Maybe it’s me. Burnout. Compassion Fatigue. Whatever you call it, I tend to see things differently than most. When most people find out that Google Photos users can now use Lens to identify the breed of a dog or cat and learn more about that breed just by snapping a photo, they celebrate innovation. When I see the same announcement, I imagine all the ways this news could have unintended consequences, particularly in the animal welfare industry, where doing away with breed labels is fast becoming a best practice.
The leaders in the business, from Maddie’s Fund to the National Canine Research Council to Merial, all agree that visual identification of breeds of dogs is poor at best. In a recent study of 5,922 dog experts, including breeders, trainers, groomers, veterinarians, shelter staff, rescuers, and others, respondents correctly identified a prominent breed an average of only 27% of the time.
According to the Abstract of the study, conducted by the University of Florida College of Veterinary Medicine’s Maddie’s Shelter Medicine Program, “Faulty breed identifications may have lasting consequences, especially in areas where certain breeds are regulated or prohibited. An alternative method for describing the appearance of dogs should be developed.”
If the experts can’t tell breed just by looking at a dog, how can a Google app? Think of the consequences. How will this play out in regard to pit bull bans? What about homeowner’s insurance? Will coverage availability now be determined by how Google Lens identifies your dog’s breed? Is this how breed identification will used in tracking dogs bites? Will the media now be able to better identify dogs involved in attacks on humans? Or will is be worse? What happens when a potential adopter bases their adoption decision on the behavioral traits Google assigns to a certain breed based on a photo rather than listening to a trained adoption counselor match a dog based on lifestyle? How many times will we be told that the breed on our kennel cards or online listings is wrong because Google Lens disagrees?
Yes, I know computers are faster than people and AI is the future, but apps are built by people. Google must have some amazing wizards on their team if they think this app is going to be accurate.
Read about the new Google Photos Lens update from Yahoo Finance.
Read the study done by Dr. Levy at the University of Florida on the UF website.