Objective: To identify canine and household characteristics associated with relinquishment of a pet dog to an animal shelter.
Design: Case-control study.
Sample population: Households that relinquished dogs for adoption (case households) and a random sample of current dog-owning households in the same community (control households).
Results: Potentially modifiable factors that explained the highest proportion of relinquishment were owners not participating in dog obedience classes after acquisition, lack of veterinary care, owning a sexually intact dog, inappropriate care expectations, and dogs having daily or weekly inappropriate elimination. Dogs obtained from shelters, kept in crates, or acquired at > or = 6 months of age were at increased risk of relinquishment. Greater purchase price was associated with decreased risk of relinquishment, but relinquishment was not associated with the degree of planning to acquire the dog. Dogs with behavioral problems and little veterinary care were at greater risk of relinquishment than were dogs with regular veterinary care, and behavioral problems were associated with inappropriate care expectations.
Clinical implications: Risk factors identified in this study can be modified by dog owners and veterinarians to decrease the estimated 2 million dogs euthanatized annually in animal shelters. Veterinarians should educate owners about typical dog behavior, routine care requirements and training, and the importance of regular veterinary visits; should incorporate wellness concepts in their practice; and should focus on preventive medicine and behavioral consultation.