Adopting Should Mean For Life

On May 8 2013, the American Humane Association released findings to a study they have been doing research on for the past year. The study was conducted to understand more of why people own or don't own pets.

This results of the study, to me, was disturbing. They found that 1 in 10 pets who were adopted from animal shelters were no longer in the home after 6 mths. These pets were either returned to the shelter, given away, lost or died.    They could not verify that it wasn't more then 1 in 10 because so many people did not respond to the study. The results could be higher. 

Being connected to a no kill shelter I have heard and seen a lot. In our contract to adopt, we have a clause that says if you can not keep your adopted pet , it must come back to our shelter, no matter how long they have the animal. 

After reading the article from the American Humane Association, I thought it would be a good time to discuss some of the reasons I found that people  return pets. The following is my own opinion:

#1 - Doesn't let pet adjust- Many people think when they adopt a pet, that pet is going to walk in to the home and know that IS their home. This is untrue. Pets need adjustment time. This time could be 2 weeks and sometimes it can be 2 mths. Depending on the pet this can be overwhelming. All the new surroundings, smells, rules of the house can be a little frightening to the pet. If there are other pets in the home, the new pet has to get used to the other. Sometimes, the pets get along great and there are no issues but there are the chances they will have conflict. 

#2 - Adopted to save a life- Face it, you have seen those faces of a animal scheduled to be euthanized. There are always those URGENT! WILL DIE!! post from a shelter that euthanizes, usually county or city ran shelters. So many people will adopt that pet just because they don't want to see it die but they don't consider everything that goes along with adoption. I can't tell you how many post I have read about a animal coming back because the person who adopted the pet couldn't have pets. Yes, they adopted to save the life but they weren't allowed pets as per their rental agreement but they adopted anyways. Most pets are given away because of this, some are even dumped somewhere because that person thought the pet had a better chance in the wild then in the shelter. There have been a few times when someone adopted a dog scheduled to die and brought it straight from that shelter to ours. The person then got upset because we couldn't take it and they ask us what are they supposed to do with the animal. 

#3 - Didn't think it through- There have been times when someone has came to our shelter stating their pet just got ran over and died and they need another pet. These people are always declined at our shelter. We believe that if you truly loved your pet you need to have a adjustment period to mourn. Do you have the funds for vet care, food, toys? Shelter animals need adjustment time. It might soil in your home for the first few days or maybe even weeks. It doesn't know any better. It has to be trained

#4- Adopted a breed that wasn't suitable to adopter- You wouldn't want to adopt a St. Bernard or Great Dane if you live in a tiny apartment , now would you? Think about the breed and if it fits your lifestyle. If you are happy to sit on your couch and watch TV all night after work , you don't want to adopt a high energy dog. Sometimes those dogs can get you more active but are you willing to do it? Most shelters/rescues will talk to you about what you like to do, how many hours a day you work, your job in general etc. Its not because the shelter is nosy its because they need to know if your lifestyle can handle that dog. If you work 12-16 hrs a day 5 days a week do you really want that dog to spend all his  time alone? Are you going to have the energy to give to him when you get home? If you travel a lot for work they want to know the pet will have care while you are gone.  

#5- But it was cute or I wanted a puppy- Sure those puppies are cute but they will grow up to be full size dogs and they will lose that puppy look. Would you adopt that cute tiny puppy knowing it was a lab and would get up to the range of 50-70 pounds? I can't tell you the times that I have heard someone saying "I didn't know it would get THAT big". Puppies take training. They have to be potty trained, socialized, taught what to chew on and what not to. Training is the key to a well behaved dog and some people don't want to put the effort in to train. So the cute puppy gets returned because of behavioral issues that simply training would have corrected. People also don't understand the cost of owning a pet. One trip to the vet for early vaccines can range anywhere from $60 to $200 and then there is the flea treatments, food, toys etc. It can cost a lot to own a dog but so does having children. 

#6- Ignorance- Yes I said it, Ignorance! The pet being returned because "I had a baby", "it didn't get along with my pet" and the excuses go on and on. You don't need to surrender your cat just because you are pregnant. Pregnant women and cats have lived together for eons. That cat isn't going to suck the breathe out of your baby, cats and babies have lived together for eons. Same holds true for dogs and babies. Don't come to us years later and say you gave up a dog when you had your baby but now you want your child to grow up with a dog. Duh, you had a dog and you gave it away. Pets in the home need time to adjust to the new pet. Just like older siblings need time to adjust to the new baby. 

#7 - Allergic to the animal- So you have had this pet for 3 yrs and now you are allergic to it? Was you allergic to it 3 , 2 maybe 1 yr ago? Things like extra vacuuming , brushing more often to keep pet dander down. There are special shampoos that can help with dander to keep it at a minimum. Yes there are times when a persons body goes out of whack and they can become allergic to the pet but try some other alternatives before you give that pet away. 

These are some of the reasons why people adopt only to return the animal or give it away. There are many many more. But before you adopt that pet make sure it fits you , your lifestyle and its something you want to do. What would happen if all the human babies that are adopted were giving back because they were to hard to potty train or had behavioral issues (tantrums) would you think it was acceptable? When you adopt it should be for life. You are responsible for that live. Think before you adopt and if its something that is right for you do your research on the breed or the breed that its mixed with. It will help you to know more about what is right for you and it will make you a better pet parent. 

Be the best pet pawent you can be. If you are able please adopt a shelter pet. Some are there because of life changes , some have lost their way home and some are products of the reasons I shared. 
I want to thank Bunny's Blog for sharing the study that the American Humane Association did.

The complete study can be found at


  1. Hi Y'all!

    Responsible breeders also require that you return the dog to them if, for some reason, you are unable to keep it...just don't expect your money back...The breeder gets upset if the dog turns up in a shelter or with a breed rescue and they must go rescue it! The word will spread about that buyer.

    Y'all come by now,
    Hawk aka BrownDog

    1. Yes responsible breeders do want their animals back. It's a point that I should have also included. Thank you for stopping by!

  2. its such a shame that people aren't more realistic about taking on pets

  3. Great list Carma. I am curious about something - does the shelter you work at do follow ups with the people who adopt pets? Just to make sure that they still have the animal? And is there any sort of "punishment" if they gave the animal away to someone instead of returning it to your shelter? It is possible to suddenly become allergic to something after not being allergic to it before, but even if that happened I don't think I could get rid of the pet unless it was a life threatening allergy.

    1. Yes they do. We call in one week , 1 month , 3 months, then twice a year. We also want them to know that we offer training classes, support and advice if there is a problem. As for punishment , yes. First we give them the opportunity to bring the pet back if they won't then we contact our lawyers and we take them to court to get the pet back. There are instances where we adopt to a older couple or a military family and when we do that we put in contract who will take care of the animal if someone passes away or is deployed. Those are based on individuals but we know that life can change in a heartbeat.
      Yes someone can become allergic to pets but the ones we see are ones that say they can't keep the pet not 1 minute more.
      Thank you for stopping by and asking questions .I always like to answer questions about our Humane Society.

    2. Thanks for answering, that sounds like an awesome way to go about things. I agree with the allergy thing. I think it's just an easy excuse for someone to get rid of their pet.


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