When and Why Companion Dogs are Returned to Animal Shelters – A Multifactorial Analysis

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Virginia Tech


Millions of dogs come through the shelter system each year, and it is estimated that between 7% and 15% of the dogs that are adopted are returned after a failed adoption. Understanding the factors that predict canine returns to animal shelters might help to inform adoption counseling, reducing intake and euthanasia rates in shelters. Additionally, understanding when returns are more likely to occur following adoption might influence the strategic deployment of resources by shelters to mitigate commonly reported behavior issues. This study utilized intake data from three related animal shelters over a five-year period to investigate what variables were predictors of canine return post-adoption, with a particular interest in dogs’ origin geography compared to their adoptive home geography, as well as time following adoption in which failed adoptions were more likely to occur. The results of our analysis showed no significant relationship between the geographical origin of dogs and returns, but it did suggest a relationship between dogs adopted into urban locations and likelihood of return. Additionally, our analysis supports the findings of prior research that dog breed groupings and age are predictors of adoption success. Finally, we were able to identify that returned dogs have a 66% likelihood of being relinquished by their adopters within the first 30 days following placement.



canine, shelter, relinquishment, returns, dog, adopter, geography