New PetSmart Charities® Study Urges Shift in How Adoptable Pets Are Portrayed

Awareness and concern about pet homelessness is undermined by growing misconceptions about adoptable pets

Fundraising campaigns that show homeless pets in depressing conditions appear to strengthen the reluctance of some Americans to adopt a pet, according to new research from PetSmart Charities.

The study also identifies the most persistent misconceptions that people have about adoptable pets —that shelters don’t have the type of dog/cat wanted; purebred pets aren’t available; and you never know what you’re going to get with a shelter pet.

PetSmart Charities funded two national surveys, administered by Ipsos Marketing in 2009 and 2011, to better understand the public’s attitudes and understanding about pet adoption and spay/neuter.

The results of the surveys have highlighted the need for the animal welfare community to portray adoptable pets in a more positive light. Doing so would help to close the awareness gap between the benefits of pet adoption and spay/neuter, and the current pet homelessness and euthanasia epidemic.

“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,” said Kelly Campbell, senior manager of knowledge & research, PetSmart Charities.

Key findings from the study include:

  • · Most Americans (88 percent) drastically underestimate the scope of the euthanasia epidemic. In 2011, people estimated the number of pets euthanized annually was 1.2 million, and in 2009, that number was 1.5 million. Both figures are far below the actual number of approximately 4 million cats and dogs euthanized every year.
  • · Conversely, people’s awareness and concern about the pet homelessness issue have grown, and more say they would consider adopting a pet. In 2009, 51 percent said they would consider adopting a dog or cat, compared to 58 percent in 2011.
  • · However, misconceptions about adoption are increasing – reflecting significant damage that has been done in just two years. The barriers to adoption that have grown significantly from 2009 to 2011 include:

o Shelters don’t have the type of dog or cat wanted: up 9 percent

o You never know what you’re going to get with a shelter pet: up 21 percent

o The dog/cat may have behavioral problems: up 13 percent

o Shelters are depressing or sad: up 20 percent

  •  The desire to save a pet is the strongest driver of adoption at 84 percent. Also, 21 percent of people said that seeing a pet’s picture online motivated them to adopt, reinforcing the need to depict adoptable pets in a positive light.
  •  The study identifies additional drivers of adoption – that people wanted pets already spayed/neutered and vaccinated, that it is less expensive, and they wanted to foster a pet before acquiring one.
  •  In terms of spay/neuter services, some 41 percent of those surveyed in 2011 said the main reason they have not yet spayed or neutered their pet is because they believe their pet was too young for the procedure—a 7 percent increase compared to the 2009 results. A similar percentage of people also said they thought spay/neutering was either too expensive, unnecessary or they simply hadn’t gotten around to it yet.

The misconceptions of pets in shelters are even more apparent in 2011 than they were in 2009, and until the animal welfare industry is able to change attitudes surrounding these barriers, pet homelessness will continue to exist in our communities.

To read the full survey results, visit PetSmart Charities’ online webinar here.

3 Responses to “New PetSmart Charities® Study Urges Shift in How Adoptable Pets Are Portrayed”

  1. Cathy says:

    I am finding that many more people know about rescue and do want to save a homeless dog. When I started fostering in 1998, there were many members of the general public that didn’t know what rescue was all about.
    Many people now state on their applications that they want to be part of saving a dog’s life instead of buying a puppy.

    I think the fact that most rescues are in foster homes instead of shelters helps allay their fears. Adopters trust me to give them an accurate picture of the dog and it’s behaviors and personality. I try to give a complete picture, including the thorns, because I don’t want a dog returned because it doesn’t fit.

  2. Marg says:

    Hi there, this is a good post. I need to come here more often. What a good idea to try to get out the word that the pets in the shelters are NOT bad animals.
    I have a request. Could you send me an email. I have your items that you won on the auction for Jeanne and just need to let you know what they are and how much they are etc. My email is Thanks so much.

  3. fati says:

    The Importance Of A Dog’s Diet

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