Studies of human and animal behavior have brought to light some interesting theories related to shelters and animal adoption. Here are five facts related to pet adoption in the United States (well, they may be more like theories supported by research than actual facts, but you get the idea)!

1) Black Dogs Don’t Get Adopted

The average pet owner probably doesn’t know how difficult it is for a black dog to get adopted. Being a black dog at an animal shelter is almost a death sentence on its own. Dark colored dogs are euthanize at a rate in extreme excess of other lighter colored dogs regardless of breed, or temperament. It is difficult to say the exact reason for this phenomena, which has been coined as “Black Dog Syndrome”.

Studies have speculated that they are the least likely to be adopted based on how we as a society perceive them. It could be for a variety of reasons including that they don’t photograph well, that they look “scary” in comparison to lighter colored animals, or that they are simply just “plain” looking and don’t catch peoples interest. Whatever the reason, Black Dog Syndrome is a serious problem that shelters have to deal with.

2 ) Love At First Sight

Research has also shown the validity of love at first sight as it is related to adopting pets at a shelter. Dogs that are kenneled in a position that puts them as the first in the line of sight of a prospective pet owner are adopted at significantly higher rates than those that are kenneled in the back of the facility. As human beings, we tend to bond with animals quickly, and those dogs that weren’t the first ones we saw coming through the door are generally out of luck.

This hopefully will not be too much of a problem in the near future. More shelters are rotating their dogs throughout their kennels on a weekly, if not daily basis in order to give every dog a fair shake at being adopted.

3) Bandannas and Outfits Don’t Help

As if to contradict what we had stated about love at first sight, I feel compelled to state that bandannas and other cute doggy accessories do not have a statistically significant bearing on whether or not a person would adopt an animal. Several ethological studies have shown that there was no difference in adoption rates between those animals that were, or were not dressed to impress at adoption events. This was even true across multiple days using the same dogs while rotating when any specific animal was wearing an outfit. The ineffectiveness of doggy outfits on adoption rates is surprising, but the numbers don’t lie!

4) Behavioral Problems Are Common

The majority of dogs that are dropped off at shelters are not strays, but dogs that are left by owners that are not being truthful about why they are giving up their pets for adoption. It is theorized that the pet owner feels guilty about the real reason that they are giving up their dog.

It is oftentimes because they think that it will affect the chances of the dog being adopted if they admit that it had any behavioral problems that led to them being overwhelmed as caretakers. It would be much more helpful if the prior owners were honest in their evaluation of their pets so that any behavioral “defects” for the lack of a better word could be corrected with training.

This would help to prevent the same behavior problem from occurring down the road, and would effectively decrease the number of pets that are returned to the shelter due to incompatibility with their new families.

5) October Is “Adopt A Shelter Dog Month”

This month is the first adopt a dog month. Shelters across the country encourage you to adopt a pet if you are ready for the responsibility of pet ownership; however, you can also help by volunteering at a local pet shelter. Most shelters are understaffed, and the regular volunteers will appreciate the help. If you are a teenager thinking about veterinary school someday, then I would encourage you to volunteer at a shelter for experience that can be cited on your veterinary school application.

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