Our question of the week comes from upcoming webcast speakers @Michael Blackwell, DVM, MPH, FNAP and @Dr. Susan Krebsbach.
Let us know your thoughts below and be sure to RSVP for Thursday's webcast with Dr. Michael Blackwell and Dr. Susan Krebsbach.
During the webcast, they will discuss the barriers of veterinary care faced by pet owners in the United States, recommendations to address these barriers as presented in the Access to Veterinary Care Coalition's seminal report and how AlignCare, a research and development project of One Health veterinary care is a viable way to improve access to veterinary care.
The live webcast will air on Thursday, February 21st at 9PM Eastern Time. Even if you can't attend the live webcast, RSVP to receive a link to watch the recording and ask follow-up questions with the webcast speakers here on Maddie's Pet Forum: https://event.on24.com/wcc/r/1909734/C78022C66A89D3E404DA441AAF1879DD
Our biggest reason for surrender is behavioral issues. For dogs it's aggression. We are finding it increasingly difficult to find people willing to work with a trainer. They just want the animal gone. I do think that the lack of vet care is an issue but we are not seeing them surrendered because of it. I think these animals continue to live in their homes, in misery at times, but in the home. Fleas for instance, can't afford a quality monthly preventative, have more than one pet, misery for the pet.
While I believe it is a contributor I would not, based on our data, call it a major contributor. Because we offer medical assistance to those seeking surrender for that reason we are able to quantify it. Owner life or lifestyle change is by far the leading cause for surrender - death, divorce, change in job/financial status, loss of home, owner illness/injury, domestic violence etc.
We are fortunate to have a nonprofit that takes on cases like this. They are a resource for families who believe their only way to get medical treatment for their pets is to give them up to a shelter.
I would agree with @MichelleTes that behavior is probably the most significant cause of owner surrender. The majority of the dogs we take in from shelters were stray intakes, so it's hard to know the reason they were stray, but we do find that most of our dogs have behavior issues - not really aggression but just poor socialization and poor doggy social skills. While we don't have many returns to our rescue, almost every single return that I can think of in the past 7 years was for behavior.
I think there is certainly some demographic influence as to importance/priority of vet care as well as varying interpretations of "affordable" and "access". Our primary service area is rural shelters where we see few owner surrenders due to an inability to provide for basic needs but many surrenders when an illness has progressed into an issue that will require thousands of dollars to treat, if it can be treated...very aggressive tumors, improperly healed bones, ruptured eyes...etc. I suspect those who claim treatment isn't affordable to the point of surrender could have chosen a wellness check and early intervention instead of beer and lottery tickets. We frequently hear the "access" excuse with unplanned litters even though there is a low-cost spay/neuter clinic <30 mins away ("that's too far") and a semi-monthly transport through the local humane society ("leaves too early", "pick up too late" etc). While the owner surrenders we see may not be for basic needs issues, given that most animals enter the facility as strays, it's not possible to say if they were abandoned due to an inability to provide for basic needs. I realize these generalizations may sound harsh but with kitten & puppy season already in full swing here, no meaningful decrease in intake over a 5-year period, 80% of intake reliant on rescue for survival and the recent removal of a tumor that weighed 8 lbs (taken off a beagle!?)...yes, an 8 lb tumor taken off of a 20 lb dog...I am much more concerned with the animal suffering than I am about the feelings of neglectful owners. (Yes, we are working on some humane education program development... without attitude..LOL)
Separately, I attended a conference where a presenter discussed this issue in detail as it related to her service area, Brooklyn NY. See her program, map and demographic detail here: http://beyondbreed.com/ruff-riders/
I agree with how you worded it! "not really aggression but just poor socialization and poor doggy social skills" is what we see rather than true aggression. You said it perfectly!