24PetWatch Owner Surrender and Acquisition Source Analysis
This analysis quantifies the reasons for surrendering a pet in the U.S., how these reasons changed during COVID-19, how they compare to the 2009 recession and where surrendered pets are first acquired.
- People surrender both dogs and cats to shelters largely due to factors unrelated to the pet.
- From March through September 2020, COVID-19 has not led to a significant increase in the rate at which pets are surrendered due to human reasons.
- Notably, euthanasia is the ninth most cited surrender reason (5.5%) and is higher for dogs (seventh, or 7.4%) than cats (tenth, or 3.7%).
- The top reasons for surrendering a pet are largely consistent both prior to COVID-19 and during; this is based on comparisons of March to September 2020 with March to September of both 2018 and 2019 combined:
- Too Many Animals – 16.5% prior vs. 18.0% during
- Housing – 14.4% prior vs. 11.3% during
- This may be due to eviction moratoriums.
- Caretaker or Family Health/Death – 9.7% prior vs. 10.2% during
- Non-Aggressive Behavior/Personality – 7.7% prior vs. 7.5% during
- Financial – 7.0% prior vs. 7.6% during
- The 2009 recession had higher surrender rates due to housing and finances compared to COVID-19, while the pandemic has had more of an impact on human health-related surrenders. This is based on comparisons of March to September 2020 with March to September 2009:
- Too Many Animals – 18.5% in 2009 vs. 18.0% during COVID-19
- Housing – 14.7% in 2009 vs. 11.3% during COVID-19
- Caretaker or Family Health/Death – 7.3% in 2009 vs. 10.2% during COVID-19
- Non-Aggressive Behavior/Personality – 6.4% in 2009 vs. 7.5% during COVID-19
- Financial – 10.8% in 2009 vs. 7.6% during COVID-19
Sources of Acquisition for Surrendered Pets
Note: APPA general acquisition data does not evenly align with these categories and is based on pet owners who may have multiple pets and provide multiple sources.
- Dogs that are given or rehomed to someone are most likely to be surrendered to a shelter (35.7%) compared to the 23% rate (APPA) at which such dogs are generally acquired.
- This suggests that additional community support may be needed to help those with rehomed pets avoid having to surrender them to a shelter.
- Pets from litters are disproportionately more likely to be surrendered, making up 17.8% of dog surrenders (4% general acquisition per APPA) and 24.4% of cat surrenders (2% per APPA).
- Stray (27.8%) is the most common source of acquisition for cats who end up being surrendered.
- The rate at which adopted or purchased pets are surrendered is significantly lower than the rate at which such pets are generally acquired.
Business Intelligence and Strategy
Best Friends Animal Society