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Population Dynamics and the Risk of Euthanasia for Dogs in an Animal Shelter

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The records of dogs in an animal shelter in Chester County, PA were analyzed for a 3 1/2 year period to describe the canine population dynamics and to identify the risk factors for dogs' failure to be reclaimed and to be euthanized. Dogs ≥1 year of age accounted for the majority (72.5%) of incoming dogs. Forty-one percent of dogs received by the shelter were purebred. The six most common breeds were Labrador Retriever (14.6%), German Shepherd (9.8%), Golden Retriever (7.5%), Beagle (7.1%), Cocker Spaniel (5.5%), and Siberian Husky (5.3%), accounting for 50% of all incoming purebred dogs. Nearly one fifth (17.2%) of the live surrendered dogs were brought in by their owners specifically to be euthanized. A similar proportion (18.8%) of adopted dogs were returned to the shelter. Fifty-two percent of surrendered dogs and 77% of stray dogs were discharged alive from the shelter (53.8% of the stray dogs were returned to their owners). The reclaim rate was lowest (10.8%) for dogs < 4 months of age, and highest (68.8%) for dogs ≥10 years of age. Over two-thirds (67.7%) of purebred dogs were reclaimed by their owners, compared with 41.2% of mixed breed dogs. More purebred dogs were reclaimed the same day they were admitted than mixed breed dogs (46.1% vs. 38.0%). Approximately 60% of all stray dogs ≥1 year old were reclaimed each month while only 23.2% of dogs less than 1 year were reclaimed. Mixed breed dogs were 1.8 times as likely to be euthanized as purebred dogs. The risk of euthanasia increased with age for mixed breed dogs, but not for purebred dogs. Purebred dogs ≥3 years old were at an increased risk of euthanasia only when compared with dogs < 4 months of age. Of the dogs that were adopted, purebred dogs < 1 year of age spent fewer days (4.27) in the shelter than mixed breed dogs < 1 year (5.94), purebred dogs ≥1 year (5.92), or mixed breed dogs ≥1 year (10.06). Approximately one fifth (19.4%) of purebred dogs were adopted through a breed rescue group.

Document Type: Research Article

DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.2752/089279395787156455

Publication date: March 1, 1995

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