Animal shelter dogs: factors predicting adoption versus euthanasia

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DeLeeuw, Jamie L.
Burdsal, Charles A.

Each year millions of dogs enter animal shelters across the U.S.; subsequently well over a million are euthanized (American Humane, 2010). Only a limited number of independent studies have investigated reasons for relinquishment of dogs to animal shelters; empirical literature on predictors of adoption versus euthanasia is even scarcer. The primary aim of this study was to use a data-driven approach to identify dog characteristics that contribute to adoption. In turn, the results can be used in subsequent theory building on owner--dog attraction. Data were comprised of all the dogs entering and exiting a Midwestern shelter in 2007. The variable contributing the most variance (17%) to whether a dog was adopted or euthanized was owner’s reason for relinquishment. Having too many animals (18%) was the most frequently cited reason, followed by moving (12%). A discriminant analysis revealed that purebred status had the biggest influence relative to six other variables used to predict whether dogs were adopted or euthanized; it accounted for 29% of the variance of the discriminant function, which in turn accounted for 7.8% of the variance. In descending order of importance, the other predictors of adoption were smallness, being a stray, youth, not having a primarily black coat, medium hair, and being female. Additional findings and implications for shelter and community policy are presented.

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Thesis (Ph.D.)--Wichita State University, College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, Dept. of Psychology