. His body and personality turned out to be much more 'random yellow-dog mutt' than pit bull, tho.'
Owen lacks a certain something that we're used to seeing in pit bulls. He's just ... so different. But despite, he has a sweet & likable, if not somewhat dingy personality. His new person Debbie loves her handsome boy, but curiosity got the best of her and she submitted a blood sample for a Wisdom Panel DNA test to figure out what the hec she had. She shared the results in an email: "AmStaff and Golden Retriever are the more recognized breeds, and in the mix was Bloodhound (I can actually see that one in him), Weimaraner (yuck), King Charles Cavalier Spaniel, and Bedlington Terrier (ha!)" ...We're blaming Owen's dinginess on the Golden Retriever genes, btw.
The accuracy of these tests is suspect, however Tyson scored big and strong as a Staffordshire Bull Terrier, and we weren't at all surprised.
This strange sort of confusion has shelters talking. With so much cross-pollinating going on our streets, how do we know when a dog is really a pit bull? After reviewing several DNA test samples, the Animal Rescue League in Boston is ready to toss the whole breed ID mess out the window in exchange for more generic labeling. It's a fascinating puzzle and has the potential to throw a real wrench in evil BSL plans.
The results of the testing have been so startling that the Animal Rescue League is planning to stop making educated guesses about mixes and will instead label all mutts as American shelter dogs. The shelter the Massachusetts Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals runs at Angell Memorial Hospital is considering a similar change. Boston Globe Article
The American Shelter Dog label would certainly help dogs like this big BIG boy now at Oakland Animal Services (photo below). Named 'Oso' by whoever loved him then lost him, he's probably from the mutant wannabe pit bull lines now exploding in SoCA. We call his type the red-headed bastard stepchild of the rescue world: He's not enough AB or APBT to fit in full breed groups, but way too much beef for most all-breed groups. What do you do with a dog like this when he's not really anything but a cartoon character stereotype? His head size alone is enough to get his owner evicted. Even when we do take dogs that are less-than-pit bull - like Roller here - stigmas and BSL can still hurt them. Roller was returned to BR when his person was forced to return to Australia to tend to a dying relative. He's not nearly a pit bull to us, but just enough to outlaw him in so many places.
This is a rock and a hard place dilemma. All we have to go back on really when we stare at homeless dogs is temperament. When evaluating, we constantly ask ourselves: Does this dog demonstrate the qualities that are spelled out in the UKC/AKC/ADBA breed standards? Our yardstick might actually be longer than many show judges' because, while we don't mind a bad underbite or cowed hocks, our dogs have to be as smooth, solid and stable as the biggest star in Westminster. Maybe it's better to say that we aren't looking for classic pit bulls as much as we're looking for classic family dogs (which happen to look like pit bulls).
While Owen the golden/pit mix is not your typical pit bull gusher-type, he's a SuperStar in his own right and he just earned his Canine Good Citizen certificate. Congrats Debbie!