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The Bond That Never Developed: Adoption and Relinquishment of Dogs in a Rescue Shelter


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This study carried out a survey in an Italian shelter to analyze adoptions resulting in the rejection of the newly adopted dog. The results of this study show that the number of dogs adopted and returned was stable during the study, that more females than males were adopted, and that males were more likely to be returned. Almost all the dogs were returned because of behavioral problems, and most were more than 6 months of age. Some dogs were returned more than once, with 20% of the people who adopted the same dog at different times reporting the same behavioral problem. Having a house with a yard, a garden, or a terrace appeared to be important for better management of the dog and influenced the length of adoption. Half of the adopters had previous experience as caregiver for a dog; compared to adopters who had no previous experience, however, they returned their companion animal after a shorter period and because of behavioral reasons. Understanding why adopters return their dogs to shelters is an important step toward attempting to minimize relinquishments and, thus, optimize adoptions.
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The Bond That Never Developed:
Adoption and Relinquishment of Dogs
in a Rescue Shelter
Francesca Mondelli and Emanuela Prato Previde
Institute of Psychology
University of Milan
Marina Verga
Institute of Zootecnic
University of Milan
Diana Levi and Sonia Magistrelli
Local Sanitary Agency
Milan, Italy
Paola Valsecchi
Department of Evolutionary and Functional Biology
University of Parma
This study carried out a survey in an Italian shelter to analyze adoptions resulting in
the rejection of the newly adopted dog. The results of this study show that the number
of dogs adopted and returned was stable during the study, that more females than
males were adopted, and that males were more likely to be returned. Almost all the
dogs were returned because of behavioral problems, and most were more than 6
months of age. Some dogs were returned more than once, with 20% of the people who
adopted the same dog at different times reporting the same behavioral problem. Hav
ing a house with a yard, a garden, or a terrace appeared to be important for better man
agement of the dog and influenced the length of adoption. Half of the adopters had
Copyright © 2004, Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, Inc.
Requests for reprints should be sent to Paola Valsecchi, Dipartimento di Biologia Evolutiva e
Funzionale, Università degli Studi di Parma, Parco Area delle Scienze 11/a, 43100 Parma Italy. Email:
previous experience as caregiver for a dog; compared to adopters who had no previ
ous experience, however, they returned their companion animal after a shorter period
and because of behavioral reasons. Understanding why adopters return their dogs to
shelters is an important step toward attempting to minimize relinquishments and,
thus, optimize adoptions.
Throughout the world, dogs, cats, rodents, and birds with the special label of
“companion animals” enter households as part of the family. Dogs are consid
ered one of the most popular and common companion animals for different rea
sons: They are playful companions to humans and express love and affection
through their extraordinary nonverbal communication (Beck & Katcher, 2003;
Clifton, 1993; Miller & Lago, 1990). Almost all parents view companion ani
mals as capable of teaching their children care and responsibility (Melson, 2001;
Swift, 1996). Dogs facilitate human social interactions and improve relation
ships, communication, and mood (Adell-Bath, Krook, Sandqvist, & Skantze,
1979; Hutton, 1985; Messent, 1994). “Service” dogs have a “social signifi-
cance” for many different people (Allen & Blascovich, 1996; Hart, 1990;
Mader, Hart, & Bergin, 1989). Many studies have explored the positive thera-
peutic role of dogs in nursing home settings and in a wide range of situations
(Fine, 2000).
Usually, a strong relationship develops between dogs and their caregivers, but
the maintenance of this bond is not an obvious consequence; many events can
jeopardize its success and length. Multiple factors can interfere with the bond be-
tween dogs and humans. Sometimes people lack time or money, or they simply are
not ready for, nor aware of, the responsibilities of owning a companion animal;
again, dogs may not meet the keepers’ expectations. Lifestyle changes, or family
or health problems may force people to give up their dogs (Arkow & Dow, 1984;
Case, 1987; Patronek, Glickman, Beck, McCabe, & Ecker, 1996; Rowan & Wil
liams, 1987). At other times, the reason is linked directly to the dog and the dog’s
behavior. Inappropriate elimination, hyperactivity, unwanted chewing, aggres
siveness, and separation anxiety can eventually overshadow any benefits, deterio
rating the relationship so badly that the care for the dog becomes intolerable for the
caregiver (Patronek et al., 1996).
Once the bond is broken, the dog may end up on the street or may be taken di
rectly to a shelter. According to statistics from U.S. animal shelters, millions of
dogs are surrendered to these facilities every year (Houpt, Utter Honig, & Reisner,
1996; Kidd, Kidd, & George, 1992). To delineate the issue of the companion ani
mal surplus in the United States, the National Council on Pet Population Study and
Policy coordinated three studies: The National Household Survey, The Regional
Shelter Survey, and the Shelter Statistic Study (Salman et al., 1998). The Regional
Shelter Survey was specifically addressed to characterize the relinquishment of
dogs and cats, their owners, and the reasons for relinquishment. This survey in
volved 12 shelters in four regions of the United States. Between February 1995
and April 1996, a total of 3,772 interviews with owners were completed and ana
lyzed, allowing a first evaluation of both human (housing issues, expectation, life
styles) and animal (medical–health issues, aggressive behavior, soiling, problems
with other companion animals, destructive behavior, excessive barking) factors
related to the relinquishment of companion animals (New et al., 2000; Salman et
al., 1998, 2000; Scarlett, Salman, New, & Kass, 1999). In addition, unfortunately,
many dogs adopted in public shelters are returned by their new caregivers: Bailey,
Hetherington, and Sellors (1997) found that in 1995 at the Blue Cross Centre at
Burford, England, 12.7% of the adopted dogs were returned.
