Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Dog Owners Hide The Truth From Shelters About Their Pets' Behavioral Problems

Date:
January 30, 2006
Source:
University of Pennsylvania
Summary:
Many dog owners who relinquish their pets to animal shelters are not entirely honest about their dogs' behavioral problems -- probably for fear that their pets will be put to sleep, according to a study from the University of Pennsylvania and University of California veterinary schools. According to the researchers, these behavioral problems may sometimes pose a risk to an adopting family who could unknowingly take in an aggressive animal.

Many dog owners who relinquish their pets to animal shelters are not entirely honest about their dogs' behavioral problems probably for fear that their pets will be put to sleep, according to a study from the University of Pennsylvania and University of California veterinary schools. According to the researchers, these behavioral problems may sometimes pose a risk to an adopting family who could unknowingly take in an aggressive animal.

Related Articles


The researchers studied behavioral questionnaires given to owners leaving their dogs at shelters and found that people are less likely to report such behavioral problems as aggression and fear of strangers, if they believed that their responses would be shared with shelter staff. Their findings were published recently in the Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association.

"Many shelters conduct behavior-based evaluations on animals they take in, but there are few better descriptions of a dog's temperament than an honest assessment from its owner through a questionnaire," said James Serpell, a professor in Penn's School of Veterinary Medicine and director of Penn's Center for the Interaction of Animals & Society. "Shelters are not in the business of giving up on the animals they receive, and they need the best information the owner can provide to keep both the animals and potential adopters safe."

According to the researchers, questionnaires are often effective at revealing certain health and behavioral problems among animals being left at a shelter. While questionnaires can be useful, however, shelters need to be aware that these responses are not always straightforward.

"These owners might think they are bettering their petschances by concealing behavior problems, but what they don realize is that they are really worsening things for both their pets and the shelter,Serpell said. "Shelters could more effectively use their scarce resources to correct behavioral problems or find ways of guiding troubled dogs to more appropriate adopters if they detect these problems in time."

Serpell conducted the study with UC Davis colleagues Sheila Sergurson and Benjamin Hart at two shelters in Sacramento. They gave questionnaires to two groups of people. One group was told that the information would be kept confidential and the other was told that the information would be shared with shelter staff. Significantly more shelter dogs in the confidential group were reported to behave aggressively to their owners or fearfully with strangers.

The researchers also compared both groups to questionnaires given to a group of dog-owners, all of whom were clients of Penn's Ryan Veterinary Hospital in Philadelphia. The comparison showed that there were many more instances of behavioral problems in animals being left at shelters. While Serpell and his colleagues realize that there are inherent differences between dog owners and people who give their dogs to shelters, they believe it highlights the importance of behavior when people make the decision to disown a pet.

"It appears that serious behavior problems are often the biggest reason people seek to relinquish their animals," Serpell said. "It demonstrates the importance of regular veterinary care and the need for veterinarians to provide preventative behavioral health care."

For animal shelters, however, the lesson that this study provides is more complex. Shelter workers and volunteers cannot lie to people and tell them that responses are confidential when they are not. Yet shelters must identify potentially troubled dogs before making them available for adoption. Even family-friendly breeds, such as Labrador retrievers, could be dangerously aggressive.

"Questionnaires certainly provide a useful starting point when assessing an animal's behavioral health," Serpell said, "but they should also be taken with a grain of salt."


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by University of Pennsylvania. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

University of Pennsylvania. "Dog Owners Hide The Truth From Shelters About Their Pets' Behavioral Problems." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 30 January 2006. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2006/01/060130151722.htm>.
University of Pennsylvania. (2006, January 30). Dog Owners Hide The Truth From Shelters About Their Pets' Behavioral Problems. ScienceDaily. Retrieved October 25, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2006/01/060130151722.htm
University of Pennsylvania. "Dog Owners Hide The Truth From Shelters About Their Pets' Behavioral Problems." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2006/01/060130151722.htm (accessed October 25, 2014).

Share This



More Plants & Animals News

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Deep Sea 'mushroom' Could Be Early Branch on Tree of Life

Deep Sea 'mushroom' Could Be Early Branch on Tree of Life

Reuters - Innovations Video Online (Oct. 24, 2014) Miniature deep sea animals discovered off the Australian coast almost three decades ago are puzzling scientists, who say the organisms have proved impossible to categorise. Academics at the Natural History of Denmark have appealed to the world scientific community for help, saying that further information on Dendrogramma enigmatica and Dendrogramma discoides could answer key evolutionary questions. Jim Drury has more. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
Black Bear Cub Goes Sunday Shopping

Black Bear Cub Goes Sunday Shopping

Reuters - Light News Video Online (Oct. 23, 2014) Price check on honey? Bear cub startles Oregon drugstore shoppers. Rough Cut (no reporter narration). Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
Dances With Wolves in China's Wild West

Dances With Wolves in China's Wild West

AFP (Oct. 23, 2014) One man is on a mission to boost the population of wolves in China's violence-wracked far west. The animal - symbol of the Uighur minority there - is under threat with a massive human resettlement program in the region. Duration: 00:41 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Breakfast Debate: To Eat Or Not To Eat?

Breakfast Debate: To Eat Or Not To Eat?

Newsy (Oct. 23, 2014) Conflicting studies published in the same week re-ignited the debate over whether we should be eating breakfast. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:

Strange & Offbeat Stories


Plants & Animals

Earth & Climate

Fossils & Ruins

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins