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Behavioral Reasons for Relinquishment of Dogs and Cats to 12 Shelters

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The Regional Shelter Relinquishment Study sponsored by the National Council on Pet Population Study and Policy (NCPPSP) is a US research project designed to explore the characteristics of relinquished dogs and cats, their owners, and the reasons for relinquishment. The NCPPSP Regional Shelter Study, which was conducted between February 1995 and April 1996, found that behavioural problems, including aggression toward people or non-human animals, were the most frequently given reasons for canine relinquishment and the second most frequently given reasons for feline relinquishment. No association was found between category of relinquishment (behavioural, mixed, non-behavioural) and gender, number of times mated (males), number of litters (females), purebred status, declaw status, and number of visits to the veterinarian within the past year, for either dogs or cats. Associations were found between category of relinquishment and number of pets in the household, number of pets added to the household, neuter status of female dogs and cats , neuter status of male dogs, training level, age of pet relinquished, length of ownership, and pets acquired from shelters. Associations also were found between the state in which the pet was relinquished and income level of owner.
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Behavioral Reasons for Relinquishment
of Dogs and Cats to 12 Shelters
Mo D. Salman, Jennifer Hutchison, and Rebecca Ruch-Gallie
College of Veterinary Medicine and Biomedical Sciences
Colorado State University
Lori Kogan
Department of Psychology
Colorado State University
John C. New, Jr.
College of Veterinary Medicine
University of Tennessee
Phillip H. Kass
School of Veterinary Medicine
University of California–Davis
Janet M. Scarlett
New York State College of Veterinary Medicine
Cornell University
The Regional Shelter Relinquishment Study sponsored by the National Council on
Pet Population Study and Policy (NCPPSP) is a national research project designed to
explorethecharacteristicsofrelinquisheddogsandcats,theirowners,andthereasons
forrelinquishment. The NCPPSP RegionalShelter Study found thatbehavioral prob-
lems, including aggression toward people or nonhuman animals, were the most fre-
quently given reasons for canine relinquishment and the second most frequently
given reasons for feline relinquishment. No association was found between category
JOURNAL OF APPLIED ANIMAL WELFARE SCIENCE, 3(2), 93–106
Copyright © 2000, Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, Inc.
Requests for reprints should be sent to M. D. Salman, College of Veterinary Medicine and Biomedi-
cal Sciences, Colorado State University, Fort Collins, CO 80523–1676.
of relinquishment (behavioral, mixed, nonbehavioral) and gender, number of times
mated (males), number of litters (females), purebred status, declaw status, and num-
ber of visits to the veterinarian within the past year, for either dogs or cats. Associa-
tions were found between category of relinquishment and number of pets in the
household, number of pets added to the household, neuter status of female dogs and
cats,neuter status of male dogs, training level, age of petrelinquished, length of own-
ership, and pets acquired from shelters. Associations also were found between the
state in which the pet was relinquished and income level of owner.
The Regional Shelter Relinquishment Study sponsored by the National Council
on Pet Population Study and Policy (NCPPSP) is a national research project de-
signed to explore the characteristics of relinquished dogs and cats, their owners
(caretakers), and the reasons for relinquishment. The NCPPSP Regional Shelter
Study found that behavioral problems, including aggression toward people or
companion animals, were the most frequently given reasons for canine relin-
quishment and the second most frequently given reasons for feline relinquish-
ment (Salman et al., 1998). The magnitude of this problem illuminates the need
for further understanding of behavioral problems as they associate with relin-
quishment. The purpose of this study, therefore, is to examine the relation
among behavioral, nonbehavioral, and a combination of behavioral and
nonbehavioral reasons for relinquishment of dogs and cats with owner demo-
graphics, owner knowledge, and household factors.
MATERIALS AND METHODS
Study Design
The study design and overall results of the Regional Shelter Study have been de-
scribed in full by Salman et al. (1998). In summary, the study was conducted be-
tween February 1995 and April 1996. Trained interviewers administered a ques-
tionnaire to persons relinquishing dogs, cats, or both at 12 shelters in four
regions of the United States. The questions asked pertained to reasons for relin-
quishment, characteristics of the relinquished pet (species, age, length of owner-
ship, gender, neuter status and reproductive history, breed, number of other dogs
and cats in household, movement of dogs and cats into and out of the household
in the preceding year, source of pet, cost, frequency of veterinary visits, housing,
training history, and frequency of selected behaviors exhibited in the past), and
demographic characteristics of the person who relinquished the animal (age,
gender, ethnicity, household income, highest educational level reached, and gen-
eral knowledge concerning dog and cat husbandry).
People who surrendered an animal could report up to 5 principal reasons for re-
linquishment. Of the 71 reasons for relinquishment recorded in the study (Salman
et al., 1998), 24 were classified as behavioral (Table 1).
94 SALMAN ET AL.
Data Description and Analysis
Data were stratified by species. Relinquishments of found animals of unknown
ownership or for euthanasia due to old age or illness are not considered as sur-
renders due to the breakdown of the human–animal bond and were, therefore,
not included within this data set. Interview data records were grouped in three
categories according to types of relinquishment reasons listed: (a) behavioral
reasons only, (b) mixed behavioral and nonbehavioral reasons, and (c)
nonbehavioral reasons only. Descriptive statistics were calculated based on these
three categories. Proportions were compared using chi-square tests (Fleiss,
1981) on 3 × ncontingency tables. Relinquishments with no information for a
variable were excluded from the analysis for that variable. If statistical signifi-
cance was detected in tables with more than two rows, each level of the variable
concerned was tested against the remainder of the table to determine the specific
level of differences. Due to the multiple comparisons made, statistical signifi-
cance was accepted at p< .01.
RESULTS
The original data set consisted of information from 2,230 canine records and
1,579 feline records. Application of the exclusion criteria resulted in the reten-
tion of 1,984 canine and 1,286 feline relinquishments.
Arange ofone to five reasons (Mdn = 2 for both species) was provided for relin-
quishment.Atleastonebehavioralreasonwasrecordedfor40%ofthedogsand28%
ofthe cats relinquished. Behavioralreasons accounted for27% of the single-reason
canine relinquishments and 19% of the single-reason feline relinquishments.
Of the top 10 reasons for behavioral relinquishment, 8 reasons given for dogs
(Table 2) and 7 reasons given for cats (Table 3) were common to both behavioral
BEHAVIORAL REASONS FOR RELINQUISHMENT 95
TABLE 1
Behavioral Reasons Given for Dog and Cat Relinquishments to 12 Shelters (1995–1996)
Aggression
toward people Afraid of various things Chases cars Destructive in house
Aggression
toward animals Animal wants/needs too
much attention Chases people Destructive outside
house
Bites Too active Coprophagy (eats feces) Soils house
Has killed
another animal Competes with other
people or animals Euthanasia request due
to behavior problems Problems between new
pet and other pets
Chases animals Not friendly Escapes Jumps up on people
Wants to go
outside Vocalizes too much Disobedient Pica
Note. Pica is defined as a depraved appetite and refers to the ingestion of inappropriate objects.
96
TABLE 2
Top 10 Behavioral Reasons for Behavioral and Mixed Categories of Relinquishments of
1,984 Dogs to 12 U.S. Animal Sheltersa
Behavioralb% Mixedc%
Bites 22.2 Soils house 18.5
Aggressive toward people 17.4 Destructive outside 12.6
Escapes 16.4 Aggressive toward people 12.1
Destructive inside 15.3 Escapes 11.6
Destructive outside 15.3 Too active 11.4
Disobedient 13.5 Needs too much attention 10.9
Problems between new pet and other pets 12.9 Vocalizes too much 10.7
Aggressive toward animals 11.3 Bites 9.7
Soils house 9.5 Destructive inside 9.7
Vocalizes too much 7.7 Disobedient 9.0
aPresentedasreasonandpercentageofrelinquishmentsinthatcategoryinwhichreasonwaslisted.bn
= 379. cn= 422.
TABLE 3
Top 10 Behavioral Reasons for Behavioral and Mixed Categories of Relinquishment
of 1,286 Cats to 12 U.S. Animal Sheltersa
Behavioralb% Mixedc%
Soils house 43.2 Soils house 37.7
Problems between new pet and other pets 18.9 Destructive inside 11.4
Aggressive toward people 14.6 Aggressive toward people 10.9
Destructive inside 12.4 Problems between new pet and other pets 8.0
Aggressive toward animals 12.4 Bites 8.0
Bites 9.2 Needs too much attention 6.9
Disobedient 5.9 Unfriendly 6.9
Euthanasia for behavioral reasons 5.4 Destructive outside 5.1
Unfriendly 5.4 Euthanasia for behavioral reasons 4.6
Afraid 3.8 Too active 4.6
aPresentedasreasonandpercentageofrelinquishmentsinthatcategoryinwhichreasonwaslisted.bn
= 185. cn= 175.
and mixed relinquishment categories. House soiling was the most frequently listed
behavioral reason for relinquishment of both dogs and cats when mixed reasons
were provided for relinquishment. It was also the most frequently listed reason
when behavioral reasons alone were provided for relinquishment of cats. How-
ever, for dogs, aggressive and destructive behaviors were more frequently re-
corded than house soiling when behavioral reasons only were listed.
Household Characteristics
A significant association was observed between the presence of other pets in the
household and relinquishment category for both dogs (Table 4) and cats (Table
5). For respondents whose households included dogs, the relative proportion of
behavioral relinquishments was lowest when no other companion ani-
mals—dogs or cats—lived in the household and highest when at least one other
dog or cat was present. Similarly, the presence of at least one other pet in the
household appeared to be strikingly associated with an increase in feline relin-
quishments for behavioral reasons (71% behavioral, 51% mixed, 45%
nonbehavioral).