Italy’s National Law 281, enacted in 1991 (Legge Quadro, 1991), regulates
shelters and abandoned dogs. This law established that captured and sheltered
dogs cannot be euthanized unless they are infected with untreatable or contagious
diseases or are dangerous to people and other animals. Because of the prohibition
against euthanizing animals, each year the number of dogs living in the shelters in
creases, and adoptions do not counterbalance the situation.
However, there are no accurate figures on the number of animals housed in res-
cue shelters, adopted, deliberately abandoned by caregivers, or returned to shel-
ters. In 2001, the National League for the Defense of Dogs (Lega Nazionale per la
Difesa del Cane) owned 65 rescue shelters that hosted 16,000 dogs and placed
5,000 dogs in new homes. The National Agency for the Protection of Animals
(Ente Nazionale Protezione Animali) owned 57 rescue shelters housing about
11,400 dogs and had an adoption rate of 34%.
The aim of this study was to understand why the adoption process occasionally
fails and results in dogs being returned to the shelter. An analysis of the reasons
why dogs adopted from the shelter were returned and a study of what influenced
adopters’ decision to leave their companion animals were conducted to investigate
whether this was due to problems linked to the dogs or to the adopters’ personal
reasons. The study was carried out in a public shelter located in Northern Italy.
The public shelter, located in Milan, Italy, is run by the veterinary service of the
Local Sanitary Agency (ASL). The shelter houses stray dogs found or captured
in the local territory, dogs handed over by their owners, and dogs taken away
from their keepers by the police because of ill treatment. During working hours,
people can walk freely around the shelter and look at the dogs. The staff is not
formally instructed to help and advise prospective adopters in their choice,
and—as the shelter is short-staffed—the visitors are not followed around.
Adopters are given a card with vaccinations and basic behavioral information
about the dog. Other than photocopying the adopter’s ID card, shelter personnel
have no legal means of checking on personal data, and likewise have no legal
means of denying adoption. Shelter policy is to spay females prior to adoption
but not to neuter males. When the animal turnover in the shelter is very high, it
is possible that some females are not spayed before adoption.
In a 6-year period (January 1996 through December 2001), people who re
turned their dogs to the ASL shelter were asked to fill out a questionnaire (see the
Appendix) providing information about their reason for adopting a dog, the criteria
they had followed when choosing the dog, and the reason for the return. The ques
tionnaire also included multiple-choice questions aimed at describing the adoptive
family’s lifestyle and the dog’s behavior and habits.
During the 6-year period, 3,281 dogs were available for adoption at the shelter,
2,830 (86.3%) were adopted, and 431 (15.2%) were then returned. Only 307 peo
ple (71.2%) who returned a dog to the shelter agreed to fill out the questionnaire.
However, some participants did not answer all the questions, so some question
naires are missing data. Relinquishments with no information related to a variable
were excluded from the analysis for that specific variable.
At first, the whole sample was considered to have a general view of the adop-
tion reality at the ASL shelter. Data were then rearranged into categories for statis-
tical analysis. Different groups of adoptive keepers were considered on the basis of
the reason for adoption, the criteria followed when choosing the dog, and the rea-
son for relinquishment.
Chi-square tests were used to compare the proportion distribution of categorical
variables (sex, age, breed, number of people in the family, type of housing, and
past experience) between groups. Analyses of variance (ANOVAs) were carried
out on the length of adoption and on the length of the dogs’ stay at the shelter be-
fore being adopted.
Shelter Demographics
As Figure 1 shows, both the number of dogs available for adoption and the num
ber of dogs adopted decreased slightly over the years, but the number of re
turned dogs was constant during the study period. Considering the entire 6-year
period (Figure 2), there was a significant difference, χ
(1, N = 3,281) = 51.99, p
< .0001, between the male and the female populations available for adoption,
and this difference remained constant through the years. Despite this difference,
in proportion, significantly more females, χ
(1, N = 2,830) = 8.823, p < .01,
were adopted and significantly more males, χ
(1, N = 431) = 9.029, p < .01,
were returned. The neuter status of the dogs is not reported because it was
largely unknown from the questionnaire.
Returned Dogs
Table 1 shows a summary of the characteristics of the dogs adopted and then re
turned to the shelter. Of these dogs, 7% were returned more than once, mainly
for their misbehavior. When the same dog was adopted several times, 20% of
the people reported the same behavioral problem.
The ANOVA showed that the time the dogs spent at the shelter before being
adopted did not relate to the reasons for relinquishment. On the other hand, age and
breed of the animals influenced the probability of their being adopted and, there
fore, the length of time spent at the shelter before being adopted. In particular,
purebred dogs stayed at the shelter significantly longer than did mixed breeds (20
FIGURE 1 Number of dogs available at the shelter, adopted, and then returned over the years.
FIGURE 2 Percentage of male and female dogs available at the shelter, adopted, and then re
turned over the whole 6-year period.
and 15 days, respectively), F(1, 304) = 5.021, p < .05; adult dogs waited for adop-
tion longer than did juveniles and puppies (25, 16, and 10 days, respectively), F(2,
289) = 12.972, p < .0001.
