Shelter Animal Adoption Research: A 2015 Review
Each year, about 1.5 million companion animals are euthanized in shelters in the United States, primarily due to lack of space. One way to counter this problem is to persuade people to adopt companion animals from shelters instead of buying them from breeders and pet stores, which only further contribute to companion animal overpopulation. This report, published by the Ad Council, presents the results of a survey that assessed current and potential dog and cat guardians’ attitudes regarding adopting pets from shelters versus buying them from breeders and pet stores.
The online survey included 1,402 participants who responded to questions about their companion animals and their perceptions on acquiring animals from shelters, pet stores, and breeders. Some findings were divided by age, categorized as Millennial, Generation X, and Baby Boomer. This article rounds up the key findings.
Role Of Cats and Dogs In Families
The vast majority of participants stated that their relationships with their companion animals are mutually beneficial and they value their companion animals for their unconditional love and the joy and understanding they bring. The majority also stated that they love their cats and dogs like family members, and those with companion animals from shelters and pet stores were more likely to feel this way. A minority of participants stated that their companion animals limit their social lives and are a burden—a belief that was three times higher among participants who bought companion animals from pet stores.
Motivations And Recommendations Regarding Acquiring Companion Animals
The top motivations for buying animals from breeders rather than adopting were wanting a puppy, kitten, or pure-bred animal and wanting an animal who is good with children. Millennials were more likely to find shelters depressing or uninformative. The top motivations for getting animals from pet stores rather than shelters were wanting a puppy or kitten, making impulsive decisions, and finding it convenient. Gen Xers expressed more concern about potential psychological issues in shelter animals. The top motivations for adopting from shelters were wanting to “do the right thing,” wanting to save a life, and believing that animals from shelters make great companions. Participants who adopted were more likely to feel pride, kindness, and social responsibility when discussing their animals and were very enthusiastic about recommending that others adopt.
Considerations When Adopting A Companion Animal From A Shelter
Participants who bought companion animals from breeders and pet stores stated that they would likely consider adopting based on exposure to friends’ adopted animals and having more experience raising animals. Participants said they would be more likely to adopt knowing that: they could save a life, they are doing a good thing, animals from shelters are healthy, and animals are already vaccinated and spayed or neutered. The majority stated that getting a pure-bred companion animal was not particularly important. Also, according to participants, knowing that animals are often surrendered because of “people problems” and not “pet problems,” as well as hearing “happily ever after” stories from people who have adopted a companion animal, would make them more likely to adopt.
Companion Animals On Social Media
Only 10% of participants use “pet-specific” hashtags, but a majority of those who have adopted animals would be willing to use one that raises awareness about the rewards of adoption.
Knowledge Of Euthanasia Of Companion Animals
When asked what they believe is the No. 1 cause of death among cats and dogs, only 53% of participants correctly identified euthanasia. Those who bought from a pet store were least likely to identify euthanasia. Of those who did not realize euthanasia was the No. 1 cause of death, the majority stated that knowing this fact would make them more likely to consider adopting.
The survey provides useful information that can help shelters better understand and market to potential adopters. In particular, as the authors state, the results show evidence of “great opportunity to leverage the passion and enthusiasm of shelter/rescue pet adopters to help ‘normalize’ and celebrate it.” People who adopt from shelters feel great pride and enthusiasm about their decisions to adopt, and those considering adopting are very receptive to advice. While many shelters already promote happy-ending stories, they might consider extending their efforts further through social media campaigns that encourage adopters to share their stories in their own social-media circles.