BEHAVIORAL REASONS FOR RELINQUISHMENT 97
TABLE 4
Summary of Pet Inventories and Changes (Percentage of Column) in Households of 1,984
Dogs Relinquished to 12 U.S. Animal Shelters, Stratified by Relinquishment Category
BehavioralaMixedbNonbehavioralc
Other pets in householdd
No other dogs or cats 40.4 51.9 55.4
At least one other dog or cat 58.3 47.6 43.3
No answer 1.3 0.5 1.3
Additions of dogs or cats to household
during preceding yeard
Neither dogs nor cats addede41.4 45.3 51.5
At least one dog addede51.2 46.9 42.1
At least one cat added 3.7 2.6 2.4
At least one of each species added 2.6 4.0 2.3
No answer 1.1 1.2 1.8
Removal of dogs or cats from household
during preceding year
Neither dogs nor cats left 78.9 79.1 80.9
At least one dog left 12.1 13.3 11.6
At least one cat left 5.8 5.7 4.3
At least one dog and one cat left 0.8 0.7 0.8
Insufficient information 2.4 1.2 2.5
an=379.bn=422.cn=1,183.dThe3×ncontingencytablewasstatisticallysignificant.eThisrowwas
compared with the rest of its table (excluding those cases with no answer), and the proportions differed
significantly (p< .01).
Theaddition of a dog or cat to the household in the year preceding the study was
also significantly associated with relinquishment category for both dogs and cats
(Tables 4 and 5). More respondents relinquishing dogs for nonbehavioral reasons
(52%) had not added a dog or cat to the household compared to those relinquishing
for behavioral reasons (41%). The percentage of respondents relinquishing dogs
and reporting the addition of at least one dog to the household differed between re-
linquishment categories (51% behavioral, 47% mixed, and 42% nonbehavioral).
People who relinquished felines and reported the addition of at least one dog to
the household were more likely relinquishing for behavioral reasons (7% behav-
ioral, 5% mixed, 3% nonbehavioral). The proportion of relinquishments in which
atleast one of each species was added to the household varied for feline relinquish-
ments (4% behavioral, 10% mixed, and 4% nonbehavioral). Category of relin-
quishment was not associated with the loss or departure of dogs or cats from the
household in the preceding year.
Animal Source
Of those owners who reported adding a dog or cat to the household during the
year preceding relinquishment of a dog, acquisition of a dog (but not a cat) from
98 SALMAN ET AL.
TABLE 5
Summary of Pet Inventories and Changes (Percentage of Column) in Households of 1,286
Cats Relinquished to 12 U.S. Animal Shelters, Stratified by Relinquishment Category
BehavioralaMixedbNonbehavioralc
Other pets in householdd
No other dogs or cats 28.6 48.0 54.2
At least one other dog or cat 71.4 51.4 44.8
No answer 0.0 0.6 1.0
Additions of dogs or cats to household
during preceding yeard
Neither dogs nor cats added 49.7 46.9 50.1
At least one dog addede6.5 4.6 2.6
At least one cat added 39.5 36.6 42.7
At least one of each species addede3.8 10.3 3.5
No answer 0.5 1.7 1.2
Removal of dogs or cats from household
during preceding year
Neither dogs nor cats left 75.7 73.1 75.1
At least one dog left 3.8 9.7 3.9
At least one cat left 20.0 12.0 17.2
At least one dog and one cat left 3.4 2.3
Insufficient information 0.5 1.7 1.6
an= 185. bn= 175. cn= 926. dThe3×ncontingency table was statistically significant. eThis row was
compared with the rest of its table (excluding those cases with no answer), and the proportions differed
significantly (p< .01).
a shelter was significantly associated with category of relinquishment (Table 6).
Owners relinquishing a dog for behavioral reasons only were more likely to re-
port having acquired a dog from a shelter (50%) than were those relinquishing a
dog for mixed (25%) or nonbehavioral (19%) reasons. Similarly, for feline relin-
quishments, owners relinquishing a cat for behavioral reasons only were more
likely to report having acquired a cat from a shelter (25%) than were those relin-
quishing a cat for mixed (12%) or nonbehavioral (9%) reasons. Relinquishment
to a shelter of a previously owned animal in the year preceding the current relin-
quishment was not associated with the category of the current relinquishment for
either dogs or cats.
Themostfrequentlyreportedsourceofacquisitionfor dogs relinquishedforabe-
havioral reason was a shelter (39%). Dogs relinquished for mixed reasons and
nonbehavioral reasons only were usually acquired from friends (32% and 33%, re-
spectively). The association of source of pet acquisition with relinquishment cate-
gorywasstatisticallysignificantfor caninebutnotfelinerelinquishments,wherethe
source most often reported for all categories was a friend (33%, 39%, and 32% for
behavioral,mixed,andnonbehavioralcategoriesofrelinquishment,respectively).
Animal Characteristics
Examination of demographic characteristics of the relinquished dogs and cats
demonstrated no association between category of relinquishment reasons and
gender, number of times mated (males), number of litters (females), purebred
status, declaw status, and number of visits to the veterinarian within the past
year for either dogs or cats. The neuter status of females was associated with
category of relinquishment for both dogs and cats, with the highest proportion of
neutered females being in the behavioral category for both species. The neuter
status of males was associated with category of relinquishment for dogs only,
with the proportion of neutered males being highest in the behavioral (56%) cat-
egory and lowest in the nonbehavioral (33%) category. The purchase cost of
dogs, but not of cats, was associated with category of relinquishment—the pro-
portion of dogs who were free being lowest in the behavioral (45%) category
and highest in the nonbehavioral (61%) category.
