Study: Misconceptions About Shelter Pets Prevents Adoption
PetSmart Charities releases data pointing to the need for more positive portrayalsPublished December 6, 2012
PetSmart study shows public misperceptions about shelter pets cause barriers to adoption
To learn more about the public’s assumptions concerning pet adoption, PetSmart Charities funded two national surveys; the first in 2009 and a second one 2011. These surveys were administered by Ipsos Research and targeted to better understand how people felt about adopting pets and their knowledge about spa/neuter.
The result of the PetSmart Charities study strongly pointed to the need for a change in the way adoptable pets are portrayed. They found that fundraising campaigns that feature homeless pets living in heartbreaking conditions seem to reinforce reluctance on the part of some Americans to adopt a pet. The survey results highlighted the need for animal welfare organizations to represent adoptable pets in a more positive light by accentuating the benefits of pet adoption, spay/neuter, and disseminating information about the current euthanasia “epidemic”.
Kelly Campbell, senior manager of Knowledge & Research at PetSmart Charities said, “The pets shown in fundraising campaigns should be the same pets that animal welfare organizations are asking people to adopt – those that are healthy, happy, and ready for a forever home.”
The study also revealed that misconceptions about adoptable pets are increasing from 2009 to 2011, causing barriers to adoption which have grown significantly during this period. These common misconceptions include:
- The desired type or breed of pet cannot be found in a shelter.
- Suitable pets cannot be found in shelters.
- When adopting a pet from a shelter one never knows what you will be getting.
- The adoption process is too complicated.
- A shelter pet may have health and/or behavioral problems.
- Shelters are depressing and sad.
On the other hand, however, over this two-year period there was a growing concern and awareness about pet homelessness with more people considering pet adoption. In 2009, 51 percent said they would consider adopting a cat or dog and in 2011 the percentage grew to 58 percent.
The study highlighted some of the strongest drivers to adoption. 84 percent of people expressed the desire to save a pet, 21 percent said being able to view a pet's picture online was a motivating factor for them. Additionally people wanted to adopt pets that had already been spay/neutered and vaccinated and some folks were interested in fostering a pet prior to adopting one.
The key findings from the study also included that 88 percent of Americans gravely underestimated the extent of the euthanasia epidemic. In 2009, the people estimated that 1.5 million pets were euthanized annually and 1.2 million in 2011, when it reality the actual number of cats and dogs is approximately 4 million euthanized every year.
Since these misconceptions about pets in shelters are even more apparent in 2011 than they were in 2009, the barriers to adoption will remain in place. Until animal welfare is able to radically change these inaccurate perceptions about shelter pets and feature them in a more attractive light, pet homelessness will continue to exist in our communities.
For the full survey results, read the transcript of PetSmart Charities’ online Webinar.
What perceptions do you hold about animal shelters? Share them in a comment.