Study: What Factors Are Involved When Re-Homing A Family Pet?

The decisions to re-home a pet are numerous. The ASPCA has released its research behind the most common reasons why people surrender pets.


There is a scene in the movie “The Wizard of Oz” where Glenda the Witch of the North tells Dorothy that the best way to embark on her long journey to Oz is to simply “start at the beginning”. Pretty practical advice from a witch and certainly a logical approach to any problem that appears overwhelming. Well, the wise folk at the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) decided to do just that in their quest to understand why so many family pets were taking up valuable space in the area shelters. They started at the beginning.


Related: Tips To Follow When Rehoming A Dog


You see, an estimated 6.12 million households re-homed or surrendered their pets over the past five years. Yes, on average, 1 million households re-home their pets each year and the ASPCA realized that if they were ever going to alleviate the pressure on rescue shelters already struggling to accommodate abandoned and stray animals, they needed to better understand the root cause behind these heart-breaking decisions.


So the ASPCA embarked on an extensive study of pet owners – all of whom confirmed they had given up a pet within the past five years – in a bid to better understand what drove them to choose giving up their pet.


Related: Things To Consider Before Surrendering Your Dog To A Shelter


The results were recently published in the peer-reviewed Open Journal of Animal Sciences, and the findings draw an interesting correlation between income levels and catalyst. Of note:


  • Re-homed pets were most often given to a friend or family member (37%), closely followed by being taken to a shelter (36%), to a veterinarian (14%), being given to someone not previously known (11%) and being set free (1%).
  • The most common reasons for re-homing a pet were related to the pets themselves (46%), followed by family situations (27%) and housing issues (18%).
  • Among the 46% who responded that they gave up a pet due to a pet-related issue, 26% said they could not afford medical care for their pets’ health problems.
  • Pet owners with incomes less than $50,000 identified the services that would have helped them most as being free or low cost veterinary care (40%), free or low-cost training or behavior help (34%), access to pet-friendly housing (33%), free or low-cost spay/neuter services (30%), free or low cost pet food (30%), free or low cost temporary pet care or boarding (30%) and assistance in paying pet deposits for housing (17%).


Dr. Emily Weiss, vice president of research and development for the ASPCA confirms that, “Knowing that many pet owners would’ve opted to keep their pet with them if they’d had access to such critical services illustrates the need for programs and services that intervene and reach these pet owners before they’re forced to make this difficult decision. This is especially crucial in underserved communities where poverty rates are high and access to resources is limited.”


The study findings underpin initiatives already undertaken by the ASPCA including their “safety net” program which was launched in June 2014 at two of the highest intake Los Angeles County shelters. Since that time, the program has assisted over 4,100 animals who were at risk of entering the shelter system and follow-up with a small sample of clients confirms over 80% of these pets still remain in their homes. In fact, over the past five years, the ASPCA has distributed nearly $4 million in grants to over 300 organizations in 46 states to support similar safety net programs. Definitely a beginning that has a happier ending!

Mary Simpson
Mary Simpson

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