Examination of age at relinquishment and relinquishment category showed an in-
crease in relinquishments for behavioral and mixed categories in dogs between 9
months and 6 years of age. Such a trend was not readily apparent for feline relinquish-
ments. The mode age category for relinquishment was from 1 to less than 2 years for
both species. The mode length of ownership category was less than 3 months for ca-
nine relinquishments in contrast to 1 to less than 2 years for feline relinquishments.
The proportion of dogs who were relinquished for one or more behavioral reasons de-
creased as length of ownership increased beyond the 4-to-less-than-5-year category.
No such trend was apparent for feline relinquishments.
BEHAVIORAL REASONS FOR RELINQUISHMENT 99
100
TABLE 6
Frequency of Acquisition From and Relinquishment to a Shelter of Dogs, Cats, or Both in
the Preceding Year by Households that Relinquished Dogs, Cats, or Both to 12 U.S.
Animal Shelters, Stratified by Relinquishment Category
Behavioral (%) Mixed (%) Nonbehavioral (%)
Households relinquishing dogs
Acquired a dog from a shelter during the
preceding year (of those who reported
acquiring a dog)a
No 49.5 74.4 79.4
Yes 49.5 25.1 19.0
No answer 1.0 0.5 1.5
Total 204 215 525
Relinquished a dog to a shelter during the
preceding year (of those who reported
another dog leaving the household)
No 81.6 84.7 91.8
Yes 18.4 15.3 8.2
Total 49 59 146
Acquired a cat from a shelter during the
preceding year (of those who reported
acquiring a cat)
No 87.5 82.1 90.9
Yes 12.5 17.9 9.1
Total 24 28 55
Relinquished a cat to a shelter during the
preceding year (of those who reported a
cat leaving the household)
No 96.0 92.6 95.0
Yes 4.0 7.4 5.0
Total 25 27 60
Households relinquishing cats
Acquired a dog from a shelter during the
preceding year (of those who reported
acquiring a dog)
No 84.2 92.3 89.3
Yes 15.8 7.7 10.7
Total 19 26 56
Relinquished a dog to a shelter during the
preceding year (of those who reported a
dog leaving the household)
No 71.4 69.6 78.9
Yes 28.6 30.4 21.1
Total 7 23 57
(
Continued
)
Questions were asked concerning patterns of behavior that the pet exhibited,
andthe response options were (a) always or almost always, (b) most of the time, (c)
some of the time, and (d) rarely or never. For dogs and cats, statistically significant
associations were detected between category of relinquishment and pattern of re-
sponses to all questions asked concerning the relinquished pets’ behaviors preced-
ing the relinquishment, with the exception of questions concerning house soiling
(dogs) and exhibition of fear (both species). The pattern of responses to the behav-
ioral questions indicated that the proportions of pets rarely or never exhibiting the
selected behaviors were lowest in the behavioral category and highest in the
nonbehavioral category. For dogs in particular, the relative frequency of selected
behaviors that the pet reportedly exhibited was greatest in the behavioral category,
followed by the mixed category.
The category of relinquishment reasons was not associated with whether the
owner or another family member took a relinquished dog to obedience classes (no,
90%; yes, 4%; no answer, 6%), whether a professional dog trainer trained the dog
for the owner (no, 93.1%; yes, 1%; no answer, 6%), whether the owner or another
family member had individual obedience instruction (no, 93%; yes, 2%; no an-
swer, 6%), or whether the dog had been taught basic commands at all (no, 71%;
yes, 23%; no answer, 5%). However, the proportion of dogs reported to have been
taught some basic commands by owners or other family members differed among
relinquishment categories—with the smallest proportion in the behavioral cate-
gory, followed by mixed and then nonbehavioral relinquishment reasons. Evalua-
tion of the dogs who reportedly knew some basic commands when acquired
revealed that the largest proportion was in the behavioral category and the smallest
in the nonbehavioral category of relinquishment reasons (Table 7).
BEHAVIORAL REASONS FOR RELINQUISHMENT 101
TABLE 6 (Continued)
Behavioral (%) Mixed (%) Nonbehavioral (%)
Acquired a cat from a shelter during the
preceding year (of those who reported
acquiring a cat)
No 75.0 86.6 90.4
Yes 25.0 12.2 8.7
No answer 0.0 1.2 0.9
Total 80 82 427
Relinquished a cat to a shelter during the
preceding year (of those who reported a
cat leaving the household)
No 83.8 77.8 83.3
Yes 16.2 22.2 16.7
Total 37 27 180
aThe 3 × 2 contingency table was statistically significant.
Owner Knowledge
Evaluation of owners’ general knowledge of pet husbandry and behavior re-
vealed only one significant association with the relinquishment category of the
pet. The response to the question of whether a female dog or cat will be better
off if she has one litter before being “fixed” was significantly associated with
category of relinquishment for those relinquishing dogs; the lowest proportion of
102 SALMAN ET AL.
TABLE 7
Frequency and Proportion of Type of Training of Dogs Relinquished to 12 U.S. Animal
Shelters, Stratified by Relinquishment Category
BehavioralaMixedbNonbehavioralc
No. % No. % No. %
I or another family member taught
the dog some basic commands.d
No 140 36.9 158 37.4 345 29.2
Yes 216 57.0 255 60.4 765 64.7
No answer 23 6.1 9 2.1 73 6.2
The dog already knew some basic
commands when I got it.d
No 287 75.7 356 84.4 971 82.1
Yes 69 18.2 54 12.8 136 11.5
No answer 23 6.1 12 2.8 76 6.4
I or another family member took the
dog to obedience classes.
