Understanding The Factors That Lead To Successful Dog Adoptions
When talking about the dynamics of dog shelters, a great deal of the scholarship that exists deals with basic descriptions of demographics and statistics, or the reasons for relinquishment (or sometimes both). Meanwhile, the actual factors that lead to rehoming of animals is reported to be “quite variable” though it’s been given a fraction of the attention. Among the highly variable studies, some have found that younger, female, and purebred dogs are more likely to be adopted, while “black dog syndrome” has been debated a great deal and remains inconclusive.
The purpose of this study was to look at rehoming (dubbed, “live release”), length of stay, and multiple risk factors, with the hope of determining or approaching an “overall probability of live release.” However, the authors wanted to make the most impact through their study: they note “as more and more shelters and communities are working towards the goal of saving every placeable dog,” that “the shelters believed to face the greatest challenges in achieving this goal are high-volume, municipal, open-admission facilities that are responsible for animal control services.” As a response, they set out to identify, for dogs admitted for rehoming, “factors associated with live release and shorter length of stay from one such open-admission shelter that challenges this stereotype.”
The study took place at Pima Animal Care Center (PACC) shelter in Tuscon, Arizona, that sees about 19,000 animals per year admitted from the 9,000 square mile jurisdiction. About two thirds of the animals admitted to the shelter are dogs, and about 60% of those are strays. They studied over 21,000 canine records from the shelter, and focused on dogs whose length of stay “was not unduly influenced by factors outside of the shelter’s control,” such as being admitted for rabies quarantine.
Of the 21,000 records, just under 19,000 records were for dogs that had “potential for rehoming.” They found that, overall, the rehoming rate was 88.5%, and that 12% of the population was admitted to the shelter more than once. For puppies, the rehoming rate was 92.2%, while the oldest age group had about half those odds. According to the study, “the odds of release within a week (Length of Stay ≤ 7 days) of intake also decreased progressively with increasing age.” What’s more, the rehoming rate for black and non-black dogs was identical, at 88.5%.
Interestingly, the researchers found that, as far as a combination of factors, the “most favorable combination of characteristics,” which resulted in “near-certainty of live release,” was a small, female dog without a “blockhead” appearance, with no medical or behavioral concerns, and with only a single breed designated.
Two results stood out for the researchers as unusual: firstly, they found that, of dogs returned from adoption, 85.2% were subsequently rehomed, showing the potential of just finding the right match for a given dog; secondly, they found that over one-third (36.9%) of dogs originally brought in for euthanasia could, upon further evaluation by staff and discussion with human companions, “be made available for adoption (with nearly three-quarters of those (71%) placed), for a total save of 21.1% of the original cohort originally brought in to be euthanized.”
Overall, the researchers note that the high overall rehoming rate (88.5%) represents, at the very least, a “marked improvement over historical trends,” and the sheer breadth of the study looking at two years of data helps with the reliability of the study. Still, the authors are cautious to note that the study was of one particular shelter. In this case, they note that a robust foster program has seemed to help the odds of rehoming. Though they are careful not to generalize these results to all shelters, the potential may be there to look at this shelter – and its policies – as a touchstone for further refining policies in other shelters.