Author David McCandless might not realize it, but a graphic excerpted from his book Knowledge Is Beautiful: Impossible Ideas, Invisible Patterns, Hidden Connections–Visualized, is making waves amongst animal lovers … and not in a good way. The aim of this book is to collect the thousands of bits and pieces of data that we, as human beings, are bombarded with everyday and to display this information in a way that not only “makes sense” but moreover is visually beautiful.

Included in the book is a ranking of dog breeds that is meant to guide readers as to which is “the best in show.” Taking into account rankings of the dog breed’s intelligence, longevity, ailments and cost, the data visualization displays different breeds on a scale of “rightly ignored” to “overlooked treasures” balanced out by their popularity. Now, while the intentions of the visualization may have nothing to do with swaying people towards the specific breed of dog they should be adopting, we can’t help but to see this graphic as an incredibly harmful tool.


Excerpted from Knowledge Is Beautiful: Impossible Ideas, Invisible Patterns, Hidden Connections—Visualized by David McCandless


There are around 70 million homeless animals in the United States and of these animals only a fraction find their way into a shelter or rescue. Of the animals that are taken in by an organization, even fewer are adopted into a forever home. The stark reality is that 5,500 shelter dogs are euthanized every day because they have not been adopted. These are healthy, perfectly adoptable dogs that are killed because no one came forward to save them.

That being said, rescue dogs are already at a disadvantage because many people believe in false stigmas about rescue pets and opt to purchase a pure-bred dog from a breeder (we’re not even going to get into the issue of puppy mills here). Stereotypes against rescue dogs writ-large paired with breed-specific prejudices are real life death sentences for thousands of dogs. Just take the Pit Bull for example: of all dogs that enter the shelter system they have a 93 percent euthanasia rate. Given the reputation that Pit Bulls wrongly receive for being vicious, is it any wonder they have a harder time getting adopted?


The problem with this visualization is that it does not take into the account the plight facing rescue dogs. Regardless of breed, these dogs are marginalized and as the result euthanized because of the preconceived notions we carry about them. So, while this chart might encourage you to ignore one breed and adopt another, we sincerely hope that as an animal lover you will look past this “data” and consider the ethical implications of selecting a dog based on dry statistical analysis. As far as we’re concerned the only statistic you should consider is that 5,500 dogs are euthanized a day because they are not adopted. By making the compassionate choice to save one of these dogs, regardless of their “breed ranking” you are helping to lower that statistic. What more information do really need to adopt a dog other than the fact that in doing so, you’ve saved their lives?

Lead image source: BorhanLee/Wikimedia Commons