No 334 88.1 390 92.4 1,065 90.0
Yes 22 5.8 20 4.7 42 3.6
No answer 23 6.1 12 2.8 76 6.4
A professional trainer trained the
dog for me.
No 348 91.8 406 96.2 1,093 92.4
Yes 8 2.1 3 0.7 14 1.2
No answer 23 6.1 13 3.1 76 6.4
I or another family member had
individual obedience instruction.
No 346 91.3 401 95.0 1,096 92.6
Yes 10 2.6 8 1.9 11 0.9
No answer 23 6.1 13 3.1 76 6.4
Dog has not been taught basic
commands.
No 264 69.7 293 69.4 855 72.3
Yes 92 24.3 117 27.7 255 21.6
No answer 23 6.1 12 2.8 73 6.2
an= 379. bn= 422. cn= 1,183. dThe 3 × 2 contingency table was statistically significant.
owners who believed this to be true were those who relinquished a dog for be-
havioral reasons (behavioral, 15%; mixed, 23%; nonbehavioral, 23%).
Owner Demographics
Owner demographic information was summarized. Gender, level of education,
and cultural or ethnic identity was not associated with category of relinquish-
ment. The state in which the pet was relinquished differed among relinquish-
ment categories for both dogs and cats. For dogs, relinquishments in the behav-
ioral category appeared overrepresented in California (behavioral, 38%; mixed,
30%; nonbehavioral, 33%) and underrepresented in New York (behavioral, 8%;
mixed, 14%; nonbehavioral, 17%), whereas mixed relinquishments appeared
overrepresented in Kentucky (behavioral, 18%; mixed, 23%; nonbehavioral,
15%). For cats, relinquishments for behavioral reasons appeared to be
overrepresented in Colorado (behavioral, 17%; mixed, 6%; nonbehavioral, 7%).
Levelof annualhousehold incomediffered only for dogs, with behavioral relin-
quishments appearing to be underrepresented at the lower income levels and
mixed reasons underrepresented at the higher income levels. Owner age was not
associated with relinquishment category, did not differ between species, and was
similar to that reported for the complete data set of which this study is part.
DISCUSSION
Animal behavior problems often have detrimental effects on the relationships
between pets and their owners and, consequently, function as important determi-
nants in relinquishment decisions (Arkow & Dow, 1984; Nassar, Mosier, & Wil-
liams, 1984; Seksel, 1997.) The behaviors associated with the decision to relin-
quish a canine or feline include aggression (Houpt, 1983; Jagoe & Serpell, 1996;
Mugford, 1981; Reisner, 1997), separation-related behavior (Wright &
Nesselrote, 1987), house soiling, fearful behavior, destructiveness, vocalization,
disobedience, digging, and chewing (Salman et al., 1998; Voith, Wright, &
Danneman, 1992). The results of the NCPPSP Regional Shelter Relinquishment
Study support previous findings pertaining to animal behavior problems and
owners’ decisions to relinquish their pets.
Although an increased amount of attention has been placed on behavioral prob-
lems and their effects on animal–human relationships and, subsequently, relin-
quishment, there remains a paucity of available data pertaining to the subject.
Unwanted adult pets now outnumber puppies and kittens (DiGiacomo, Arluke, &
Patronek,1998; Salmanet al.,1998), with many euthanized animals exhibiting po-
BEHAVIORAL REASONS FOR RELINQUISHMENT 103
tentially resolvable behavior problems. Spencer (1993) noted that 50–70% of all
dog and cat euthanasia is the result of behavior problems.
This study is an extension of previously published studies (New et al., 1999;
Salman et al., 1998; Scarlett, Salman, New, & Kass, 1999). All of the limitations
mentioned in those three studies are applied to the findings from this study. This
study focuses on the relative comparison of dogs and cats relinquished for behav-
ior reasons with those relinquished for other reasons. Several of the findings from
this study can be used in intervention strategies. The comparisons, however, are
limited to dogs and cats who are relinquished to shelters. No comparisons were
madewith theU.S. dogand cat populations; thus, inferences are made only to shel-
ter populations. We have recognized the complexity of reasons for relinquishment
that may include behavioral and nonbehavioral reasons. Therefore, a third group
of comparisons were used.
CONCLUSIONS
The following points summarize conclusions drawn from this study:
• Itseemsthat owning a singleanimal in a householdreduces the chances forre-
linquishing a pet for behavioral reasons.
Owners should be aware that adding a new pet will change the social hierar-
chy within the household and potentially change behaviors exhibited by the pets.
These behaviors may be normal interspecies behavior but are perceived as a prob-
lem by the owner (Juarbe-Diaz, 1997).
