“Staggering Statistics” Actually Just Felt a Bit Woozy for a Moment, Now Right as Rain

An 8 pound dog on a chokepole, as pictured on the Charlotte pound's PetHarbor site.  AHA acknowledged the pound as demonstrating extraordinary commitment and "profound grace and respect" with regard to the animals in their care.

An 8 pound dog on a chokepole, as pictured on the Charlotte pound’s PetHarbor site. AHA acknowledged the pound as demonstrating extraordinary commitment and “profound grace and respect” with regard to the animals in their care.

American Humane Association brings the drama:

The numbers are sobering: Every year, some 7-8 million animals end up in our nation’s shelters, which struggle valiantly to provide life-saving services to them. Nearly 4 million are euthanized. Now, new research published by American Humane Association indicates that hundreds of thousands of animals who manage to get adopted from the nation’s shelters are no longer in their homes six months later. These staggering statistics do not even factor in the number of homeless pets abandoned by their former owners to the streets, who wander aimlessly without a roof over their heads, unsure of when their next meal will be. What can be done to get these animals in to loving, forever homes?

Oh noes!  This sounds terrible.  Hundreds of thousands of shelter pets being jettisoned from their homes in addition to the untold hordes of pets already turned out into the streets.  It’s little wonder any of us can make it out to the mailbox without wading through a sea of homeless pets.  Adoption is pointless.  There’s no way out.  I see that now.  Oh!  This is the big one!  I’m coming, Elizabeth!

Before I depart this mortal coil though, let’s take a look at the AHA study.  The survey included 572 recent adopters from 3 cities – Charlotte, Ft. Worth and Denver.  In each city, adopters were selected from one municipal facility and one private shelter.  Results determined that roughly 90% of the adopters still had their pets after 6 months.  Approximately 5% had returned the pets to the shelter and the remaining pets had been rehomed, gotten lost or died.

Gee, when I type it all out, it doesn’t sound so TerribleHorribleReallyQuiteBad anymore.

Let’s go back to that dreadful news on the AHA website:

New study: 1 in 10 adopted pets gone within six months

“Gone” sounds so, I don’t know – final. Like they were sold for use in the slave trade in some faraway land. Or they were fitted with cement shoes and tossed into the river because they couldn’t repay their gambling debts. But really, what the AHA study found was that 90% of adopters kept their pets. Isn’t that kinda yay? And 5% returned the pets to the shelter – the safe haven, if you will – presumably because the pet wasn’t a good fit for their family. Isn’t that kind of expected? And the remaining 5% either had a pet get lost or die or gave them to someone else. Again, this falls under the expected category to me, not the Hair on Fire Emergency that AHA seems to think it is. Things happen. Pets get lost. Pets die. People die. Pets need to be rehomed.  No need to deploy the National Guard.

Kitten at the Charlotte pound, as shown on PetHarbor.  The respect.  It's profound.

Kitten at the Charlotte pound, as shown on PetHarbor. The respect. It’s profound.

I’ll be honest and admit I didn’t read most of the rest of the study.  You might like to read it in full.  In the main, I don’t trust AHA since they kill dogs and cats. But with this study specifically, they seem to be making a mountain – a fiery, ash-spewing type of mountain – out of a molehill. I am concerned though that AHA may attempt to use the findings to encourage shelters to restrict adoptions even further. Better dead than taking a chance on anything else, right?

Overall, my take on this study is this:

  • 90% pet retention 6 months post adoption=pretty good.
  • 5% return rate=about what I’d expect.
  • 5% other life stuff happens rate=about what I’d expect.

Stand down.  Unbunch your panties.  Keep calm and keep adopting.

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23 Comments

  1. Lisa B

     /  May 17, 2013

    They also don’t offer a comparison to show whether the number of shelter pets not in their homes 6 months later is any different from the number of pets obtained by other means are not in their homes 6 months later. How many pets obtained from a breeder, pet store, the neighbors “oops” litter or found as a stray end up dying, being rehomed, abandoned, returned to the breeder or taken to the pound? Maybe the fact is that one out of every 10 pets obtained through ANY means ends up having a change in circumstances within 6 months, and that’s just the way things are.

    Reply
  2. Really – they will use this study to ask for more money for their efforts with shelter animals. UGH.

    Reply
  3. Shirley.. if the way you just explained … is true… I feel pretty good about it.. and I agree.. keep adopting.. Keep fostering.. I still have a foster named Julie, she’s been with me for two years..also , any foster of mine that gets adopted and it doesn’t work out.. it must be returned to me. Side note.. not one has been returned, but I did have to take one back.

    Reply
  4. mikken

     /  May 17, 2013

    Soooooooooooo…if we take it the way they want to spin it, I guess adopting from shelters is mostly pointless, therefore we should…what? Feel ok killing everything that walks through the doors? Throw up our hands and close down all the shelters (although that *would* be better for animals in some areas, for sure)? Outlaw pets? Nuke the country, bake cupcakes with the heat of the explosion, and then start over when the radiation cools off?

    The spin is all very well and good (not), but they really do need to think things through when they pull this sort of shit. Or rather, they WOULD if they cared about anything other than spinnerific PR storms of doom that drive the $$$ in their direction.

