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American Humane Survey Determines Why Some Don’t Own Pets

Posted: Aug. 14, 2012, 5:25 p.m. EDT

American Humane Association survey reveals why some people don't own pets.
The cost of pet ownership, a lack of time to care for a cat or dog, and grief over an animal’s death are among the main reasons people don’t have pets, according to the first phase of an American Humane Association survey.

The association’s Animal Welfare Research Institute in Washington, D.C., which is conducting the ongoing “Keeping Pets (Dogs and Cats) in Homes Retention Study,” also found a strong dislike for cats among more than one-third of people who do not own pets.

“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, chief veterinary adviser at the 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.”

The 1,500 people who completed an online survey were broken into those who had “never owned a dog or cat as an adult,” those who had “previously owned a cat but not within the past 12 months” and those who had “previously owned a dog but not within the past 12 months.”

The study found that less than 25 percent of previous dog owners and 20 percent of previous cat owners had obtained their pets from a shelter.

Senior citizens were among the group least likely to consider a pet despite the reported physical and emotional benefits of pet ownership in that age range. A resounding 90 percent of people age 65 or older who never owned a dog or cat showed no interest in getting one.

Phase 2 of the study will research the number of dogs and cats that remain in an adoptive home six months after being acquired from a shelter or animal control agency. The whereabouts of pets no longer in these homes also will be checked.

Phase 3 will look at practical strategies for improving retention rates after a pet is acquired.

The first two phases were funded through grants from Petsmart Charities of Phoenix.

The completed first phase is available here.

By the Numbers
The top reason a previous dog owner did not get another one was veterinary costs (30 percent), followed by “general costs” (29 percent).

• 26 percent of previous dog owners and 28 percent of previous cat owners cited travel away from home as a barrier to ownership.

• 25 percent of previous cat owners identified cleaning up after the animal as a reason for not owning one.

• 16 percent of previous cat owners said allergies played a role in not owning another cat.

• 20 percent of previous dog owners and 17 percent of previous cat owners reported that grief over the loss of a pet kept them from owning another one.

• Among people who never owned a dog or cat, 30 percent said their lifestyle prevented them from getting a dog and an equal percentage had an issue with cleaning up after dogs.

• 12 percent of nonowners indicated a general dislike of dogs, compared to a 35 percent dislike for cats.
Source: Animal Welfare Research Institute

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American Humane Survey Determines Why Some Don’t Own Pets

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Reader Comments
I am 77 years old, and have had a dog ALL my life until my last one about 5 years ago. I decided (and it was HARD) not to get another one because of veterinary expenses, mainly. Pet insurance just doesn't cover enough. It's hard on a fixed income, and now is the time I SHOULD have a companion. I absolutely LOVE dogs, and I sit for them whenever I can. Please help us Seniors!!!!
Claire, Milford, MA
Posted: 8/21/2012 11:33:22 AM
As I pointed out to American Humane, one of the biggest problems regarding pet guardianship happens to rest with restrictive policies affecting the 99 million Americans who live in rental housing (plus others who live in condominiums with restrictive policies). Either we can't have pets at all or the deposits/fees/monthly charges make pet guardianship financially impossible. Please visit Campaign for Pet Friendly Rental Housing on Facebook to learn more!
SL, Austin, TX
Posted: 8/21/2012 9:29:14 AM
As a former vet tech, I'm very pleased to learn of this study. However, in a study of pet adoption and retention rates that aims to keep animals out of shelters, I think it is vital for researchers to look at whether or not cats being relinquished to shelters have been declawed. There is a strong need for more hard data on the effectiveness of declaw surgery as a means for keeping cats in homes, since the veterinary community uses this argument to justify performing declaw surgeries, yet some studies have suggested that declawing a cat increases rather than decreases its chances of being relinquished. I sincerely hope this study will be taking this into consideration...however, I am not optimistic about it as evidently the study is being sponsored by PetSmart.
Kathleen, New Orleans, LA
Posted: 8/16/2012 7:00:14 PM
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