Unsuccessful animal adoptions

26 July 2021 – News

Unsuccessful animal adoptions

Pet´s adoption rate is increasing but the number of animals returned to shelters post-adoption is considerable. This study was conducted in the US to determine the animal characteristics associated with the likelihood of return, key reasons, and post-return outcomes for dogs and cats. From the 23,932 accessed animal records, 9.2% were returned to the shelter within six-months of adoption.

The most frequent returned species were dogs (16.3%), followed by rabbits (one in ten returned). Most animals were given back once but some cases were returned up to six times. Multiple returns were mostly reported in pit bull-type breeds while toy and terrier breeds were significantly less likely to be returned. In cats, no significant differences were noted between animals returned one or more times.

Young owners, first-time owners, older dogs or cats, and homes with children seem to be factors that contribute to a higher proportion of returned adoptions. On the contrary, owners that visit veterinarians, allow the animal to sleep in a family member’s bed or attend training classes, have been associated with a decreased risk of return.

Behavioral issues were a key return factor for returning dogs, cats, and rabbits, emphasizing the importance of the animal behavior to develop a positive human-animal relationship. Among other factors, incompatibility with existing pets and owner’s health (mostly allergies) were also described.

Despite being a study based only in California, these findings provide useful guidance for future adoption counselling and allocation of resources worldwide. It is important to bear in mind that pets’ re-entry to the shelter means a repeated exposure to various stressors associated with that environment and that this experience is also stressful for the adopter (previous studies showed that 41% would not adopt another animal in the future).

Powell, L., Reinhard, C., Satriale, D. et al. Characterizing unsuccessful animal adoptions: age and breed predict the likelihood of return, reasons for return and post-return outcomes. Sci Rep 11, 8018 (2021). https://doi.org/10.1038/s41598-021-87649-2