According to the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) and studies reported in the Journal of Applied Animal Welfare Science, 20 percent of dogs in shelters were adopted from shelters. The adopters returned their pets for a variety of reasons, most having to do with behavior problems, conflicts between the new pet and in-home pets or a problem between the owner's children and the new pet.
Almost a third--28 percent--of pet owners who return their pets do so because of a behavior problem. Many shelter dogs end up in the shelter because of behavior issues, only to be adopted out again--and returned again--for the same issues. Problems such as destructive behavior, inappropriate elimination, aggression, excessive barking, escaping, and other unwanted behaviors can lead to the owner's dissatisfaction, and the dog's return to the shelter. Some owners are unwilling or unable to correct their new dog's behavior problems and return the animal. In many cases either the owners were not informed of the dog's behaviors, or they held different expectations.
Of the pet owners returning their dogs to the shelter, 19 percent cited that the dog did not get along with the other pets in the household. Bringing a new dog into a household of other pets often disturbs the hierarchy established by the other pets. The owner will often shower attention on the new addition to the dismay of the current pets, thus causing strife between them. Dogs will often behave differently at a shelter than in a household, so it is difficult to judge if the new dog will fit in.
One problem that causes dogs to be returned to the shelter are conflicts with the child or children in the household. These conflicts ranged from the children stressing the dog to the dog being too rambunctious for the children. Around 15 percent of owners returned their pets for this reason, and 4 percent of owners expected their children to care for the pet. In these cases, the shelter failed to match the family to the appropriate pet.
Other reasons for shelter returns include that the dog got too large, the owner or family member had an allergic reaction, the dog had a health issue or the owner didn't have enough time to spend with the pet.
Most returns occur from a failed set of expectations. The adopter often has a skewed perception of pet ownership and the role a dog plays in it. To reduce returns, shelters need to educate their potential adopters better as well as screen the people looking to adopt a pet. If the shelter educates the new pet owner on what to expect in the dog's behavior, health, and cost, the pet owner may be able to make an informed decision regarding the pet they adopt.
- Stockbyte/Stockbyte/Getty Images