The Reasons For Re-Homing
For many animal advocates, the idea that we would have to “re-home” our companion animals may be almost unthinkable. Many of us would hope for other options before we relinquish our companions to another shelter or even another home, but for some people the circumstance can be unavoidable. In the U.S. and elsewhere, the vast majority of data on cats and dogs being moved from their original homes is focused on shelters. This is most likely because shelters are a natural gathering point for that kind of information; according to this study, about 7.6 million dogs and cats enter shelters annually in the U.S., and about a third of those are relinquished by their human guardians.
The research looked at the process of re-homing companion animals, including as it relates to shelters and also outside of the shelter system. The authors note that recent surveys show that “20% of dog owners and 28% of cat owners obtained their pets from friends or family,” which points to how much companion animals may change hands outside of the shelter system. To better and more holistically understand re-homing, the authors conducted a telephone survey of people across the U.S., reaching both landlines and cell phones. The researchers talked to both “re-homers and non-re-homers,” and the study data reveals a range of interesting findings about re-homing companion animals.
On the surface, the study’s authors note that those who re-homed animals were significantly younger (21% were between 18-39 years old), and that they were more likely to be contacted by cell phone. Re-homed animals were most commonly spayed or neutered and were usually acquired free from a friend/relative/neighbour. The researchers looked at what might have helped retention and found that 40% of re-homers said free or low-cost veterinary care, 34% said free or low-cost training or behavior help, 33% said access to pet-friendly housing, and 30% each said free or low-cost spay/neuter services, free or low-cost pet food, and free or low-cost temporary pet care or boarding.
When it came to their destination, companion animals were most likely to be re-homed “by being given to a friend or family member (37%) closely followed by being taken to a shelter (36%).” The options of “being taken to a veterinarian (14%), given to someone not previously known (stranger, 11%) and set free (1%)” were the much less common options. The researchers found that when respondents re-homed their companions to friends or family, 42% of them had also considered re-homing to an animal shelter. When people re-homed animals to a shelter, 18% also considered re-homing to a stranger. When it came to reasons for re-homing…
Overall, the most common primary reasons for re-homing were pet problem (46%), family problem (27%) and housing problem (18%). The most common individual pet-related reasons were aggression (35%), destruction (29%) and health problems (26%). The most common individual family related reasons were family health troubles (44%) and allergies (24%). The most common housing related reasons were landlord (43%) and not enough space (39%).
For companion animal advocates, all of the numbers above should give us pause. They show that people living with companion animals can have a wide range of reasons for needing to re-home their cats or dogs, and that they will often try friends or family before resorting to the shelter system. This grey area, where animals change hands between friends and family (possibly multiple times), is important to consider in our advocacy. This study shows that there is a whole world of re-homing happening outside of the sheltering system that companion animal advocates may be ignoring. The entire study is available to download here and is worth the read.