CHARLESTON, S.C. - What are the reasons that adopters choose a particular pet? Nearly 1,500 adopters from five animal shelters across the country were studied. One of those shelters was the Charleston Animal Society.
Appearance of the animal, social behavior with the adopter, and behaviors such as playfulness were the top reasons for adoption across species and age groups. More than a quarter of dog and cat adopters cited appearance as the single most important factor.
"The results of this study give us a glimpse inside of the adopter's mind when it comes to choosing a pet. The information can be used by shelters to create better adoption matches, prioritize shelter resources and staff training, and potentially increase adoptions," said Dr. Emily Weiss, vice president of shelter research and development for the ASPCA. "Additionally, some simple training techniques for shelter staff can be gleaned from this to make sure they are showcasing the wonderful personalities and behaviors of their adoptable dogs and cats."
In addition, a greater number of adopters stated that information about the animal from a staff member or volunteer was more important than information on cage cards. Roughly 80 percent of adopters reported that important information was given to them from a staff member or volunteer.
"Knowledgeable staff members are critical to building a good relationship with potential adopters. We found homes for more than 5,200 animals last year," Joe Elmore, chief executive officer for the Charleston Animal Society said. "Our dogs and cats go through Canine-ality™ and Feline-ality™ assessments to strive for the best possible match with a new family based on their personality and lifestyle. In addition, we are the only shelter in South Carolina to place every dog over 6 months through an ASPCA SAFER aggression assessment performed by one of our certified behavior assessment staff."
Adopters also found greater importance in interacting with the animal rather than viewing it in its kennel. For both cats and dogs, seeing the pet's behavior when interacting with them was more important than seeing the pet behind the cage door, or seeing the pet's behavior toward other animals.
The study was conducted from January through May 2011 at five animal welfare organizations in the U.S., two of which are open-admission shelters that perform animal control services for their municipalities: Hillsborough County Animal Services in Tampa, Fla. and Charleston Animal Society in Charleston, S.C. The three others are limited intake, privately-funded animal shelters: Animal Rescue Foundation in Walnut Creek, Calif.; Wisconsin Humane Society in Milwaukee, Wis.; and the ASPCA Adoption Center in New York, N.Y.