Why do pet owners relinquish their dogs and cats to shelters? The findings
are in from an intensive study to determine and quantify the reasons.
Conducted at 12 shelters, the study involved personal interviews of people
surrendering dogs and cats. The National Council on Pet Population Study and
Policy sponsored the study, through donations from several organizations.
Trained interviewers used a 66-item questionnaire that included questions
relating to the animal(s) relinquished as well as the relinquisher. During
the 12-month study period (March '95 to March '96), 3,414 people were
interviewed. They relinquished 2,096 dogs and 1,319 cats. Of those, 3,041
were individually relinquished, 280 were surrendered in litters, and 94 were
in litters relinquished with the bitches.
Seventy-one causes were given for relinquishment. They are being condensed
into 12 categories. Of those 71, the top 10 reasons given for relinquishment
of dogs and cats are as follows:
Requests for euthanasia because of illness (7.4%)
Found animal (of unknown origin) (6.6%)
Landlord will not allow pets (5.3%)
Owner has too many animals (4.8%)
Euthanasia because of animal's age (4.6%)
Cost of maintenance of pets (4.1%)
Animal is ill (4.1%)
Allergies within the family (3.98%)
House soiling (3.37%)
As a group, pet behavior problems accounted for the greatest reason for
relinquishment, representing 12 percent of the total.
Dr. M. D. Salman, scientific adviser for the NCPPSP, said, "These are the
first quantitative measurements of the causes of relinquishment. However, we
must be cautious in terms of what people claim as the cause of
relinquishment. This information is based only on their responses, without
any investigation to evaluate the reliability of their claims.
"An analysis is going on in which we will try to associate claimed causes of
relinquishment with the type of people and animals. We have the quantitative
measurements now, but we won't know their meaning until we start to link them
with the characteristics of the people and animals."
The 12 animal care and control agencies included in the study were located in
Sacramento County, California (three); Front Range, Colorado (three);
Knoxville, Tenn (two); Louisville, Ky (two); Bergen County, New Jersey (one);
and New York City (one).
The study data will continue to be analyzed, and then combined with
additional research being conducted by the NCPPSP. Upcoming reports will
include information on owner demographics, lifestyle issues, and previous
knowledge of pet care as associated with the relinquishment of animals at
shelters in the study.
The National Council on Pet Population Study and Policy is a coalition of 10
of America's foremost animal organizations concerned about unwanted pets. The
AVMA is a member. The coalition gathers and analyzes reliable data that
further characterize the number, origin, and disposition of dogs and cats. It
also promotes responsible stewardship of companion animals and recommends
programs to reduce the number of surplus/unwanted pets.
For more Info, go to: AVMA
What this really means....
Top Ten List of Shelter Excuses
By Gary Wilkes Copyright 2000 - All rights reserved
One of the peculiarities of the humane movement is that there are no
identifiable bad guys. We often talk about irresponsible breeders and
but there is almost never a name or face that we can connect with the
problem. One place where pet overpopulation is immediately personal is
receiving counter of an animal shelter. When a person takes in a dog or
there is no way to hide from the truth. The obvious solution to feeling
guilty about the fear that your pet will not be adopted is to fib about
true nature of the beast.
To really understand the dynamics of avoiding the truth while getting
your pet, try this "Top Ten List" Note: To sort out our list and to make
more readable, I have also included a pet lover's translation - Ready?
Name the top ten fibs people tell when surrendering their pet at an
10) We're moving.
9) He's perfectly house trained.
8) He's good around small children.
7) My child is allergic to him.
6) We can't afford to feed him.
5) I'm sure he'll be adopted.
4) He is already obedience trained.
3) He needs to live in the country.
2) He never barks or digs or eats the couch.
1) And the number one thing people say when surrendering an animal.
10) "We're moving." If they were really moving, they would take old
ancient refrigerators and thread bare sofas - if they are still
The difficulty of taking a pet with them is far less than that old Volks
Wagon that they intend to restore, sometime in the 21st Century. This is
open admission that the dog or cat has no real value in their life.
· 9) "He's perfectly house trained." This means that the pet is trained
do his business in the house - perfectly, every single time. You
really be surprised at this, as many of these people had trouble potty
training their children.
· 8) "He's good around small children." He is good around small children
they are hand cuffed, bound and gagged. The real problem is that their
are not good with dogs. Even the most patient canine will eventually get
tired of being slapped, pinched, jabbed and gouged.
· 7) "My child is allergic to him." My child is allergic to having an
uncontrolled dog nip him and jump all over the place.
· 6) "We can't afford to feed him." We can't afford to keep feeding him
best shoes, socks, curtains and television controllers.
· 5) "I'm sure he'll be adopted." I am sure some person out there would
to have an untrained, unhousebroken, destructive and potentially
animal - many polls indicate that a percentage of every population is
· 4) "He is already obedience trained." He is already trained to
race to the door in answer to the bell, jump on guests when the door is
opened, tug unmercifully on a leash and get into the garbage.
· 3) "He needs to live in the country." He needs to live in any country
other than this one.
· 2) "He never barks or digs or eats the couch." He never does these
if he has an opportunity to chase carts, jump on the kids, steal food
the table or bite the mailman.
It is commonly believed that people who surrender their animals should
confronted with the truth about their actions. While we would all enjoy
believing that scolding the people responsible for pet over population
teach them a lesson", that is rarely the result. In most cases it
person to lie -- in some cases it teaches them to dump their next batch
critters rather than returning to a place that will confront them with
truth. Until we can change the way people interact with their pets, they
continue to treat them as disposable items, rather than valued family
Oh, I almost forgot - the number one fib told as people surrender their
at animal shelters is.a drum roll please!!! ... 'I thought the breeder
the pup's mom was a "great Dame!"'