Where Do They Come From? Animals In Shelters

Hunter - adopted in 1996

Hunter – adopted in 1996

Adapted from Northern Va Today


How many people blame breeders for unwanted animals?  The reason there are unwanted pets are the people purchasing or adopting animals.  It does not matter if you get your pet from the best breeder in the world or off the streets: owners are ultimately responsible.  In this piece, we will look at some data about animals in rescue.  First let us look at serious breeders:

When placing animals, serious breeders screen, question, evaluate and work hard to choose a good home.  Serious breeders are a lifetime resource for the new owner.  Contracts include a return clause.  Serious breeders want homes to be successful!  To better understand why animals end up in rescues, we have to look at data.

Oxford-Lafayette Mississippi Humans Society surveyed the sources of animals being surrendered:

Family member, friend, or neighbor: 42%

Animal Shelter: 15%

Breeder: 15% (no distinction between types of breeders)

Found animal as stray: 14%

Pet Store: 7%

Local animal rescue group: 2%

Other: 4%  Not Sure: 1%


Tallahassee, Fl, Animal Service Center, 2012-13 intake information:

1939 – owner surrender

5064 – picked up as strays

130 – returned to the shelter

228 – confiscated

72 – picked up for quarantine

20 – transferred there from other shelters

Breakdown: 3459 – cats/kittens, 3917 – dogs/puppies, the balance were other species.


Other data I have checked has a range of 15-30+% of adopted animals will be returned to the shelter or rescue!  In Oklahoma City, 40 of every 125 dogs adopted on a weekly basis end up returned to the shelters – 32% (KFOR-TV report, Feb 2013, Oklahoma City).

Why are pets given up: according to the National Council on Pet Population Study and Policy (in no specific order): moving, landlord, no time, cost, behavioral issues, and too many pets.  The average dog or cat given up was a young adolescent to young adult (up to 3 years old) and had been owned for less than a year.  96% of the dogs received NO OBEDIENCE TRAINING.  When I read surrender info on cards at local shelters, I often see various reasons revolving around children losing interest or no longer being responsible for the pet – which now the parents do not want.

How do we reduce the number of unwanted pets?  We focus on the owners.  Lack of research and preparation for short term and long term needs are factors in the success of a home.  Parents must realize children cannot be primary caregivers for pets.  What will happen when the child goes to college or gets married?  Improper training, lack of socializing and failing to do work starting the moment the pet enters the home results in problems down the road.  How many dog owners follow old recommendations of nothing until the puppy is 12 – 16 weeks or even six months old?  What if a family is started?  Preparation for a child begins before there is a pregnancy!  Is the owner properly maintaining the pet or allowing it to roam?  How many owners fail to think what will happen when the pet becomes a senior?

Owners determine if the animal will remain in the home or not.  Beginning with the decision to get a pet, the research into species and needs and all the other considerations when acquiring a pet, the blame lies with the pet owner.

Karen Peak is owner/operator of West Wind Dog Training in Prince William County, founder of The Safe Kids/Safe Dogs Project, a published author, wife, mother and the manager of a multi-dog, multi-species household.

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