Top 10 Reasons People Relinguish Pets to Shelters

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%)

Moving (7.3%)
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 owners, 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 at the receiving counter of an animal shelter. When a person takes in a dog or cat, 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 the true nature of the beast.

To really understand the dynamics of avoiding the truth while getting rid of your pet, try this "Top Ten List" Note: To sort out our list and to make it more readable, I have also included a pet lover's translation - Ready?

Here goes!!

Name the top ten fibs people tell when surrendering their pet at an animal shelter.

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 stereos, ancient refrigerators and thread bare sofas - if they are still functional. 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 an 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 to do his business in the house - perfectly, every single time. You shouldn't 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 if they are hand cuffed, bound and gagged. The real problem is that their kids 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 our best shoes, socks, curtains and television controllers.

5) "I'm sure he'll be adopted." I am sure some person out there would love to have an untrained, unhousebroken, destructive and potentially dangerous animal - many polls indicate that a percentage of every population is insane.

4) "He is already obedience trained." He is already trained to obediently 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 things if he has an opportunity to chase carts, jump on the kids, steal food from the table or bite the mailman.

It is commonly believed that people who surrender their animals should be confronted with the truth about their actions. While we would all enjoy believing that scolding the people responsible for pet over population will " teach them a lesson", that is rarely the result. In most cases it teaches the person to lie -- in some cases it teaches them to dump their next batch of critters rather than returning to a place that will confront them with the truth. Until we can change the way people interact with their pets, they will continue to treat them as disposable items, rather than valued family members.

Oh, I almost forgot - the number one fib told as people surrender their pets at animal shelters is.a drum roll please!!! ... 'I thought the breeder said the pup's mom was a "great Dame!"'

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