The Adopters
The majority of the adopters were family groups; 29.5% were couples, and
15.6% were single. Most of the people who adopted a dog lived in an apartment.
Only 22.6% lived in a house with outdoor space available. About half of the
adopters (59.6%) had previous experience with dogs.
People decided to adopt a dog and then returned the dog to the shelter for many
different reasons, which we combined into larger classes for further evaluation.
Love for animals (44%) and the need for company (22%) were the reasons most
frequently reported for the adoption. Reasons for relinquishment most often re
ported included the following: (a) 39%—dog’s misbehavior, such as excessive
barking, hyperactivity, inappropriate eliminative behavior, house damage, intoler
ance of other companion animals, or disobedience; (b) 15%—aggressiveness; and
(c) 40%—management problems, no time, small house, personal or family prob
lems such as divorce, conflict about companion animals, and veterinary care (Ta
bles 2 and 3).
The reasons for adoption differed significantly according to the family status of
the adopter, χ
(4, N = 195) = 10.232, p < .05. In particular, singles decided to have
a dog to keep them company; mainly, a generic love for animals motivated couples
and family groups. The age of the dog significantly influenced the motivation for
returning the animal, χ
(2, N = 286) = 9.607, p < .01: Adopters gave up young and
adult dogs mostly for behavioral problems (56.7% and 61.2%, respectively) but re
turned puppies mostly for difficulties in managing them (63.6%).
Characteristics of Returned Dogs
Characteristics %
Mixed breed 74
Pure breed 26
Males 61
Females 39
Puppies (younger than 6 months) 23
Young (6 months to 2 years) 60
Adults (older than 2 years) 17
The Adoptions
The length of adoption ranged from a few hours to about 9 months (M = 33.8
days), but 40.7% of the people returned the dog within a week. Half of adopters
who returned the dog within 7 days attributed their decision to the dog’s behav
ioral problems: aggressiveness (15%); other companion animals’ intolerance
(11%); and other behaviors such as digging, barking, disobedience, or soiling
(24%). Although such short-term behavior does not necessarily reflect the dog’s
Classes of Motivations for the Adoption
Class % Motivations n %
Love for animals 44 Love for animals 119 38.8
Good deed 16 5.2
Need of company 22 Company 61 19.7
As a present 7 2.3
For the child 7.2 For child education 22 7.2
Previous experiences 11.1 Death or escape of the other dog 12 3.9
Positive experiences with other dogs 12 3.9
Company to other animals 10 3.3
Guarding 3.3 Custody and guarding 10 3.3
No answer 12.4 No answer 38 12.4
Classes of Reasons for Relinquishment
Class % Reasons n %
Behavioral problems 38.8 Vocalizes too much 7 2.3
Hyperactive/stereotypies 23 7.4
Destructive/soils house 22 7.1
Escapes 10 3.2
Disobedient 29 9.4
Problems with other pets 29 9.4
Aggressiveness 14.9 Aggressive towards people 46 14.9
Human health 5.5 Allergy 17 5.5
Management problems 34.0 Animal medical issue 8 2.6
No time for pets 27 8.8
Personal or family reasons 45 14.6
Family members—Pet conflict 11 3.5
Small house 11 3.6
No apparent owner 3 0.9
House regulation 4.5 Apartment block regulation 14 4.5
No answer 2.3 No answer 7 2.3
real temperament, the answers of these “casual” adopters hint at the need for in
tervention regarding dogs’ behaviors during the transition time in shelters. How
ever, we decided to focus further analyses on only the subsample of dogs kept
longer than a week.
The length of the adoption was not related to the reasons for adoption, the crite
ria followed when choosing the dog, or to the reasons for relinquishment. None of
these factors significantly influenced the duration of the new bond. A relation be
tween adoption length and housing condition emerged: People living in apart
ments kept the dog for a significantly shorter period of time than those living in a
house where open space was available (M = 50 and 70 days, respectively) F(1,
174) = 4.287, p < .05. It is worth noting that in Italy no law prohibits people from
keeping companion animals in their apartments. When adopters claim that apart
ment block regulation is the reason for returning their dogs, probably they are re
ferring to the need to maintain good relationships with their neighbors.
Previous experience as a caregiver for a dog also influenced the adoption. Sig
nificantly, adopters with previous experience returned the dog more because of
dog-related problems than because of personal problems, χ
(1, N = 291) = 5.191, p
< .05; 39% returned the dogs in less than a week (M = 2.6 days).
Moreover, the comparison between Ms showed that the length of adoption de-
pended also on the dogs’ breed and age, F(2, 169) = 6.768, p < .05, but not on their
sex. In particular, post hoc analyses demonstrated that purebred adult dogs were
kept for a longer period of time than were mixed-breed adults (M = 100 and 5 days,
respectively) F(1, 30) = 9.662, p < .01. Purebred adult dogs were kept in their fami-
lies longer than were purebred young dogs and puppies, M = 100 days and M =40
days, respectively; adult versus young: F(1, 40) = 9.268, p < .05; adults versus
puppies: F(1, 19) = 4.789, p < .05.
In Italy, no institution so far has tried to provide a general view of the adoption
process and the relinquishment issue. To our knowledge, this study is the first
attempt to describe the adoption process in Italy and the first step toward under
standing the companion animal surplus in Italy. The study reached two main
1. The number of dogs returned to the shelter did not decrease over the years.
2. Dogs had been adopted first for generic reasons, then returned mainly for
problems related to their behavior.
