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Orange County Animal Services Throws In The Towel on Breed Identification

mislabelled dogs at OCAS
mislabelled dogs at OCAS

For months a few people, including myself, have been trying to find out why Orange County Animal Services is so hideously bad at breed identification when they post animals on their OCNetpets site. I asked Dr. George Ralls, Orange County Health Services Director and the man who has been charged with leading the "changes" citizens have been asking for at OCAS, a number of questions regarding breed identification training and the OCNetpets site.

Question - Who is authorized and trained to enter the breed/age/sex of each animal into the netpets page? Answer - Currently our Animal Control Officers are responsible for the initial breed designation, estimated age and sex.

Question - What is their training? Answer - Breed identification is covered as part of their initial certification training (40 hour course) approved by the Florida Animal Control Association. Breed identification is also part of a 12 week in house training program and is further addressed through ongoing training within the division.

Since OCAS is expecting an additional $350,000 in their budget for this year (2014) they are planning on hiring additional staff. Dr. Ralls went on to say,

We expect this process will be enhanced by implementing a formal Intake Team, which is part of our Action Plan for this fiscal year. Additionally, there is rumor that the net generation of Chameleon (the way animals are posted by OCAS onto OCNetpets) will have a breed designation tool that may add further objectivity to the process.

Well, that's all well and good. But just yesterday, OCAS, in our continuing struggle with them to get them to actually do their jobs correctly, with compassion (which is always lacking....) has posted their latest and most ridiculous press announcement:

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
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.

Really? Read that again.... "will remove breed id from kennel cards and on our website".

This is the answer - don't identify a dog's breed? So tell me, when an adopter picks out a dog and the landlord says hey, that's a pitbull or a chow or a dobie etc etc you can't have it here, what will the adopter do? Send out for one of those bogus DNA tests? Get a letter from a veterinarian? Play stupid? No, they'll put the dog on CL, or drop it in the street, or send out one of those pleas I get every single day "oh, my landlord won't let me keep the dog", or they'll bring it right back to OCAS, where, since it's an owner-turn in now, it can be PTS in 3 days instead of 5.

This is a joke. The only people it benefits are the OCAS staff who now have one less job responsibility. They're tired of being blamed for their own mistakes, well... gosh darn it, now they can't be blamed! It'll be the adopter's fault for picking out the animal. Ignorance is bliss, ain't it??

And what about breed specific rescues? How are they going to tell from some of those horrible intake photos if the dog is one of theirs? Now, the Pawsitive photography people do an excellent job, but some dogs are just not lucky enough to get a glamour shot. So the dog/cat will sit, without a name, without a breed, without a chance. There isn't a single other shelter in the country that has fallen to the depths of this stupidity. Except OCAS. It no longer actually services animals. It's now just a warehouse, where the four footed inmates will get a number and a cage.

Yes, there are shelters that do try to get around those damning breed id's. They are kind enough to label their dogs lab mixes, boxer mixes, shepherd mixes. And it does work. But this? This is a farce. Will I be bold enough to name names behind this course of action? Why not? Jennifer Bark, administrator of the Facebook page Advocates for Reform of OCAS thinks it's a "brilliant move...but (she) doesn't know how it will work for apartment complexes". Um, it WON'T. And Drew Paul, who has been "working (tirelessly) on this for 150 days" believes that "if DNA cannot conclusively produce results, OCAS and subjective human judgment cannot either." So Mr. Paul, that means that every shelter worker in every shelter across the country is as bad at breed identification as workers as OCAS? I think they'll have a bone to pick with you.

Yes, I was a contributing member of that FB group. Posted updates, created petitions which many of you signed and I thank you for it. Spoke out at Commission meetings to the Mayor and Commission members. Was actually a founding member of the small group who were trying to change things at OCAS. But this turn of events frankly turns my stomach.

Above are a few examples of the atrocious breed/sex/age identifications by OCAS I've collected.

This is Lexi: Animal ID: A283105 I am an approximately 1 year old white and brown female Aust Shepherd-Labrador Retr. I am friendly and I tested heartworm Positive. I weigh approximately 38 pounds.

Here is a photo of what an Aust. Shep looks like. See any resemblance? Ok, they're both brown and white.

This is Loner, Animal ID A276330, a 4 year old black and brown female German Shep-Chow. I weigh 12 lbs. Loner was brought in with his properly identified 4 month old littermate. But neither of them were GSD-Chow mixes. How about Rottie puppies?

Meet Carlisle. He's a 2 year old male Labrador Chihuahua. Yes. Try to imagine that one.

And finally, there's Africa. A 4 month old brindle pittie mix. She's a really really big 4 month old girl because they have her at a WHOPPING 42 lbs. She's very mature for her age - you can see her nipples where she was nursing puppies recently. It took them 25 days to correct that error, after repeated requests.

I can tell you the story about the rescue that came to pick up a young "verified pregnant" small dog, and ended up with a spayed senior. Their choice? No, that's how the staff at OCAS identified this particular dog. On OCNetpets. Needless to say, that rescue no longer pulls from OCAS - they were just infuriated by their constant errors.

So who really will benefit from this change? Not the animals. Not the rescues. Not the public. Just the OCAS staff, who are laughing all the way to the breakroom. So it appears that the people on the FB Advocates page have an unusual agenda. And if you really want to become part of the no-kill nation, this is not the way to start.

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