Get our issue, highlights, free stuff and more.  

Orange County Animal Services says it will no longer label dogs by breed

February 5, 2014

Yesterday Orange County Animal Services announced that it will no longer be labeling the dogs that come into its facility according to breed. The decision comes after months of discussion about the shelter and its policies. Local animal advocates have been attending the shelter’s advisory board meetings to demand change and make recommendations about how the shelter might improve its relationship with the public and animal rescues, and ultimately, its adoption rates. Some say the shelter’s new policy gives dogs – particularly those mixed breeds who’ve been labeled pit bulls – a better chance at adoption. As experts point out, breed labels issued at shelters are often wildly inaccurate – guesses by staff who don’t really have anything to go on but the way a dog looks. As the CDC, the National Canine Research Council, the ASPCA and the HSUS have all pointed out, breed guessing is subjective and a breed label is not always the best indicator of a shelter dog’s personality or behavior.

Related: Advocates still calling for change at Orange County Animal Services

From Orange County Animal Services’ Facebook page:

The world today is a richly diverse mix of humanity, and our shelter pets are no less intricate and distinctive. Each animal is unique, brimming with its own personality, preferences, and potential.

Orange County Animal Services receives approximately 20,000 pets every year. In an effort to afford every four-legged friend the greatest opportunity to find a forever home, Orange County Animal Services will remove breed identification from kennel cards and on our website at

Our goal is to break down barriers associated with breed descriptions, leaving behind any division or stigma associated with breed classifications so that each pet can find a perfect match with a loving forever home. By allowing shelter pets to defy description, each pet can overcome any labels that might limit chances of adoption.

We hope this endeavor will boost adoption numbers for shelter pets. We want to be as effective as possible, and we welcome your feedback regarding this move.

Not to make fun of that bit about overcoming labels, but … oh, what the hell … dream big, dogs:

Thinking about adopting a dog? Check out this gallery of dogs currently available at Orange County Animal Services:

Tags: , , , , ,

  • 123tl78

    Awesome news.

  • Karen Batchelor

    Congratulations to Orange County Animal Services. Exit ignorance and discrimination, enter education and equity.

  • Cassandra

    It’s about time! Especially when you see news stories about a “pit bull” being shot by police and it turns out to be a rott!

  • Wade Ramm

    Excellent decision!!! Thank you!!!

  • Mata

    Thank you Orange County Animal Services!

  • Kathy Pobloskie

    Thank you Orange County Animal Services. I hope that many other shelters around America follow your lead. This is a simple change that has the potential to save a lot of lives.

  • Branwen

    I don’t think refusing to label pit bulls as pit bulls will have any impact on adoption rates. Over 60% of the dogs currently listed on the website are pit bulls and pit bull mixes. Several are listed as “aggressive toward other animals”, one is listed as “food aggressive”. Clearly, there is an issue with pit bull owners and breeders, who continue to produce dogs with dangerous temperaments, and abandon them in record numbers. Knowingly adopting out pit bulls with aggression issues won’t help the shelter’s reputation as a place to find a safe family pet. Laws regulating the breeding of pit bulls would solve the problem effectively, freeing up shelter space and resources that could be used to help more animals, and fund free spay/neuter campaigns.

  • 123tl78

    You have to start somewhere. All sorts of dogs are mislabeled because of the attitude that you have to label dogs something. The majority of dogs in the shelter system are a Heinz 57 of some kind of indiscriminate breeding. You can guess all you want but you are guessing unless you have papers saying the dog is a purebred dog. The only breed of dog that has pit bull in its name is the American Pit Bull Terrier. A purebred dog. Each town and shelter system has a different idea of what they consider to be a pit bull which doesn’t help the dogs at all and eventually the term gets overused and very confusing. The term pit bull has been overused for good and bad to either help these dogs or persecute them. The sooner we get away from labeling too many mixed breed dogs pit bull mix and something that is only guessed at, maybe the sooner the dogs will be looked at for their personalities instead of their label that was only a guess. Anyone who takes home a dog has to take time to get to know their dog. Unfair or inaccurate labels doom the dog before you even get a chance to know them. The key is how committed is that adopter to getting to know their new dog and doing right by them and being a responsible dog owner. These are dogs, like any other, with some type of block head with a mix of whatever in them, like any other mixed breed dog. They deserve a chance. The less the term pit bull is used inaccurately, the better. I am so thankful this shelter started the ball rolling for more fair treatment of dogs in general and away from the labeling trap.

  • Jaime

    I’m curious about what happens when someone who rents wants to adopt, and their landlord has breed restrictions. What does the shelter tell that person? What does that person tell their landlord? I understand the move and believe every dog should be treated as an individual, but at a certain point, I feel like someone is going to have to make an educated guess anyway…

  • 123tl78

    Maybe the whole system has to change. They are mixed breed dogs, a Heinz 57 and most have more than two breeds mixed in them. It will take time but unless it’s a purebred dog with papers confirming its a purebred why not just call them mixed breed dogs and by looking at the size of the dog you can decide whether you want a small, medium-sized or big dog because in the end it takes time to know that dog, whatever it is, and its personality to know exactly what it needs to be managed properly in your home.

  • Deb

    There are MANY other breeds, small designer breeds included, that are food aggressive, or do not like other dogs. It has nothing to do with breed.
    As humans, we don’t like everyone we meet, and we don’t love people to grab our food from us…..we still deserve a home and love.

  • Michelle Laprad

    Most rental places will accept “mixed breed” or “mutt.” They just don’t want anything labled according to their restrictions. Where I live they don’t accept “aggressive” breeds including pit bulls. When my dog was called a pit bull I dug up papers saying that she was a “bull dog mix” and they were fine with it.

  • grannie

    The bloodhound breed is known to be food aggressive. Our rescue is filled with aggressive bloodhounds. WE currently have an aggressive Golden Retriever, thanks to a crappy former owner.

  • Branwen

    Are you suggesting that a 6 pound chiweenie that “doesn’t like other dogs” poses the same risk as a 50 pound, muscular pit bull that is listed as “aggressive with other animals”? Dogs that “don’t like other dogs” may ignore them, may not want to play, or may even send a message by growling and posturing to make sure other dogs keep their distance. Dogs that are truly aggressive with other dogs may target them, attack without warning or provocation….even kill them.
    Clearly there are shelters with different philosophies about what makes a safe family pet….adopting out powerful, muscular pits and pit mixes who may try to attack other dogs in the neighborhood, or bite an owner who comes too close while they are eating, seems acceptable to this particular shelter. Refusing to label dogs by breed won’t make potential adopters adopt more pit bulls; and adopting out pit bulls with aggression problems certainly won’t help the breeds reputation.

  • SC-Austin

    I agree in that it may or may not impact the adoption rate — but let dogs be adopted or not based on the tested and observed behaviors and not due to some guessed-at breed label. A 50lb dog that has aggression issues is not the same as a 50lb dog that is super sweet and dog & human friendly. Label them both as “pit mixes” and the public often sees them the same. Take away the breed label, and the sweet dog has a better chance.

  • Lisa Prince Fishler


  • Firelei Perla

    I think it’s a step in the right direction. The “pit bull” label ruins the chance for great and loving dogs in need of homes and because of bad rap associated they miss the chance and even their lives. Good change.

  • Kaylee6

    Great work, OCAS!

  • Kaylee6

    A shelter where I used to volunteer, they didn’t put “pit bull” on anything–because most of what they got were mutts anyway, so there was no way to be 100% sure. Most of them were called “terrier mixes,” because they had a lot of the same features as other terriers.