Perceptions Regarding Companion Animal Adoption
One method of addressing the companion animal overpopulation problem is to adopt from animal shelters. Research shows there is a large companion animal overpopulation problem in the US. According to data from 9 states presented by Arkow in 1997, extrapolated to a national level, estimates are 8.3 million animals sheltered each year, and 5.7 million euthanized each year. The more recent Animal People (2001) survey estimates 4.6 million dogs and cats euthanized each year. Rowan (1992) reports that the number of companion animals euthanized each year is down from the previous decade. There is no doubt that the companion animal overpopulation problem is significant in size.
Why People Aquire Companion Animals:
Family-type bonding appears to be quite high between people and their companion animals.
- Friedmann (1984) found that 88% agree that the companion animal is a family member.
- Hirschman (1994) found that 80% feel that companion animals are family members.
- Ory & Goldberg (1984) found that 72.9% were “very attached” to their companion animals while 27.1% were “not very attached.”
- Salman & Salman (1983) in Australia found that 46% cited companionship as the primary benefit to companion animal ownership. Other benefits include security/protection (27%), pleasure (10%), and affection/love (5%).
- In the Netherlands, Endenburg (1994) found the most commonly cited reasons were companionship (79%), used to it (29%), social /attachment (20%), social/taking care of an animal (20%), social / child rearing considerations (4%), usefulness (13%), companionship for other animals (13%), social / tactile (12%) and health reasons (12%).
Purchasing Versus Adoption:
Reasons for acquiring a specific breed of dog includes greater predictability in behavior, or seeking a replacement for a particular companion animal. According to Messent (1984), after the death of a companion animal, 72% of owners acquired a companion animal of the same breed.
The disadvantages to obtaining a companion animal from a shelter include the possibility that the animal was a stray.
Companion animal ownership can result in family conflict. According to Cain (1983), 60% of respondents report family conflict with other family members over companion animal issues. This study also estimated that 49% of companion animal owners did so for companionship, 11% to save an abandoned companion animal, 11% for educational purposes for children, 10% for replacement of another companion animal or person, 10% for protection, 7% for gift, and 2% for sports or breeding. According to this survey conducted, the origin of dogs from respondents (total population N=324) were:
- Other companion animal guardians 27.1%
- Shelters 29.3%
- Strays 8.7%
- Companion animal Breeders 25.3%
- Companion animal Stores 9.7%
Of respondents who purchased their dogs from breeders, companion animal stores, and other “Non-rescue” sources, 38% said they would switch.
Why respondents who “bought” their dog chose not to adopt (Total population, N=132):
- Wanted specific breed/qualities 67.6%
- Visited shelter but could not find the type wanted 15.2%
- Impulse decision 15.2%
- Aware of option but did not consider at time of purchase 11.7%
- Visiting a shelter is too unpleasant/depressing 11.0%
- Convenience 4.8%
- Don’t want a used dog/concerned about quality of shelter dogs 4.8%
- Bad experience with shelters 2.8%
- Dog would probably have to be put to sleep 2.1%
- Own litter 1.4%
- Shelter dog too expensive 1.4%
Could anything be done to change purchase decision, for those who bought from for-profit places (Total population, N=124):
- Never 32.3%
- If desired breed available 18.0%
- Nothing against shelter–may purchase next time 15.0%
- Plan on purchasing from shelter next time 13.5%
- If dog’s history was known 6.0%
- Better selection 3.8%
- Would not get another dog 3.8%
- Better advertising 3.0%
- Better access 1.5%
- Don’t put sick animals in with healthy ones 1.5%
- Lower price or free 1.5%
This study did not indicate that purebred dogs have lower uncertainty in costs and benefits, despite the fact that one primary reason people desire purebreed dogs is to reduce uncertainty. The results also indicate that if shelters could better reach people looking for purebreed dogs or puppies, the number of adoptions would be greatly increased. Other ways of increasing adoptions would be to address issues of selection, general quality, or marketing to impulse buyers. Financial incentives to adopt could also sway buyers, but most would not switch on basis of price alone.