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Mixed and Fixed: Not Pathetic, Just Pre-Owned!

A shelter in Georgia reframes the notion of pets with papers

A mutt by any other name is not the same, at least not when he’s trying to make a strong first impression on potential adopters.

That’s what Helen Abercrombie discovered when she began assigning creative monikers to the mixed breeds entering her facility at Union County Animal Care and Control in Blairsville, Georgia.

It all started a few years ago when Abercrombie was inspired by a speaker at the No More Homeless Pets conference. Feeling burned out and discouraged by her job as the sole officer in Union County, Abercrombie listened intently as Mike Arms, executive director of the Helen Woodward Animal Center in California, described the common practice of begging people to take shelter animals by portraying them as sad, needy, rejected, and generally pathetic.

“It really got me thinking,” says Abercrombie, who has AKC-registered foxhounds and has long wished the kennel club would take a more active pro–animal welfare stance by aggressively discouraging breeding. Though she enjoys showing dogs, she is unhappy with the rule that they must remain unsterilized. People tend to regard mixed and fixed dogs as less valuable, she says—in part because of the AKC’s glorification of intact, “registered” purebreds. Abercrombie wanted to change society’s anti-mutt bias by changing the way shelter animals are typically presented to the public: hard-luck cases you have to pity to adopt.

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