Posted on February 15, 2016
Re-Homing of Dogs and Cats in the United States
In the United States, more than one million dogs and cats are re-homed every year. The fact that so many animals are removed from their established homes and placed in new situations was revealed in a recent ASPCA study titled, “Goodbye to a Good Friend: An Exploration of the Re-Homing of Cats and Dogs in the U.S.”
Lead researcher, Dr. Emily Weiss had this to say.
To our knowledge, this is the first study of its kind to look not only at animals being re-homed to shelters but dogs and cats being re-homed in other ways- such as to a friend or family member- so we were excited and interested to see all of the results. This is the first time we’ve been able to estimate how many pets are re-homed each year, and more than 1 million is a significant number.
The study data was collected via telephone surveys. A variety of information was obtained about the participants and their animals. Participants who re-homed their dog or cat selected their primary reason for doing so.
Of 12,245 eligible people reached, 590 (6%) of them had re-homed a pet during the preceding five years. Respondents who re-homed a dog or cat were significantly younger than those who did not. Additionally, re-homers were more likely to be reached by cell phone than a landline.
Amongst the re-homers 199 re-homed one or more cats and 391 re-homed one or more dogs. The re-homed animals were most commonly acquired free from a friend, relative, or neighbor. Cats were more likely than dogs to have been acquired as strays.
Of the rehomed animals, 56% of the dogs and 62% of the cats were neutered. These percentages are lower than what is expected from the general pet population in which 90% of cats and 86% of dogs are neutered.
Where pets were re-homed
Re-homed pets were most commonly given to a friend or family member (37%). Pets were also rehomed to shelters (36%), veterinarians (14%), strangers (11%) or by being set free (1%).
Reasons for re-homing
The three most common reasons provided by respondents for re-homing their pets were:
- Pet related issues (46%): health problems and problematic behaviors such as aggression and destructive behavior
- Family related issues (27%): personal or family health troubles, pet allergies, divorce or separation, new person in household who didn’t like the pet, death in the family, new baby, lack of time to care for pet
- Housing related issues (18%): not enough space, landlord restriction
For those who rented rather than owned their property, housing related issues was the number one reason for re-homing. Respondents with incomes of less than $50,000 were more likely to re-home due to cost and housing issues. They most commonly selected the following services that would have allowed them to keep their pets:
- Availability of free or low-cost veterinary care
- Free or low-cost training or behavior help
- Guidance on finding pet-friendly housing
- Free or low-cost neutering services
- Free or low cost pet food
- Free or low cost temporary pet care or boarding
- Assistance in paying pet deposits for housing
Respondents with incomes above $50,000 were more likely to re-home because of pet-related problems.
Massive numbers of animals are being homed in the United States every year. Given the estimated 102 million dogs and cats in the United States, the 6% re-homing rate documented in this study translates into an estimated 6.12 million dogs and cats re-homed every five years, or more than a million pets each year.
Given the many well documented benefits of living with dogs and cats (many of which I’ve discussed in previous blog posts), enhancing the ability of people to retain their pets, regardless of their socioeconomic status, makes really good sense. This study has revealed some clear and relatively simple ways to make such a difference.
As Dr. Weiss states,
Overall the results of the survey reinforce what we’re seeing on the ground in communities: Too many pets are being given up for reasons that can be prevented, especially for pet owners with lower incomes. The more complex drivers for re-homing such as behavior challenges are an area where more research may help better elucidate the drivers leading to these challenges and solutions.
Have you, your family or friends dealt with the need to re-home a pet?
Nancy Kay, DVM
Diplomate, American College of Veterinary Internal Medicine
Author of Speaking for Spot: Be the Advocate Your Dog Needs to Live a Happy, Healthy, Longer Life
Author of Your Dog’s Best Health: A Dozen Reasonable Things to Expect From Your Vet
Recipient, Leo K. Bustad Companion Animal Veterinarian of the Year Award
Recipient, American Animal Hospital Association Animal Welfare and Humane Ethics Award
Recipient, Dog Writers Association of America Award for Best Blog
Recipient, Eukanuba Canine Health Award
Recipient, AKC Club Publication Excellence Award
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Please visit http://www.speakingforspot.com to read excerpts from Speaking for Spot and Your Dog’s Best Health. There you will also find “Advocacy Aids”- helpful health forms you can download and use for your own dog, and a collection of published articles on advocating for your pet’s health. Speaking for Spot and Your Dog’s Best Health are available at www.speakingforspot.com, Amazon.com, local bookstores, and your favorite online book seller.