Why 10% of Pet Adoptions Fail Quickly

Owners most concerned with commitment, health and behavior issues are less likely to keep an animal.

By | Posted: May 13, 2013, 11 a.m. EDT

dog in shelterNewly released research from the American Humane Society reveals a dirty secret about pet adoptions: One in every 10 dogs and cats is returned to a shelter, given away, lost or dead within six months.

The Animal Welfare Research Institute, an arm of the American Humane Association, released the results of the second part of the "Keeping Pets (Dogs and Cats) in Homes Retention Study” on Wednesday to coincide with Be Kind to Animals Week.

Sixty out of 572 pet adopters surveyed, or 10.5 percent, reported a failed adoption. Why?

People who cited commitment, health and behavior as "always” important issues in an adoption were less likely to keep a pet, compared to those who thought the issues were "somewhat” or "never” key in their decision-making.

Behavioral issues mentioned in the study included unfriendliness to people and other animals, not being housebroken, disobedience, destructive, attention-seeking, barking and hyperactivity.   

The 10 percent failure rate could represent several hundred thousand dogs and cats a year, according to the Washington, D.C.-based advocacy group.

"This study explores … the reasons so many pets are leaving their homes and the pressing need to create strategies to help Americans retain their new family members,” says Patricia Olson, DVM, chief veterinary adviser for the American Humane Association and head of its Animal Welfare Research Institute.

During the course of their data collection, researchers uncovered other facts about pet adoption:

  • College graduates are more likely to retain adopted pets.
  • Pet adoptions fail at a higher rate in small towns.
  • Pets that sleep in their owners’ beds stand a better chance of becoming permanent family members.
  • No difference in adoption success was seen between first-time pet owners and previous owners.
  • Adoptions of dogs and cats that visited a veterinarian were more likely to stick.
  • A pet’s gender, the type of shelter involved and the state of residence had little to do with whether an adoption became permanent.
  • Whether someone researched a pet adoption or made a rash decision made no difference in the retention rate.

The study was underwritten by a grant from Phoenix-based Petsmart Charities Inc. and may be read at americanhumane.org/petsmart.

The Animal Welfare Research Institute plans to release details about retention strategies, the final installment of the study, later this year.



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Sharon   Indianapolis, Indiana

5/16/2013 3:24:04 PM

The dog I adopted had many issues that we worked through. If someone else had adopted him, I'm sure that he would have been returned several times. If someone has any doubts, they shouldn't adopt a pet.

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Melian and Tiny   Etna, CA

5/13/2013 11:37:58 PM

Well, this results make sense. It all depends on the type of people who adopt! I bet most people who work in shelters can predict the likelihood of an adoption working.

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Paige   Chicago, Illinois

5/13/2013 5:16:02 PM

The first sentence of this article is wrong. It says "American Humane Society." This research is from the American Humane Association.

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