Neutered female dogs and cats and neutered male dogs were more frequent in
the behavioral category of relinquishment. Behavioral categories included in the
survey did not include the reason for behaviors. For example, “aggression to other
animals” could be used to describe inappropriate sexual behavior as well as domi-
nance or possessiveness, which are observed in any age group or gender (Reisner,
1997).Ownerswerenotaskedatwhatagethesurrenderedanimalwasneutered.Vet-
erinarians often suggest neutering when male dogs develop behavioral problems.
Those relinquished for behavioral reasons may have been neutered at an older age
when the potential behavior modification benefits are decreased or absent.
There is a strong association between the addition of a dog from a shelter and
the relinquishment of a dog to a shelter for behavioral reasons. Therefore, an inter-
vention strategy for educating owners and training dogs in a shelter environment
may contribute to the reduction of relinquishment.
Owners of problem-behavior dogs own these animals less than 3 months
prior to relinquishment. Thus, there is a window of opportunity that provides guid-
ance and help, but it is a very narrow window. For cats, the opportunity to provide
help is longer as cats are owned for 1–2 years before being relinquished. Cat own-
ers need to be made aware that modifying cat behaviors is possible.
104 SALMAN ET AL.
It is apparent that problem-behavior dogs have received some training yet ex-
hibit problems in spite of the training. Several explanations come to mind. Owner
expectations for “trained” dogs might be higher than for “untrained” dogs, espe-
ciallyif theowner expectsthe dogto betrained atacquisition. Ownersof dogswith
behavioral problems more likely may seek training as a solution to the problems.
Dogs relinquished for behavioral reasons appear older in age and, thus, have had
more opportunity to be trained, but this would be difficult to assess from the avail-
able data. In addition, no evaluations of the surrendered dogs’ behavior or training
level were made during this study.
• Regionaldifferencesandincome level may influence relinquishmentcategory.
ACKNOWLEDGMENTS
This work was supported by a grant from the National Council on Pet Popula-
tion Study and Policy. Funding was provided by American Kennel Club, Animal
Assistance Foundation, Colorado State University, Colorado Veterinary Medical
Association, Cornell University, Denver Dumb Friends League, Dodge Founda-
tion, Morris Animal Foundation, PetsMart Charities, Schnurmacher Foundation,
University of California–Davis, and University of Tennessee.
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106 SALMAN ET AL.
... Within the context of adoption, animal-adopter pairings that enable positive human-animal interactions likely play a critical role in the quality of the human-animal relationship and reduction of relinquishment risk [66][67][68] . However, a lack of quality evidence to support various adoption criteria may mean that certain adopter attributes are prioritised or discriminated against, without a solid evidence base to support this decision making 31 . ...
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Humans’ individual differences including their demographics, personality, attitudes and experiences are often associated with important outcomes for the animals they interact with. This is pertinent to companion animals such as cats and dogs, given their social and emotional importance to humans and degree of integration into human society. However, the mechanistic underpinnings and causal relationships that characterise links between human individual differences and companion animal behaviour and wellbeing are not well understood. In this exploratory investigation, we firstly quantified the underlying structure of, and variation in, human’s styles of behaviour during typical human-cat interactions (HCI), focusing on aspects of handling and interaction known to be preferred by cats (i.e. ‘best practice’), and their variation. We then explored the potential significance of various human individual differences as predictors of these HCI styles. Seven separate HCI styles were identified via Principal Component Analysis (PCA) from averaged observations for 119 participants, interacting with sociable domestic cats within a rehoming context. Using General Linear Models (GLMs) and an Information Theoretic (IT) approach, we found these HCI PC components were weakly to strongly predicted by factors including cat-ownership history, participant personality (measured via the Big Five Inventory, or BFI), age, work experience with animals and participants’ subjective ratings of their cat behaviour knowledge. Paradoxically, greater cat ownership experiences and self-assessed cat knowledge were not positively associated with ‘best practice’ styles of HCI, but were instead generally predictive of HCI styles known to be less preferred by cats, as was greater participant age and Neuroticism. These findings have important implications regarding the quality of human-companion animal relationships and dyadic compatibility, in addition to the role of educational interventions and their targeting for optimal efficacy. In the context of animal adoption, these results strengthen the (limited) evidence base for decision making associated with cat-adopter screening and matching. In particular, our results suggest that greater cat ownership experiences and self-reports of cat knowledge might not necessarily convey advantages for cats in the context of HCI.
... Behavioural problems can lead to dogs being relinquished to animal shelters, can result in failed adoptions from shelters and can negatively impact dog well-being (1)(2)(3). Problem behaviours, or subsequent training difficulty, are the most commonly reported reasons for dogs being unsuccessful in assistance dog training programmes (4)(5)(6). Understanding the factors that affect the likelihood of behavioural problems being observed in dogs is, therefore, important, not only for maintaining the human-animal bond and for dog welfare but also to help to minimise the dogs needing to be released and rehomed from assistance dog training programmes for behaviour-related reasons. ...