The high percentage of dogs returned after adoption more than once suggests
that they should not be offered for adoption again unless their temperament and
behavior are assessed and, if possible, a treatment program is initiated to modify
their unacceptable behavior. A percentage of dogs cannot be adopted in “as is”
condition; therefore, because inexperienced people cannot solve the behavioral
problems easily, these dogs should not be put up for adoption.
Confirming this is the high percentage of adopters who relinquished their dogs
within 7 days of adoption. These casual keepers did not give the animal or them
selves a chance to adapt to the new situation. They then can be considered unwill
ing or unable to take on responsibilities for the dog’s behavior.
Salman et al. (2000) found that owners relinquishing a dog for behavioral rea
sons only are more likely to have acquired the dog from a shelter. Similarly, Ro
wan and Williams (1987) and Arkow (1985) pointed out that about 20% of the
relinquishments were related to behavioral problems. Houpt et al. (1996) found a
range from 25% to 70%; Salman et al. (1998) reported 46.4% of relinquishments
were due to undesirable behavior; and Wells and Hepper (2000) reported that up to
89.7% of returns were due to dogs’ misbehavior.
An important point addressed by the Regional Shelter Survey is the lack of care-
giver knowledge about dog basic husbandry and behavior (New et al., 2000; Scarlett
et al., 1999). Misconceptions about dogs’ behavior are likely to leave owners unpre-
pared for normal canine behavior and limit their ability to distinguish between nor-
mal and problem behavior: 18% of owners were not aware of behavioral differences
between breeds, 43% of owners did not know that female dogs experience estrous
twice per year, and 53% of people surrendering their dogs believed that animals mis-
behave out of spite (Salman et al., 1998; Scarlett et al., 1999).
Contrary to Salman et al. (1998), males in our shelter were returned more often
than were females, and it can be hypothesized that adopters faced more difficulties
in managing males because males tend to be more independent and show
less-appreciated aspects such as intermale aggression, sexual problems, and stray
ing tendencies (Wells & Hepper, 2000). Being sexually intact, as are all males in
our study, is associated with a significantly increased risk of relinquishment
(Patronek et al., 1996).
Another interesting result is that previous experience of owning a dog did not
influence the adoption positively. In particular, experience did not help in facing
the dog’s behavioral problems. People with previous experience somehow ap
peared to be less tolerant of behavioral problems. Possibly, experienced adopters
know how much more it will take to train the dog appropriately and decide not to
waste any more time on what they consider to be a hopeless cause. An alternative
explanation—based on experience with their previous dog—might be that they
have more rigid sets of expectations about how a dog should act and did not under
stand why the adopted dog showed behavioral problems. Consequently, having no
clue to the problem, they had no interest in working on the solution.
Having a house with outdoor space appeared to be important for better manage
ment of the dog, and it positively influenced the length of adoption. With the dog
living outdoors, some behavioral problems might be more tolerable to people be
cause they are not sharing their living space with the dog. Moreover, having out
door space usually freed the keepers from having to walk the dog. However, the
presence of other companion animals living in the same household is likely to be a
risk factor for relinquishment (Salman et al., 2000).
Young dogs were returned mainly for behavioral reasons. Perhaps these dogs
were returned more often because they were no longer puppies; thus, they were not
excused for making the trouble and mess for which puppies are normally forgiven.
Arkow and Dow (1984) concluded too that 64% of all dogs obtained as puppies in
the United States were disposed of by their keepers within a year of acquisition.
However, participation in an obedience class and training may have been helpful
in getting over the problem and thus reduced the risk of relinquishment (Patronek
et al., 1996).
The results of this research indicate that the adoption of dogs housed in shelters is a
complex process during which many factors related both to humans and animals can
determine a frustrating failure. Because the knowledge deficit and false expecta-
tions are important risk factors for relinquishment of an adopted dog, a prospective
keeper should ask for help in selecting a companion animal. The previously trained
shelter staff, the veterinarian, or people with knowledge and experience in dog eval-
uation could help in choosing a dog who not only appeals to the adopter because the
dog looks cute, but who also will fit into the adopter’s lifestyle.
During the adoption process, future keepers should be interviewed carefully
about their expectations and their knowledge of dog behavior and biology: If atti
tudes are unclear and expectations unrealistic, adoption should be postponed until
the adopters acquire a clear and realistic understanding of how to be a responsible
caregiver to a companion animal. The high percentage of people returning a dog
within 1 week of adoption suggests that many of the adopters are not aware of the
work involved with caring for a dog and should not be allowed to adopt one. The
shelter staff should also point out to prospective caregivers housing and human
health issues, lifetime commitment, animal health, and normal dog behavior.
Testing the temperament of the animals within the shelter, dog training classes,
follow-up care, and a behavior helpline might be useful in the early identification
of undesirable behaviors and in offering solutions that pet keepers can understand
and easily use to keep companion animals in their new homes (Ledger, 1997; Led
ger & Baxter, 1997a, 1997b; Mondelli, Montanari, Prato Previde, & Valsecchi,
2003; Sternberg, 2002; Valsecchi, Mondelli, Montanari, & Prato Previde, 2002;
UFAW, 1998; van der Borg, Netto, & Planta, 1991).
