Petsmart Charities/Ipsos Study: The Where and Why of Adoption

Ipsos Marketing conducted studies for Petsmart Charities on a variety of issues related to pet adoption in 2009 and 2011.  In this post, I am going to look at some of the survey results indicative of why people want to adopt, where they are getting their pets and why more people aren’t getting them from rescues/shelters.

Unsurprisingly, the reason most people want to adopt is to rescue a pet.  (pages 18 – 20)  And yet we see so many invasive and outrageous adoption requirements from rescues and shelters, purportedly because they feel obligated to protect pets from dogfighters, hoarders, and animal abusers.  Put another way, the study found that most adopters are driven by compassion.  Shouldn’t we operate on the assumption that all applicants are kind-hearted unless we find out differently?

Some rescues and shelters are driving potential adopters away.  Where are people getting pets instead?  (page 11)  The primary source for cats is the neighborhood.  More cat owners acquired their most recent pet as a stray than any other source.  More dog owners got their last dog from a family member or friend.  What ties these sources together?  The adoption process is super easy, there are no up front costs to obtain the pet, and in the case of stray cats, the adopter feels they are rescuing the pet.

About 25% of recent pet owners surveyed for the study researched online before acquiring a pet.  (page 12)  Shelters and rescues should ask themselves:

  • Is our website user friendly and up to date?
  • Are our photos and bios of available pets uplifting?
  • Do we have a contact e-mail easily visible on the site and are we checking it regularly and replying promptly to inquiries?

Regarding perceptions of the local pound (page 16):

  • 38% of respondents believe the facility has limited hours – This is an easy fix.
  • 44% believe the pound is against animal cruelty – Wow, the fact that this isn’t close to 100% should be a wake up call for animal control units.
  • 23% think the pets there are well cared for – I interpret this to indicate that most people believe pets are being neglected, abused or otherwise subjected to substandard treatment at their local pound.
  • 32% flat out don’t want to visit the pound because it’s too depressing – No kidding.

There is a lot of useful information here for rescues and shelters. Remember that the math shows us we only need to increase adoptions of shelter pets by a little bit nationwide in order to get every healthy/treatable animal into a home.  It seems like many of our rescues and shelters could do a little bit better simply by applying the Petsmart Charities research to their marketing and protocols.

22 thoughts on “Petsmart Charities/Ipsos Study: The Where and Why of Adoption

  1. Petsmart is about numbers..most purebred rescue orgs use Petco that encourages applications, ect. Petsmart literally chases away purebred rescue orgs by telling them they are “taking up valuable real-estate” in their stores by not doing onsite adoptions.

    1. Regardless of what one thinks of Petsmart, the study was conducted by Ipsos. I haven’t heard anything one way or the other about them so I’m assuming they are a reputable group with solid research protocols.

  2. likely….however rolling purebred rescue orgs. in with shelters IMO results in skewed numbers. Unless they are flippers.
    We had so many adoptions this fall, we simply have 2 dogs available at this time….

    1. That’s great for your group Mary!

      The people surveyed in these studies were all pet owners, not rescues or shelters. The studies were to determine the perceptions people have of rescues and shelters and how those perceptions influence their decisions on where to acquire pets.

  3. One thing I can say as a pet owner….when I go to Petsmart on a weekend, and look at the dogs from the pounds/shelters…my perception has been the dogs are usually dirty, poorly socialized, fights have ensued due to stress and being too close in the environment. Volunteers not trained properly….these issues could have a bearing on public perception.

    Many shelters reject help from those reaching out to help them….has been my experience. Poor matching of adopters/breeds. I spoke to one volunteer recently bashing an elderly couple for returning a high energy puppy…what did they expect?

  4. So, I get what you’re saying about making adoption easier and more pleasant. I foster and rescue, etc and used to work with an organization that did adoption events in a Petco. Anyway, I not only want my dogs to be alive, I want them to have a GOOD life. For me, this mainly means living inside and being part of the family. Not everyone who wants a dog knows how to or is willing to take good care of their dogs. I think it’s important to either educate these people or not adopt to them.

    I’m thinking about this because my neighbor has two beautiful dogs who spend their entire lives in a 12′ x 12′ pen. No walks, never in the house, no one comes out to play with them or love on them, etc. Yes, they are alive, but is this all there is for them? I’ve been trying to get to know these neighbors (I’ve lived here 6 months) well enough to talk to them about this, and as a last resort, offer to foster their dogs to find new homes for them. We recently fostered a dog who had lived her whole life on a chain in someone’s backyard. They adopted her as a puppy. I wish they’d been screened out. She has a lovely home, now.

