Comparison of SAFER behavior assessment results in shelter dogs at intake and after a 3-day acclimation period

J Appl Anim Welf Sci. 2015;18(2):153-68. doi: 10.1080/10888705.2014.999916. Epub 2015 Jan 20.


In this study, it was hypothesized that different results would be obtained by canine behavior assessments performed within 24 hr of shelter intake (Day 0) and after a 3-day acclimation period (Day 3). Safety Assessment for Evaluating Rehoming assessments were performed on 33 dogs at 2 municipal shelters. Agreements between Day 0 and Day 3 varied among subtests, and no consistent temporal patterns were observed. Weighted kappa statistics for each subtest ranged from .28 to .78, and percentage discordance was 0% to 18%. In a 2nd analysis, subtests skipped due to serious aggression were replaced with scores corresponding to serious aggression, and missing values for the Food subtest were replaced with scores for no aggression if the dog did not eat. For subtests skipped due to severe aggression, more than 50% of the dogs had scores indicating low aggression on the other assessment. Eight of 16 dogs who did not eat on Day 0 ate on Day 3; 2 showed aggression. Until the ideal time to test can be identified, it should be based on the individual dog's welfare status, and testing of dogs showing severe stress should be avoided.

Keywords: acclimation; behavior assessment instrument; dogs; shelter intake; temperament test.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Acclimatization*
  • Aggression
  • Animal Welfare*
  • Animals
  • Behavior, Animal*
  • Dogs* / psychology