Despite the efforts that have been made in Italy in past years through campaigns
to make people aware of the existence of sheltered dogs, to promote adoption, and
to emphasize the role animals can have in the life of people, the number of dogs
abandoned in shelters has not decreased. This means that we have a long way to go
before reaching the point in which the public has the mature and responsible con
cept of the dog–owner relationship necessary to create a better, stronger, and more
lasting bond between dogs and their owners.
This study was carried out with the support of the Azienda Sanitaria Locale
ASL—Servizio di Sanità Animale (Local Sanitary Institution—Animal Health
Service) in Milan, Italy. The study was sponsored through grants from the
Università degli Studi di Milano (Grant FIL02 to Emanuela Prato Previde) and
the Università degli Studi di Parma (Grant FIL02 to Paola Valsecchi). We are
very grateful to the ASL veterinarians, the shelter staff, and all the companion
animal adopters for their cooperation and help. We thank Paola Baldini for al-
lowing us to analyze the data she collected for her Master’s degree dissertation.
We also thank the two anonymous referees for their helpful comments.
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Wells, D. L., & Hepper, P. G. (2000). Prevalence of behavior problems reported by owners of dogs pur
chased from an animal rescue shelter. Applied Animal Behavior Science, 69, 55–65.
Relinquishment Questionnaire
1. Dog No. _________ Cage No. ___________
2. Breed ___________ Coat _________ Hair ____________
3. Age ____________
4. Sex _________
5. Date of entering the shelter ____________
6. Date of adoption ____________
7. Date of relinquishment ____________
1. Why did you decide to adopt a dog? ____________
2. Why did you choose this particular dog? ____________
3. Had you ever had experience with other dogs? No K Yes K
4. Do you have other companion animals? No K Yes K
If yes, what animal? ____________
What behavior did the dog show toward these other animals? ____________
1. What kind of city/town and neighborhood do you live in? ____________
2. What type of housing do you live in? ____________
1. How many people are there in your family (sex, age, job)? ____________
Dog’s habits and training
1. Had you ever had experience training other dogs? No K Yes K
2. Did you train the dog? No K Yes K
3. Which commands (such as “sit, stay, down, come here,” and name) did the
dog know and how did he or she respond? “How was the dog kept?
(a) The dog normally lived outdoors. K
(b) The dog lived indoors with free exit to the outside. K
without free exit to the outside. K
(c) The dog was always walked on a leash. K
(d) The dog was taken to a park to run and play. K
(e) The dog was left free to wander. K
(f) The dog played with K or without K objects at home K or outside. K
Dog’s behavior
1. Why did you decide to return the dog? ____________
2. Where did the dog sleep? ____________
3. How long did you leave the dog home alone? ____________
4. Did the dog cause problems when left home alone? No K Yes K
5. If yes, what problems (barking, being destructive, dirtying the house, dig
ging, scratching)? ____________
6. Did the dog run away when free? No K Yes K
7. Did the dog try to avoid being cuddled? No K Yes K
8. Did the dog refuse constrictions such as a muzzle? No K Yes K
9. Did the dog ever urinate when excited? No K Yes K
10. Could you catch the dog when free? No K Yes K
11. Did the dog let you take food away from him or her? No K Yes K
12. Did the dog let you take a bone away from him or her? No K Yes K
13. Did the dog let you take a toy away from him or her? No K Yes K
14. Did the dog ever rebel against you or other people? No K Yes K
15. Did you ever punish the dog? No KYes K
16. Did the dog ever try to bite? No KYes K
If yes, strangers K or family members K?
17. Did the dog guard the property? No K Yes K
18. Did the dog show intolerance toward children? No KYes K
19. Did the dog ever have fights with other dogs? No K Yes K
20. Did the dog ever chase prey? No KYes K
21. Did the dog ever chase joggers? No KYes K
22. Did the dog ever chase vehicles? No KYes K
23. Did the dog sexually mount people K or objects K?
... Understanding both adopter and dog factors is fundamental to developing and tailoring programs that target these factors, as well as determining the best time and way to deliver these [22,[39][40][41]. Accompanying this work is the need to consider how to support adopters in their choice of dogs, taking into consideration its needs and how these complement the lifestyle, capability, and capacity of the adopter [14,42,43]. ...
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Not all dog adoptions are successful. This two-year retrospective study used survival (i.e., time-to-event) analyses to investigate readmissions for dogs adopted from RSPCA Queensland shelters between 1 January 2019 and 31 December 2020. A better understanding of temporal patterns and risk factors associated with readmission may help RSPCA Queensland shelters better target and tailor resources to improve retention by adopters. The failure function (the cumulative percentage of adoptions that were readmitted by day of the adoption period) increased rapidly during the first 14 days of the adoption period. Approximately two-thirds of all returns occurred in this period. This readmission rate may have been influenced by the RSPCA Queensland adoption-fee refund policy. The cumulative percentage of adoptions that were readmitted plateaued at just under 15%. Dog size, age, coat colour, breed, and spending time in foster before adoption were factors associated with the risk of readmission. Failure functions for a low and a high-risk adoption example demonstrated the large degree of difference in hazard of readmission between covariate patterns, with estimated percentages of adoptions being returned by 90 days for those examples being 2% and 17%, respectively. Spending time in foster care before adoption appears to be protective against readmission, presumably because it supports a successful transition to the new home environment. Behaviour support and training provided for dogs during foster care may contribute to improve their outcomes. These findings highlight the profile of the higher-risk dogs potentially providing shelters with an opportunity to examine where and how resources could be allocated to maximize outcomes for the overall cohort. Population attributable 90-day failure estimates were calculated for each of bodyweight and age at adoption, coat colour, spending time in foster care before adoption, and breed. This calculation shows the expected reduction in the cumulative percentage of dogs readmitted by day 90 if the hazards of readmission for higher risk categories were reduced to those of a lower risk category. Expected reductions for individual factors ranged from 1.8% to 3.6% with one additional estimate of 6.8%. Risk of readmission could be reduced through increased development of foster capacity and capability, targeted interventions, improved adopter-dog matching processes, and more effective targeting of support for higher risk dogs, such as older or larger dogs. Population impact analyses provide a macro view that could assist shelters in strategically assessing the return on investment for various strategies aiming to improve adoption outcomes and potentially reduce readmissions.