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There are few studies that investigate the effect of neutering bitches before or after puberty. The majority of current literature examining the impact of the timing of neutering on health and behaviour has used age rather than the onset of puberty as the key variable. The aim of this prospective cohort study was to investigate the effects of timing of neutering in relation to puberty on behaviour in female dogs reared and trained in an assistance dog programme. The study examined data for bitches neutered before or after puberty to compare scores for six behavioural factors (training and obedience, aggression, fear and anxiety, excitability, attachment and attention-seeking, and social behaviour) measured at 1 and 3 years of age. Labrador and Golden Retriever crossbreed bitches were neutered before (n = 155) or after (n = 151) puberty. Neutering before or after puberty had no impact on mean scores for the six behavioural factors at 1 or 3 years of age. When examining the change in behavioural factor scores between 1 and 3 years of age, only aggression behavioural factor scores were influenced by neutering before or after puberty. Bitches neutered after puberty were less likely to have aggression factor scores that increased between 1 and 3 years of age (OR = 0.959, 90% CI = 0.924 to 0.995, p = 0.06). However, the majority of bitches scored “0” for aggression at both time points (indicating no aggression behaviours were observed), and the number of bitches for which scores increased between 1 and 3 years of age was low (before puberty = 20, after puberty = 9). This is consistent with very mild aggressive behaviours being observed in a small number of animals and is, therefore, of questionable concern. The results suggest that, for Labrador and Golden Retriever crossbreed bitches, neutering before or after puberty has little to no effect on future behaviour. It is recommended that decisions about the timing of neutering are not informed solely by impacts on behaviour, but that they also consider evidence relating to the impacts on bitch health and well-being.
... OOB elimination is a common reason for relinquishment of cats to shelters. 29,30 Hoarding environments are likely to have insufficient numbers of litter boxes, suboptimal substrates and inadequate frequency of cleaning. This may lead to the assumption that hoarded cats are not accustomed to using a litter box and may fail to adapt to using a box. ...
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... Behavioral problems have been reported to be the cause for the relinquishment of dogs to shelters (1,5,17,18), and relinquishment may, in some cases, be due to only one behavioral issue (18). Common guardian-reported behavioral reasons for the relinquishment of dogs include inappropriate elimination (19,20), unwanted chewing (17,20), aggressive behavior (1,20), separation anxiety (20) and fearfulness (21). Guardians relinquishing their animals to shelters report not having the time or money to fix behavioral problems (6). ...
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Chapter
In this chapter, the history and current philosophy surrounding adoption of companion animals out of shelters into new homes is discussed. The first part of the chapter considers the perspective of the adopter when choosing an animal, including research on what adopters are looking for when adopting and empirically based strategies, ranging from initial marketing of the animal to behavioural training, to increase adoption rates. The second part of the chapter considers the role of shelter staff in matchmaking, adoption counselling, and providing resources to new adopters. Additionally, ideas and tools for effective post‐adoption support programs are provided. Together, the information in this chapter will result in the best outcomes for adopters and the companion animals they take into their homes.
Chapter
Safety net programs are programs designed to facilitate pet retention, support the human‐animal bond, and avoid shelter relinquishment. Strategies to accomplish these goals vary based on program type and may include provision of basic pet needs such as food and shelter, access to veterinary care, or behavioral support. Even when not specifically behavior focused, safety net programs support the behavioral health of pets at risk of relinquishment by avoiding the stress of sheltering and rehoming. Successful programs should be based on thoughtful analysis of community needs as well as consideration of program goals, desired impact, and available resources. Strategic program selection, planning, and management maximize program impact and allow for thoughtful scaling as community needs or organizational resources evolve. With these considerations in mind, successful safety net programs foster accessible and equitable support for pet owners and benefit animals, pet owners, organizations, and communities.
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Behavioural disease is one of the leading reasons for euthanasia in shelter dogs and cats. Information acquired via a survey of veterinarians (n = 59) was used to understand the way canine and feline behaviour problems are viewed and managed by nonshelter, small animal general practice veterinarians. Participants (20%, n = 12) felt that the following diseases were more of a welfare issue than behaviour problems: food sensitivity, osteoarthritis, puppy/kitten farms, skin disease, nutritional disease, parasitic disease, dental disease, obesity, in‐breeding, over‐population, neoplasia, greyhound racing, hyperthyroidism and renal disease. Behaviour problems in dogs and cats were not ranked in the top four welfare problems by 40% (n = 23) of respondents. Behaviour case follow‐up was poorer than physical health case follow‐up. Respondents (20%, n = 12) felt that veterinarians should ‘possibly’ be able to identify behaviour problems in dogs and cats, and 54% (n = 32) felt that this was ‘absolutely’ their professional responsibility. Twelve percent (n = 7) would reschedule behaviour appointments that had been booked in for them. Behaviour was more likely to be seen as a welfare issue by more experienced veterinarians and also, those with shelter experience. Half of respondents felt reluctant to discuss behaviour problems with clients because of deficiencies in behaviour knowledge. Eighty percent (n = 47) felt their education equipped them poorly or extremely poorly in dealing with behaviour problems in dogs and cats. Consideration should be given for the inclusion of adequate behavioural medicine content in veterinary medicine curriculum to allow for graduates to possess a basic level of training and competency in this discipline.
