Too Many Dogs & Cats Are Surrendered to Shelters

April 23, 2014

In a study conducted by the National Council on Pet Population, a total of 3,772 pet owners in 6 states who had surrendered a total of 3, 676 dogs and puppies and 1408 cats and kittens to shelters were surveyed to determine the most common reasons for pet surrender. During the course of this study, the Council learned that most of those pets were adult animals whose chances of adoption from shelters were not good. The most common reasons participants in the study gave for giving up their pets were:

*Behavior problems.  Aggression to humans or to other animals; house soiling; destructive of house interiors; too needy; jumps on people; chases cars.

*Requests for euthanasia.   Illness; old age.

*Animal health.  Illness; too expensive to treat.

*Animal characteristics.  Sheds; wrong species; too young; wrong sex; too big; too small;

*Human housing issues.  Moving; landlord issues; inadequate fencing.

*Household animal over-population.  Couldn’t find homes for litter; animal is pregnant.

*Owner lifestyle.  Allergies; new baby; divorce; not enough time for pet; owner died.

*Owner unprepared.  Costs too much; unreasonable expectations; litterbox odor; too much trouble.

People adopt or purchase pets without knowing what to expect.  They unrealistic expectations about the cuddly bundle of fur they take home, and most of these pets are relinquished  during their first year with the owner. Educating potential pet owners before they take their pet home would go a long way in preventing these surrenders.  Ideally, shelters could educate adopters about pet behavior, needs, training, and health care costs before the pet is adopted.  Breeders and retail pet stores could do the same.

The Council hoped that the survey results would help cut down on the surrender rate.   But that’s all in a perfect world!  Reality is that shelters often don’t have the funds, staff or volunteers to accomplish this education program. Some breeders make the effort to teach buyers of their dogs and cats about the realities of pet care, but not all breeders really care.   Pet stores only care about the sale. Veterinarians could add to the learning process by discussing what to expect of a pet during the first visit.  Obedience training could be recommended and encouraged.  Behavior problems could be addressed with possible solutions.  This type of education from the veterinarian would also help strengthen the human-animal bond, as well as benefit the vet practice with a satisfied client.

In that perfect world I mentioned, schools would encourage students to practice kindness to animals.  Boys and Girls Clubs could teach classes about animal care.  Local newspapers could run columns about pets, their needs, and care.  Regional magazines could do the same.  There are so many ways a community could cut down on the surrender rate through educating the public.  Unfortunately, that perfect world doesn’t exist, but those of us who love animals continue to hope.

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