Mutts vs. Purebreds: Surprising Results of a New Shelter Dog Survey


The National Animal Interest Alliance (NAIA) Shelter Project recently released the results of their study of the types of dogs in the U.S. animal shelter population. The aim of the study was to determine the actual number of purebred dogs in animal shelters. The findings are both interesting and a little surprising.


The percentage of purebred dogs in shelters is commonly reported to be around 25%, a number that shelter professionals with firsthand experience think is very high. The NAIA believes that an accurate accounting of the number of purebred dogs in shelters is important to understand the scope of the problem, and also to give potential adopters realistic information about finding a purebred dog at their local animal shelter.


Past studies of the number of purebred dogs in shelters were often based on incorrect assessments by shelter workers who were not breed experts, i.e. “This dog looks like a Collie.” Another problem with previous studies was in counting the number of purebred shelter admissions vs. the actual purebred shelter population. This is important because purebreds tend to have very short stays in shelters (quick adoptions, reclaimed by owners, or removed by breed rescue groups).


The new NAIA study took special care to make sure that purebred admissions as well as populations over time were studied. The researchers also made sure to examine the dogs labeled as purebred or purebred mixes for accuracy. They found that, in many cases, breeds were completely misidentified or mixed-breed dogs were labeled as purebred.


The results of the NAIA study show that the actual percentage of purebred dogs in shelters is 5.04%, a number much closer to shelter staff estimates than the 25% often cited in the media. Interestingly, the number of purebred dogs in shelters would be closer to 3.3%, except for the overrepresentation of two breeds: Chihuahuas and Pit Bulls. These 2 breeds make up 35% of the purebred shelter population.


While the general public is aware that Pit Bulls are overrepresented in shelters, they may be surprised to find out that Chihuahuas are in fact the most numerous purebred dog in U.S. shelters. Because Chihuahuas are very desirable to adopters, their numbers are particularly high in shelters that import adoptable dogs.


You can learn more about the NAIA survey HERE.



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  • Aaron Seminoff
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