    1. Erica, sometimes it’s just a matter of education. We had a couple up the street – lovely people, big house, big yard. Their dog (a yellow Lab) was kept in a 12’x12′ pen with a dogloo house in it and nothing else. The pen was placed on the far side of the shed, so while it was screen from wind on that one side, it was also screened from view of the house. So the dog is out in the pen and cannot even see her house…all day, all night.

      Well, one day my neighbor is over playing cards with these people and she just blurts out that it “breaks my heart every time I see your dog locked out there by herself in the cold and the rain away from her people!”. This, apparently, shocked them. They either didn’t realize that they were doing harm to their dog or that they were being seen by the neighborhood as neglectful. Either way, they brought the dog into the house. And they started just using the pen on nice days. Then on no days. They started walking the dog. The son started running with the dog. The dog became part of their family.

      The pen now sits abandoned out in the yard (but hey, it’s not like they can even see it from the house).

      I think it helped that a) no one on the street leaves their dogs outside and b) the person who told them was a friend.

      So best of luck to you in helping those dogs out. I honestly don’t know why people get a dog if it’s just going to be a yard decoration. Maybe if you offer to help with leash lessons or something? (We had Golden up the street who didn’t know how to walk on a leash despite being with this family his whole life. An “invisible fence” was supposed to be good enough, I guess. That dog lived his whole life and died having never gone for a walk. Which is tragic because he lived that way because he was “the husband’s dog” – the “wife’s dogs” did agility regularly…yeah.)

    2. Erica,
      IDK if maybe I should write a post on this subject since it’s the kind of thing that needs explaining but the short answer is this: Screening out people whose pet care methods you disagree with does not help animals.

      1. Well, I’d call it abuse actually, we’re not talking about not letting the dog sleep in the bedroom or feeding it crap food, which are “pet care methods” I don’t agree with. My point is that *I think* some screening is necessary. It doesn’t help animals for them to live miserable lives either.

      2. I think what you’re saying is I would be doing a bad thing to offer to re-home the dogs because then two other dogs would have to stay in a shelter?

      3. Very good point! And not only does screening out people whose pet care methods you disagree with or are different from one’s own not help get animals placed into homes, it deprives many dogs of good happy lves they could have had. I’m older, when i was a kid NO ONE kept dogs inside their homes! They ALL lived outside! And were perfectly happy! Many dogs STILL live their entire lives outside, not in the house, and live perfectly happy lives. Some are actually happier and healther if NOT kept living indoors in a home! Many dogs are happy without leashed walks around the neighborhood, and for some, that isn’t even practical or safe. Some dogs still are able to enjoy lives doing traditional jobs they were bred for, and would be miserable being just a housepet.

      4. Erica, I think you should always try to better a dog’s lot in life, yes. That ‘hope’ of which Shirley speaks is you and people like you!

  5. I think pointing out things like what this survey shows can only help the animals in the long run – are any pound/shelter employees or volunteers paying attention???

    1. Again you’re assuming that shelters feel that it’s their job/priority to get animals out alive. Sadly, that is often not the case. They don’t care what would increase adoptions because they aren’t (in their minds) in the adoption business. Their business is killing. And they do it well (or at least often).

      It comes down to leadership. Time and time again, leadership. It’s the only thing that determines whether or not a shelter acts as a valued member of the community or as a pariah that blights the landscape.

  6. I worked for a city run shelter last year…I lasted a month. It has scarred me. When I quit the guilt I felt for abandoning ALL of the pets was overwhelming. I feel that my experience there could have gone quite differently if only the people in charge had the animals best interest at heart.

    1. The bad news: “Shelters” have some common problems, no matter where they are located. Those not familiar with the issues should take a “Tour” at this link see if their shelter also has these problems,

      The good news: The solutions to the problems will work anywhere.

      You CAN reform your local “shelter”. Above site has a free Toolkit you can use.

      Excellent news: There are now 89 successful communities (and counting!) with open-admission shelters saving 90% or more of the pets that go through them. This blog is documenting them,

  7. I think a lot of confusion comes in when terms like “pound” and “city/county run shelter” which is usually just a nicer name for a pound) and “shelters” that are private and “rescues” are used as if interchangesble and all the same thing,and as if they all have the same purpose, intent, and agenda. They don’t.

  8. An Assoc. PS manager in XXX just quit. They found a kitten dumped in one of the bathrooms at closing. A 5 week old. The manager took it home and contacted a rescue the next day. The store manager told the assoc manager he should have taken it to the instore Banfield and had it killed.
    So much for being about “pets are family” NOT!!

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