Petsmart Charities/Ipsos Study: Why People Aren’t Adopting

Ipsos Marketing conducted studies for Petsmart Charities on a variety of issues related to pet adoption in 2009 and 2011.  The results contain a lot of interesting information which I will look at in upcoming posts.  In this post, I am going to focus on page 14 of the report which asked the question:  What were the reasons you chose not to adopt your cat or dog?

The base for the respondents to this question were owners who had acquired a pet within the past 12 months from a source other than a shelter or rescue group.  Petsmart Charities draws attention on the page to the most common answers given which basically amount to people wanting a purebred pet and/or one with a known history.  But what caught my eye were several of the less popular responses which, to my mind, all fall under the same category and could be combined to reflect more significance:

  • Adoption process too difficult
  • Organization too depressing
  • Inconvenient hours
  • Poor customer service

These were all obstacles to adoption for the respondents that shelters and rescues could address today:

  •  Streamline the adoption process.  Most owners try to do right by their pets and most adopters can be trusted.
  • Don’t threaten to kill pets.  Don’t make assumptions that the pet was abused in the absence of clear evidence.
  • Open up the facility when most people can get there – evenings and weekends.
  • Answer the phone.  Reply to e-mail and social media inquiries.  Treat potential adopters like they are celebrities.

In short, a significant reason people didn’t adopt their last pet was suckage on the part of the shelter or rescue.  Fixable suckage.  Take heed.

(Thank you Joni for bringing this study to my attention.)

6 thoughts on “Petsmart Charities/Ipsos Study: Why People Aren’t Adopting

  1. I’d say “I do not know very much about pet adoption” is also in the same vein, along the lines of marketing.

    Also, “no pet adoption organization/shelter close”, same thing. Offsite adoptions can be done in all kinds of locations, and adopters generally don’t like to come to the (potentially depressing) shelter environment if they can help it.

  2. The shelter’s public relations are a big part. I am so tired of seeing shelters advertise animals as if they are pathetic souls in need of rescuing. Of course this makes adopters wary of the animal’s history. Shelters so rarely focus on what an animal has to OFFER the potential family. WHY don’t they do this? Just recently in a local paper, a shelter published a story to the effect of “Spot’s previous owners were dirtbags who lost interest in him and turned him loose. Won’t you save Spot?” paired with a photo of a sad, depressed dog. This is INSANITY. Only a died in the wool animal rescuer will be moved by this nonsense. And most of us are fed up with this approach because we know it does not serve the animals. Adopters want to add an animal to their family. They need to be told about how Spot is sweet, trusting, playful, and cute. Shelters can ameliorate the “past history” concern by highlighting the recent past history of the animal’s time in the shelter combined with expert input from behaviorists and trainers. And many shelters DO have a past history from previous owners that can be shared with the public.

  3. Certainly agree, and am also not surprised by the study (sadly). Even though I’m actively involved in no kill advocacy, training, shelter/rescue volunteering, blah blah blah… I experienced communication problems and stringent policies with every single rescue I approached while seeking to adopt three dogs over the years (separate occasions of course) – except one. We adopted from that rescue, but on the other two occasions we ended up going to shelters instead. The lack of just responding to inquiry, or following up after a conversation about a dog is started, was quite surprising. Too many balls were dropped… with no dog to fetch them.

    The one time I spoke publicly about the lack of communication causing us to walk away even after jumping through many hoops (a factual no-passion reply to a reply of a blog comment about poor communication – the post wasn’t about them), I was called on the phone by that rescue (finally!), lectured about how they did no wrong (wha?), and then was hung up on when I was explaining what happened and how we felt (woah!). I’ve never been hung up on in my life – and if I was, I would have hoped it would be for something better than what I felt was a level-headed explanation! But I really think that speaks quite clearly to your last bullet. As a community, rescues need to modify the prevalent attitude that their adopters should beg for the opportunity to adopt, and treat them instead like celebrities as you mention. Or at the very least someone honestly trying to do the right thing, instead of an “idiot” or “lazy”. And if an adoption falls apart – find out why! This will only help your organization and save more dogs, not make things worse.

    And if I can add one small #protip for rescues: don’t rant about your potential adopters or supporters on Facebook. I see this way too often. It will turn away potential adopters and supporters watching your public Page faster than you can hit Submit, regardless of who is right.

  4. Like my neighbor who was not allowed to adopt a cat from PetCo adoptions BECAUSE she works full time and the cat would have been in the HOUSE all day alone. But of course the cat is happier in a rescue cage all day.

  5. As a PetSmart Adoption partner I will say that there are still certain areas in the US where financial insecurities still exist and many people are not willing to take on responsibility of a pet when their job/home situation is iffy.
    Many people who want to adopt want to adopt at the moment they are in the store. Unfortunately for many rescues where volunteers work during the day, this is not possible. Now add to that a store manager who refuses to allow staff to do an adoption and that can also affect numbers.
    One small gauge that seems to be accurate is gas prices. When they hit over $3.20 adoptions drop off drastically. Regardless if the pets have steeply discounted adoption fees. We lose approx $35 or more on every animal we adopt at full price and are always scrambling to keep ahead of our vet costs.

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