... A one-year cohort study including 14 centers conducted in the United Kingdom found 14% of adopted dogs were returned to shelters within six months of adoption [20]. Other studies found return periods as short as hours to days [21]. Whether an adopter returns a dog to a shelter has been shown to depend on the severity of the behaviors presented as well as the training provided post adoption. ...
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Personal likes, experience, and deep-rooted interests to satisfy emotional needs such as companionship, affection, empathy, and security are some of the underlying human motivations for acquiring a pet companion. In this study, we asked how long the owner took to decide whether to adopt a dog, who their dog was adopted from, their primary motivation for adoption, a ranking of characteristics considered during the adoption process, and how satisfied they were with the eventual outcome. Participants (n = 933) to this Center for Canine Behavior Studies survey completed an online questionnaire with responses representing 1537 dog/owner pairs. A majority of participants reported satisfaction with at least one of their adopted dogs. Odds of eventual satisfaction are higher for participants who spent less than a week considering an adoption or were seeking a pet to provide companionship and affection. Participants that prioritized personality as an adoption criteria were more likely to be satisfied with their adopted dogs. A mast majority (91%) of participants reported they would consider adopting another dog in the future. Selection criteria rankings that participants indicated they would employ for future adoptions tended to shift away from physical to behavior characteristics when compared to selection criteria priorities of prior adoptions.
... Uma pesquisa com 56 abrigos de animais nos Estados Unidos da América e Canadá mostrou que quase metade dos abrigos não dispunha de tempo ou recursos para realizar controles de acompanhamento dos animais adotados (Burch et al., 2006). Tendo o conhecimento de que os problemas comportamentais são uma das razões mais comuns para o retorno de cães e gatos aos abrigos após a adoção (Patronek et al., 1996;Mondelli et al., 2004;Weng et al., 2006;Diesel et al., 2008;Jensen et al., 2020), e também que os tutores que recebem conselhos comportamentais são menos propensos a desistir do que aqueles que não recebem nenhum suporte, o fornecimento do aconselhamento após a adoção é sugerido como uma estratégia chave para reduzir a taxa de devolução dos animais (Marston & Bennet, 2003). O monitoramento e aconselhamento dos animais pós-adoção é indicado para verificar a adaptação do animal no novo ambiente, e questões referentes ao bem-estar e a qualidade de vida do animal adotado (Galdioli et al., 2021b). ...
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Os objetivos desse estudo foram avaliar um curso de capacitação para colaboradores atuantes em abrigos de animais por meio da educação à distância (EaD) e suas percepções sobre os manejos e protocolos em Medicina de Abrigos (MA). Um curso de capacitação foi elaborado em formato de EaD, voltado para pessoas que trabalhavam de forma direta ou indireta em algum abrigo de cão e gato. A avaliação do curso e análise da percepção dos participantes sobre os manejos e protocolos em MA foi coletada por meio de questionários pré e pós-curso, sendo as respostas organizadas em Excel® para análise descritiva. A comparação entre as respostas foi empregada o Teste de McNemar. Participaram do curso 554 pessoas das cinco regiões do Brasil, sendo 40,2% (223/554) voluntários e 65,7% eram de abrigos particulares (364/554). A maioria dos participantes desconhecia a existência da Medicina de Abrigos, mas compreendiam a função do abrigo e que a responsabilidade pelos animais em situação de rua é de toda sociedade. Majoritariamente, os participantes concordaram totalmente com algumas políticas internas dos abrigos. Quando comparada as respostas de ambos questionários, houve mudança significativa nas questões sobre funções e papel dos abrigos, prática de vacinação dos animais na admissão e realização de monitoramento e aconselhamento pós-adoção. Grande parte dos participantes consideraram o curso relevante e útil. Por fim, o curso teve ampla divulgação com interesse nacional por atuantes em abrigos de animais, o que permitiu um avanço no desenvolvimento crítico sobre o tema, contribuindo para a divulgação em todo o país.
... In an adoption context, this latter aspect is pertinent, given the trends amongst rehoming organisations to prioritise or discriminate against certain adopter characteristics, without a clear evidence base of how such human attributes might translate into real-time benefits for the animals involved 31 . For example, while adopters with greater animal-ownership experiences may be preferred for animals with specific behavioural or HAI requirements, in certain cases, this may lead to higher rather than lower animal relinquishment rates for behaviour-based reasons 32 . ...
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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.