    Reply
    • Their point appears to be determining how to keep pets in homes. But if they think a 5% return to shelter rate is “sobering” and “staggering”, I don’t see anything good coming from it. I mean honestly, not every pet is going to be a fit for every adopter. And returning them to the safe haven when it doesn’t work out should be considered a responsible act. If shelters would do their jobs of course. Not everyone knows how to rehome a pet on their own. Many people believe that shelters are the experts so why wouldn’t they bring the pet back there?

      Reply
      • mikken

         /  May 17, 2013

        “… returning them to the safe haven when it doesn’t work out should be considered a responsible act. If shelters would do their jobs of course.”

        There you go again, spouting off about shelters actually sheltering like they’re paid to do it or something.

    • betty gale

       /  June 2, 2013

      YES, dont forget that when they kill them, most of those bodies will end up in that freezer and they fetch a good amount of $$$$$, is a lot cheaper to kill them, and if I was one of them I will die of fright, CHAR MECK . ANIMAL , CONTROL KILLS ANIMALS IN THEIR HOLDING WARD. , YES ANIMALS ARRIVING GET TO BE BE documented in front of a VET teck with animals being destroyed. this place have a FULLY EQUIPPED KILL ROOM, But why bother to walk into the next room; who’ s going to complain , the animals, volunteers? WE STILL ARE. this municipal house of death is run BY: CMPD.

      Reply
  5. Thanks for bring some reality to this AHA dramatization.

    Reply
  6. I’m still trying to figure out where in this AHA article are actually the news? I mean, it isn’t like a big secret that pets are being returned to the shelter for one reason or another. But I find it quiet interesting that AHA actually is blaming people for doing what they are suppose to do: return the animal to the shelter if you can’t keep it any longer. After all, it’s in the adoption contract. that people have signed and it is (here it comes) to protect the animal. Maybe it is not part of the AHA adoption contract and that might be the reason why they are so surprised, everybody else across the country does have that clause in the adoption contract.

    Reply
    • The big news (minus the spin) is that they did a study, it seems. Very curious why AHA (a non-profit org.) needed to hit PetSmart charities up for a grant for this? You would think an org, that size could fund a study this small on their own, if they felt the need to know. Strange. I haven’t read it yet, but I’m betting there won’t be much new there. The money would probably have been better spent on actual pet retention programs, to keep pets out of the shelter in the first place. It really doesn’t require a three phase study. Just ask people why they are giving up their pet, and what you can do to help them keep it.

      Reply
  7. Thanks Shireye for posting & getting to the bottom of it. I had seen this study being posted around facebook by rescue types in my county and was like, ” oh no here we go”. Every time I see something like this from one of the big national orgs, I slap my own forehead and say “Again with the bullshit” ugh

    Reply
  8. And sorry typo, meant to spell Shirley correct!

    Reply
  9. I wonder if the statistics change much if you look at shelters that have pet-retention policies in place. It would be really interesting to see if some of the policies that help reduce surrenders also reduce the number of animals who make another round-trip through the shelter.

    Reply
  10. suju bala

     /  May 18, 2013

    poor puppy under the choke pole and poor kitten held so callously.. me thinks that the staff don’t care..
    Yesbiscuit has been so accurate at assessing the report.. i totally agree and definitely feel that the situation is promising to get better and better for the shelter-pets since 90% of them are retained after 6 months… and why not? they are soo beautiful..
    bless all those who care and adopt shelter-pets..

    Reply
  11. Carole

     /  May 18, 2013

    I know the point of this topic was not to slam Charlotte Animal Control, but the snarky remarks bothered me just the same. I have worked with CMACC for eight years now, and have seen a group of dedicated people who are trying to change and improve the lives of the animals in Charlotte. Picking out a few pictures of their animals on their website and criticizing them is not helpful or supportive. You harp constantly about wanting animal controls to change and go “no kill” but then do not give shelters that are trying to improve ANY positive feedback. Did you notice that for the first time in eight years that CMACC is adopting out pit bulls? This is a HUGE step for them, as a good 1/3 of their dog population is pits. Did you notice that instead of attending the Pet Expo, they are holding a yard sale to raise money for the fund that allows them to treat animals that used to euthanized for problems like heartworms and demodex and broken legs? Or, that this same weekend is BOGO for kittens? Did you give them credit for having the shelter critiqued by the U of FL so they could get ideas on how to decrease the euthanasia rate and improve their facility? How about the fact that CMACC is very rescue friendly and eagerly releases animals to them with no charges or low cost s/n? What about the emails that go out weekly to rescues highlighting animals in danger and asking the rescue community for help? And about the times they have attended community events to provide free or low cost vaccines and microchips to low income pet owners? Or maybe the Disaster Relief workshops they hold to train their employees and volunteers how to deal with large scale disasters? What about the weekend spay/neuter events where they offer free or low cost surgeries to qualifying owners? CMACC is also working to change the policy on community cats so they can decrease the euthanasia rate of ferals entering the shelter.

    All of these things show me that Charlotte Animal Care and Control is NOT a “pound” and deserves the comments that they are “demonstrating extraordinary commitment and “profound grace and respect” with regard to the animals in their care.” Picking out two pictures from the hundreds of animals on their website and making snide comments just shows that you are unwilling to support groups that ARE trying to make a difference.

    Reply
  12. bestuvall

     /  May 18, 2013

    “create a crisis” at its best we need MONEY HONEY to stave the roving hordes

    Reply

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