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Study shows shelter dogs with “black” or “Hispanic” names are less likely to be adopted

Nathan Winograd, described by The Bark as “The voice of America’s displaced pets and the conscience of the animal sheltering industry”, tells me in a newsletter via email that a couple of professors of race and gender identity claim that a study they conducted demonstrates that shelter dogs with “Hispanic” and “black” names “have a longer length of stay [and delayed adoption in shelters]. This translates to being subject to a higher likelihood of being euthanised at the shelter.

Naming a dog affects shelter adoption

Naming a dog affects shelter adoption. Photo: Pixabay.

And he also tells us that the study authors advise shelters to keep on giving dogs Hispanic and black names so as not to “accommodate those with racist inclinations”. And they advise this against the evidence that these dogs are more likely to die in shelters.

Winograd says that their proposal is unethical. He also says that the evidence from the study contradicts their claim of racism. And finally, Winograd believes that there is a pattern of behaviour from academics of “false and often predetermined conclusions” which threaten the progress towards better animal rights.

I have not seen the study and do not have any more information on this despite a search on the Internet. I find it interesting but not unsurprising. My immediate thought is that it is plausible that potential adopters will be less likely to adopt a dog with a Hispanic or black name. In the same way that potential adopters are less likely to adopt a black dog or cat. There is racism within the adoption process. And there is also speciesism which means favouring one species over another. That, too, is a form of racism.

At the moment, the only connection to the naming of a dog and racism that I can find concerns the claim of a cricketer who played for England, Azeem Rafiq. He said that Alex Hales named his dog after a racial slur. He named his dog ‘Kevin’ which apparently is a blanket term for all non-white people in the dressing room.

Update: I have just found the results of a mini-study by Alexandra Baeckler which was delivered at the California State Science Fair in 2017. She wanted to test the adaptability of animals based on their assigned name.

She said that names given to animals fall into one of five categories: food, human, characters, silly and negative connotation. She surveyed nine animals each with five name options. She eliminated the bias due to the appearance of the animal.

Her results indicated that food names are the best for animal adoption followed by human names. Silly names were the biggest put off. For example, 29% of the participants selected Hurricane as the name they were least likely to adopt while 47% said that they were least likely to adopt a dog with the name Fancypants.

Remarkably, she concluded that a dog with a human or food name was seven times more likely to be adopted. The conclusion is clear: the name of a rescue dog will have a big effect on their adoption prospects.

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