Returning a recently adopted companion animal: Adopters' reasons for and reactions to the failed adoption experience

  • Shore E
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The return of a recently adopted companion animal places the nonhuman animal in jeopardy and may be painful and frustrating to the humans involved. However, if re-turners learn from the failed adoption experience, future adoptions may be more satis-factory for all concerned. In this study, 78 people who had adopted and returned dogs or cats to an animal shelter in a U.S. Midwestern city were interviewed regarding their rea-sons for return, reactions to the experience, and plans for future adoptions. Although some returners adjusted their pet ownership plans in potentially beneficial ways, most reacted by counseling greater forethought and planning before adopting. The last, al-though sound advice, had little to do with reasons for return, which primarily were prob-lems that arose postadoption: pet behavior such as not getting along with other pets or children. Changing expectations about the development of new pet–family relation-ships and the provision of postadoption services might help adopters tolerate the adjust-ment period and handle problems without resorting to returning the animal. The Humane Society of the United States (HSUS, 2004a) estimated that be-tween 6 million and 8 million cats and dogs enter U.S. animal shelters each year. The relinquishment of previously owned, nonhuman animals is frustrating to an-imal shelter personnel, dangerous for the animals (Olson & Moulton, 1993), and often painful for the relinquisher. DiGiacomo, Arluke, and Patronek (1998) con-ducted in-depth interviews with 38 individuals or families who had relinquished a companion animal. They found that the action came after a period of tolerating

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  • Elsie R. Shore

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