... Thus, to give a reliable support to our findings, more accurate studies, which deal with as many adoption-related factors as possible, are mandatory. Health-related issues of either dogs or adopters, a lack of time and human deprivation often urge the owner to surrender the animals to the kennel [28,[32][33][34][35][36]. A further key factor to achieve a conscious choice is based on the expectations of the adopters towards dog ownership, prior to adoption itself and their gained experience with dog behavior. ...
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One of the main concerns of the human–dog relationship is today associated with the quality life inside the kennels, which are very often regarded as animal dump where dogs are exiled, representing a burden on society. In the present study we sought to investigate the importance of performing an appropriate behavioral program on the adoption chances within an Italian shelter, near Naples (Ottaviano). In this respect, we enrolled 555 adopted dogs of different ages, who followed a tailored-4-month lasting training program between 2018 and 2020. Once entered there, they were carefully examined by the veterinary behaviorist, and directed towards a suited training program, to improve living conditions. We documented a higher number of both adult and senior dogs who left the kennel and were adopted, compared to the age-matched untrained animals (n = 479), housed in the same kennel from 2015 to 2017. Taken together, the present data highlight an important role for training in improving the natural attitudes of the companion dogs, thus pointing towards a better human–animal bond.
... Living in an apartment was also a significant factor of relinquishment in the present study. This is consistent with Mondelli et al. (2004), which found that dog guardians were more likely to surrender their dog if they lived in an apartment. Living in an apartment instead of a detached or semi-detached house has also been found to result in problems related with the apartment block, namely with other neighbors, due to noise pollution and other nuisances resulting from undesirable behavior (Garcia, 2009;Murray & Speare, 1995;Powell, Duffy, Kruger, Watson, & Serpell, 2021b;Stafford, 2007) and problems with landlords (Graham, Milaney, Adams, & Rock, 2018). ...
In Portugal, the relinquishment of dogs and cats is a major problem. Thus, the authors developed a questionnaire to understand the factors influencing the relinquishment of companion animals in Portugal. With a view to analyze the factors behind relinquishment by companion animal guardians, the authors analyzed surveys completed by 72 participants, divided into two groups: REL (relinquisher, n = 36), i.e., guardians who had relinquished a companion animal and NREL (non-relinquisher, n = 36) i.e., guardians who had never relinquished a companion animal. The only significant factors for the REL group were the presence of children and the type of dwelling (apartment). Additionally, the duration of guardianship of the companion animal before relinquishment (REL group) was significantly shorter if there were children in the household than if there were no children.
Dog behavior has been studied using diverse methods, including owner-completed questionnaires, records from veterinary clinics that evaluate behavioral problems, and test batteries such as those used by some animal shelters. Measures of prevalence for multiple behavioral issues and analyses of whether dog demographic characteristics predict problematic behaviors are commonly reported in studies using questionnaires and clinical records; however, these measures are infrequently reported for all tests and subtests in studies using data from shelter behavioral evaluations. In this study, we determined prevalence of both concerning and dangerous behaviors on 14 tests and subtests of a canine behavioral evaluation by analyzing data collected by the behavioral staff at a NY shelter. Canine evaluations were conducted a few days after intake (n = 1104 dogs tested between 2014-2019). Our study sample represents all dogs admitted to the shelter except those quickly reclaimed by owners and those euthanized at the request of their owners; rarer exceptions included very undersocialized dogs and dogs assessed at intake as unsafe to make available for adoption. We also examined whether dog demographic characteristics (age, sex, reproductive status, and body size) predicted behaviors on tests and subtests and whether total number of tests/subtests with concerning or dangerous behaviors predicted likelihood of being returned to the shelter postadoption. Of all dogs tested, prevalence measures of dangerous behaviors were always less than 5%. Prevalence of concerning behaviors during the evaluations were usually higher, with the highest being 36% for one of the Sociability subtests, indicating that about one third of dogs tested ignored rather than interacted with the evaluator. Our measures of prevalence for food guarding (15.5%), stranger-directed aggression (6.5%), and dog-directed aggression (16.7%) were generally similar to those reported for dogs in other shelters and in homes. Of the demographic characteristics examined, age class most consistently predicted assessment of concerning or dangerous behaviors on several tests and subtests, with these behaviors typically being most common in seniors, followed by adults, and then juveniles. Finally, we found that for each additional test or subtest on which a dog showed concerning or dangerous behaviors, the odds of being returned to the shelter increased by a factor of 1.22. Our findings may aid shelters in identifying dogs, such as older individuals and those assessed as showing problematic behaviors on several tests and subtests of an evaluation, that would benefit from behavioral plans and special adoption efforts to help them enter and remain in adoptive homes.
The decision-making behavior of potential dog adopters remains a research gap that needs to be addressed to model the adoption decision-making process and understand how shelter and rescue strategies may increase adoption decisions. This study investigated decision considerations of potential adopters visiting eight Mid-Atlantic dog adoption sites. Surveys from potential adopters (N = 517) were examined for information about their search, adoption intent during visit, and the decision factor(s) under consideration. Findings showed dog behavior was the top decision factor that potential adopters considered (305; 58.9%), which was significantly greater than chance (χ² = 16.729, p < .01). Behavior was followed by dog’s age (χ² = 17.456, p < .01), size (χ² = 50.137, p < .01), and lifestyle fit (χ² = 57.89, p < .01). Overall findings suggest potential adopters consider similar sets of decision factors when heading into adoption site visits, independent of age group, type of household, or prior experience having pets.
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.
