The study, which is being released during American Humane Association's "Be Kind to Animals Week," is part of a major effort to determine why many healthy, adoptable pets are relinquished and reduce the numbers of animals euthanized each year before finding loving homes.
For the past year, American Humane Association, the nation's leading charity dedicated to the protection of children and animals, has been conducting research to better understand why people own or do not own pets, why they give them up, and what strategies might be developed to ensure animals find–and stay in–adoptive homes
The organization's Animal Welfare Research Institute has published the results of Phase II of the "Keeping Pets (Dogs and Cats) in Homes Retention Study," funded through a generous grant from PetSmart Charities, examining the fates of dogs and cats adopted from six shelters in three cities across the United States. While Phase I of the study was designed to learn why so many adult Americans did not have pets in their homes, Phase II surveyed people who had obtained a dog or cat from a shelter six months post-adoption.
The findings from the participants in this study may indicate that, nationally, hundreds of thousands of adopted animals are no longer in the home six months post-adoption. Furthermore, the rates in this study may represent a "best-case scenario," especially if nonparticipants and non-respondents are less likely to retain their pets than those who volunteered information. Despite the laudable efforts of shelters across the nation, given adoption numbers in the United States, even the rates in this study would suggest that a large number of adopted pets are not retained more than six months.
In the first phase, "Reasons for Not Owning a Dog or Cat," American Humane Association interviewed 1,500 previous pet owners and non-pet owners to determine the reasons behind their pet ownership decisions and found there are several significant barriers to pet ownership, including housing restrictions, health and financial concerns, and ongoing grieving from loss of a prior pet.
American Humane Association researchers will use the data gleaned from the first two phases of this study to design intervention strategies for new and prospective adopters, which will be implemented in the study's final phase, to be carried out later this year.
"This study explores three of the greatest issues facing dogs and cats today: the lack of willing adopters, the reasons so many pets are leaving their homes, and the pressing need to create strategies to help Americans retain their new family members," said Dr. Patricia Olson, chief veterinary advisor for American Humane Association and head of its Animal Welfare Research Institute.
The complete study can be found at americanhumane.org/petsmart .