Why They Pass On Pets
The American Humane Association has set an ambitious agenda. To reduce the number of healthy cats and dogs euthanized annually in the U.S., estimated at 3 million to 4 million, the association’s Animal Welfare Institute has launched a three-part study to better understand pet ownership and retention.
The first phase consisted of interviews with 1,500 previous owners and non-pet owners for a report on “Reasons for Not Owning a Dog or Cat.” Some of the results were surprising, some expected and others disheartening, the association says. Among the findings:
– Only 18 percent of former owners adopted their cats from a shelter or rescue organization, despite “massive” public education campaigns encouraging the practice. However, 56 percent of former cat owners said they would adopt a cat from a shelter or rescue organization in the future.
– One in six previous cat owners, or 17 percent, cited lasting grief over the loss of a pet as an obstacle to getting a new pet.
– Forty-nine percent of respondents who didn’t own a pet as an adult had a dog or cat as a child.
– Seniors were among the least likely to get pets, despite the widely known physical and emotional benefits of pet ownership for older people. Sixty-six percent of previous cat owners 65 or older would not consider getting another cat.
– More than a third of non-pet owners said they dislike cats.
Other barriers respondents cited were the cost of owning pets and perceived lack of time to care for them. These results point the way to interventions, the AHA says, adding that the most promising are supporting younger, future cat owners and continuing to assess negative attitudes toward cats, identifying methods to help people work through grief, celebrating the prior pet and re-entering the ownership pool, and providing support to future owners adopting pets from shelters and rescue agencies.
The second phase of the study will track the number of dogs and cats remaining in their new homes six months after adoption. The third will test strategies to improve retention. The studies are funded through a grant from PetSmart Charities.
“There are still significant hurdles to overcome in helping to keep more of these healthy, adoptable animals out of the nation’s shelters,” said Patricia Olson, DVM, Ph.D., chief veterinary adviser for the AHA and head of the research institute. “Using the data gathered and the work to be done in future phases of this study, we hope over time to decrease pet homelessness and relinquishment.”
$1 Million to Promote Health
The American Veterinary Medical Association will contribute $1 million to a national campaign promoting the importance of routine veterinary care and the role of veterinary professionals in maintaining pet health.
Despite the fact that cat and dog ownership is at a record high in the U.S., with 86 million cats and 78 million dogs currently owned, veterinary visits have declined. Fifty-one percent of veterinarians have experienced a decrease in patient visits, according to an extensive Bayer Health Care study in 2011.
The AVMA contribution will go to Partners for Healthy Pets, an alliance of more than 20 veterinary associations and animal health companies created by the AVMA’s committee on preventive healthcare.