To create a behavioral picture of each dog who comes into the shelter, every shelter should have a structured system for continually assessing the behavior of the dog throughout their stay. The information gathered may determine if the dog is appropriate for placement, guide matching with adopters, identify dogs who need behavior modification or help coping with the stressors of the shelter, or determine if the dog should be humanely euthanized for safety or quality of life. Continual behavioral monitoring can help identify a shift in quality of life, the emergence of an underlying medical condition, or the impact of behavior modification. Behavior observed in any one specific context may not be predictive of behavior in other situations or even in the same situation in the future. By striking the right balance of amount and type of information, shelters can make the best and most expedient outcome decision for each dog in the shelter.
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Human-animal contact can influence psychological and physiological parameters important to health and welfare; nevertheless, there has been relatively little research on the variables that influence or mediate those health consequences. In addition, little attention has been paid on how to create or alter the animal interactions for the betterment of people and their animals. The investigation can be guided by two theoretical perspectives, which make powerful but different and testable predictions: the biophilia hypothesis and social support theory. Along with this theoretically driven research, there is a need for replication of salient research findings to resolve important discrepancies in the literature. Last, animal-assisted therapy (AAT) has to be placed in the context of alternative therapies now available to define its specificity, risks, and overall benefits.
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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.
This introductory chapter provides readers not only with a basic foundation to appreciate and understand this unique kinship with all living creatures but also to discover the roots to the overwhelming growing interest in animal-assisted intervention (AAI). The chapter should also help solidify and clarify how the benefits witnessed within this unique bond have prompted numerous professionals to become more curious about the advantages of animal-assisted interventions. It is apparent that dogs have been bred to coexist with their human counterparts and have filled many roles including herding, guarding, hunting, fishing and being our best friend (Clutton-Brock, 1995). Dogs have also been widely used as service animals, supporting the quality of life of people in need. There have been increasing insights into science’s current understanding of dog behavior and cognition. Perhaps one of the strongest insights that she discusses pertains to dogs’ ability to understand our behaviors (Hare, 2007; Hare et al., 2002). Horowitz (2009) explains that dogs’
The ingestive behaviour of non-lactating ewes (Ovis aries L.) continuously stocked on monocultures of white clover (Trifolium repens L. cv. ‘Huia’) or perennial ryegrass (Lolium perenne L. cv. ‘S23’) maintained at a sward height of 6 cm was recorded. Animals on the clover sward spent significantly less time grazing and ruminating and longer idling than those on grass. Prehension biting rate, masticating rate and ruminating rate were not significantly different between treatments. Bite weight and intake rate were significantly higher on the clover sward but total intake was similar on both treatments. Animals grazing clover ate more, shorter, meals than those grazing grass but the intermeal interval was similar. There was a distinct pattern of grazing over the day on both swards with 70–99% of grazing occurring during daylight hours and 25–48% during the 4 h prior to sunset. Bite weight was positively related to animal liveweight but not to dental arcade width.
This pilot study focused on observational data from in-home interviews of elderly female pet owners. Owner-pet interaction and the behavior of the pets toward the owners and interviewers were recorded. The sample consists of 46 women who owned either cats or dogs and whose pets were present during the interview. The results reflect the expected differences in observed dog and cat behavior, with dogs making more noise, receiving more orders, and exhibiting more coordinated behavior with their owners than did cats. Owners' self-reported attitudes toward their dogs (N=31) were correlated with the observed interactions of the pets for playing with, hugging/petting, picking up, feeding, telling stories about, and showing pictures of the pet. The behavior of dogs ignoring owners was also correlated with owner attitudes toward the pets. Most interestingly, owner attitudes were highly correlated with pets' friendly behavior toward the interviewer.
In the early 1970s, a surge of interest in and attention to pet overpopulation led to a revamping of animal control programs around the country and to the promotion of an approach known as LES (legislation, education, sterilization). Concern about pet overpopulation and the killing of healthy animals in shelters continues to be high, but little is known about the effectiveness of LES over the past few years. The present paper reviews the available data and concludes that the pet overpopulation problem has improved in the last ten to fifteen years with only 10% of the national dog and cat population being euthanized in shelters today as compared to 20% in 1973. The data are insufficient to determine which of legislation, education, or enforcement has been the most important factor. Questions are, however, raised about the effectiveness of a sterilization program in the absence of good animal control.
The importance and problems of dog ownership are reviewed, and 2 models that may be useful as metaphors for viewing dog ownership are presented: the discrete entity model and the web model. The web model considers the resource to be an ensemble of equipment, applications, and techniques, with costs and benefits only partially identifiable. A complex infrastructure is necessary to support the resource, and both resource and infrastructure are seen as social objects. Points from the web model are compared with examples from human–animal bond literature and the author's experience. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2012 APA, all rights reserved)
120 men and 223 women who were in the process of adopting a pet completed an inventory rating physical, emotional, and intellectual effects of roles that pets were expected to play. Ss who were parents also rated the expected roles of pets in their children's lives. Current or previous pet owners retained significantly more newly adopted pets than did Ss who never had pets. Men and parents rejected a significantly higher percentage of pets than did women and nonparents, respectively. Specific role expectations differed considerably between men and women, parents and nonparents, and retainers and rejecters. Ss held higher expectations for dogs than for cats. Suggestions are made for better preparation of future adoptive pet owners to reduce the number of adopted pets abandoned and euthanized. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2012 APA, all rights reserved)