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Despite the popular idea that dog owners are often responsible in some way for their animals' behaviour problems, the scientific evidence is scarce and contradictory. Some studies have failed to detect any links between the quality of the owner-dog relationship and the occurrence of behaviour problems, while others suggest that some behaviour problems may be associated with certain aspects of owner personality, attitudes and/or behaviour.Using retrospective data from a sample of 737 dogs, the present study investigated the association between the prevalence of different behaviour problems and various aspects of either owner behaviour or owner-dog interactions. A number of statistically significant associations were detected: (a) between obedience training and reduced prevalence of competitive aggression (P < 0.02), separation-related problems (P < 0.001), and escaping and roaming (P < 0.05); (b) between the timing of the dogs' meal times and the occurrence of territorial-type aggression (P < 0.01); (c) between sleeping close to the owner and increased prevalence of competitive aggression (P < 0.01) and separation-related problems (P < 0.01); (d) between first-time ownership and the prevalence of dominance-type aggression (P < 0.001), separation-related problems (P < 0.05), fear of loud noises (P < 0.001), and various manifestations of overexcitability (P < 0.001); (e) between owners' initial reasons for acquiring a dog and the prevalence of dominance-type (P < 0.001), competitive (P < 0.01) and territorial aggression (P < 0.01). The possible practical implications of these findings are discussed.
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The intention of this research was not to justify the relinquishment of pets to shelters, but to provide a detailed and impartial view of the relinquisher's perspective. This perspective, as revealed in 38 interviews, was contrary to the view of relinquishment that commonly prevails in shelter cultures; namely, that their decisions are trivial or casual. These interviews exposed a processes that began long before releases were signed and animals were turned over to shelter staff. All of the individuals and families interviewed struggled with the decision to give up their pets. This struggle often manifested as procrastination, as attachment issues and negative perceptions of shelters were balanced against the circumstances threatening the pet's position in the family. Attempts at resolution made by poorly informed pet owners were frequently inefficient and consequently unsuccessful. Owners commonly tolerated circumstances until the reasons for relinquishment overcame attachment and negative perceptions of shelters.
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Wright, J.C. and Nesselrote, M.S., 1987. Classification of behavior problems in dogs: distributions of age, breed, sex and reproductive status. Appl. Anim. Behav. Sci., 19: 169-178. One hundred and seventy behavior problems were observed in 105 dogs referred for behavior- problem management by practicing veterinarians. Ninety percent of the observed behavior prob- lems were classified within three major categories: aggression; stimullis reactivity; separation- related. Aggression and stimulus reactivity problems were further sub-divided by their predomi- nant behavioral components, i.e. excessive approach or avoidance in relation to the target stimuli. The mean age for dogs presented for problem behavior was 3.4 years, which did not differ as a function of diagnostic category (P> 0.05) .The distributions of different types of aggression seen in dogs and the most frequent pair-wise combinations of different types of aggression in the sample were described. Significantly more intact males and neutered females were referred for aggressive and stimulus reactivity behavior problems (P < 0.001) , but dogs with sepAration-related problems did not differ (P> 0.05) .The value of identifying the predominant components of behavior prob- lems for clarifying the direction of behavior change was discussed.
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The purpose of this study was to determine if dogs that were treated ‘like a person’ or that had not been obedience trained were more likely to exhibit owner-reported behavior problems than dogs not treated in those ways. A questionnaire, comprising 75 items, was available in the waiting room of the Veterinary Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania throughout 1981. Responses to 11 questions answered by 711 different respondents, each from a different household, were analyzed. Nine questions related to treating the dog ‘like a person’ (either spoiling the dog or viewing it anthropomorphically), and the other two asked whether or not the dog had had formal obedience training and whether or not the dog had engaged in a behavior that the owner considered a problem. Results of a series of chi-square analyses failed to reveal that problem behaviors were related to obedience training, ‘spoiling’, or anthropomorphic activities. Further, a discriminant analysis was unable to identify any variable (item), including obedience training, ‘spoiling’ activities, or anthropomorphic attitudes, that distinguished between dogs engaging and not engaging in problem behaviors. Eight variables were then factor analyzed, resulting in four factors which counted for 71.15% of the variance. The factors, which pertained to owners sharing food with their dog, taking the dog along on trips or errands, dog comfort or resting places, and anthropomorphic attitudes, were analyzed along with the obedience training and behavior problem variables in an ANOVA. The results showed that dogs whose owners interacted with them in an anthropomorphic manner, ‘spoiled’ them in certain ways, or did not provide obedience training were no more likely to engage in behaviors considered a problem by the owner than were dogs not viewed anthropomorphically, ‘spoiled’ by their owner, or given obedience training.
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Since the 1940s, perceived companion animal overpopulation in the United States has been an important issue to the animal welfare community (Moulton, Wright, & Rinky, 1991). This surplus of animals has resulted in millions of dogs and cats being euthanized annually in animal shelters across the country. The nature and scope of this problem have been notoriously difficult to characterize. The number of animal shelters in the United Stares, the demographics of the population of animals passing through them, and the characteristics of per owners relinquishing animals are poorly understood. What portion of these animals are adopted or euthanized, why they are relinquished, and their source of acquisition are all questions for which there have been little data. Consequently, we are no closer to answering the fundamental question of how and why many animals are destroyed each year in shelters (Arkow, 1994).