Posted Jan. 15, 2014
The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals released results Dec. 12, 2013, from a study that adds to previous findings that pets acquired as gifts are not more likely to be relinquished to shelters.
According to the study’s authors, many in the field of animal welfare believe that shelters should not allow adoptions by those looking to give pets as gifts. The authors cite a number of studies with findings counter to that belief. A 2000 study found that the odds of dog and cat relinquishment were higher when acquiring the animal from a shelter, from a friend, as a stray, or from a pet shop, compared with receiving the animal as a gift. A 1999 study found that a pet being an “unwanted gift” was listed as a reason for relinquishment for only 0.3 percent of dogs and 0.4 percent of cats.
The new ASPCA study drew from part of a July 18-21, 2013, telephone survey. The authors analyzed data from 222 respondents who had received a pet dog or cat as a gift in the preceding 10 years. Some of the pets were surprise gifts, and some were not. The study found no significant associations “between receiving a pet as a surprise gift or not and the extent to which the gift impacted love/attachment and whether the pet was still in the home.”
Ninety-six percent of respondents thought receiving a pet as a gift increased or had no impact on their love for, or attachment to, that pet. Eighty-six percent of the pets were still in the home or remained in the home until they died.
“This has been a very controversial topic for the public and the sheltering world alike,” said Emily Weiss, PhD, ASPCA vice president of shelter research and development. “These are exciting findings that can help open new adoption options for shelters, allowing more animals to be placed in loving homes.”
The AVMA does not have a policy on pets as gifts but has encouraged careful consideration before giving a pet as a gift.
Dr. Clark K. Fobian, AVMA president, said negative repercussions can result if a pet is not the right fit for a family. Variables include the characteristics of the pet and the family as well as the home environment, he said. He believes preparation is key to successful adoption of a pet.
“Only give pets as gifts with forethought and extreme caution,” he advised. “Surprises are fun. Unwanted, uncared for, and relinquished pets are an un-warranted disaster.”
The ASPCA study also appeared online Oct. 16, 2013, in the open-access journal Animals.