To best understand this article in the context of the visual breed identification literature, please see National Canine Research Council's complete analysis here.
Hoffman, C. L., Harrison, N., Wolff, L., & Westgarth, C. (2014). Is that dog a pit bull? A cross-country comparison of perceptions of shelter workers regarding breed identification. Journal of Applied Animal Welfare Science: JAAWS, 17(4), 322-339. doi:10.1080/10888705.2014.895904
National Canine Research Council Summary and Analysis:
This is an inter-observer reliability study, the primary goal of which was to determine the level of agreement between shelter workers in the U.S. and the U.K. regarding dogs they labeled “pit bulls.” There was no attempt to establish validity (e.g., by comparison with DNA results). The majority (>50%) of U.S. and U.K. participants agreed on primary breed for only 10 of the 20 dogs. A majority of U.S. participants identified 7 of the 20 dogs as “pit bulls” but for UK respondents only 1 of the 20 was thought to be a “pit bull.” This difference in breed identification between participants is indicative of the invalidity of visual breed identification, particularly because the participants perform this task as part of their job.
Hoffman, Harrison, Wolff, and Westgarth (2014) first note that there are discrepancies in what constitutes a “pit bull,” and suggest that how a particular locale defines “pit bull” will influence how dogs are identified by shelter and/or rescue workers, which may in turn affect their probability of being made available for adoption.
Participants were 470 shelter and adoption agency staff and volunteers (416 from the U.S., 54 from the U.K.) who indicated that their role involved assigning breed to dogs based on visual identification. Participants completed a breed identification survey online in which they viewed 20 dogs and wrote in what breed they would assign to each dog, whether they consider the dog to be a “pit bull,” and what would be done with each dog at the shelter for which they worked.
This study also showed that there are discrepancies regarding which breeds are considered to be “pit bulls.” Since there is no generally agreed upon definition of the term “pit bull,” participants were given a list of 10 breed names that the authors considered to be “bull breeds” and were asked to indicate whether each breed was an alternative name for a “pit bull,” U.S. participants were significantly more likely to classify six of the ten breeds (American bulldog, American Staffordshire terrier, English bull terrier, miniature bull terrier, Presa Canario, and Staffordshire bull terrier) as “pit bulls” than were their U.K. counterparts. There was not strong agreement between or within the shelter workers in two countries in terms of breed identification, particularly with respect to “pit bulls.”
Though these data are specific to the “pit bull” population, they are in line with other reports that demonstrate inconsistency and unreliability of visual breed identification. Since “pit bulls” are often the target of Breed-Specific Legislation, the specificity of the data should not be discounted. In conjunction with the related reports by Voith, et al. (2009; 2013), the evidence is damning and highly supports Simpson, et al.’s (2012) plea for a change in protocol.
Link to Full Text of the Original Artcile: