The Real Reasons Animals End Up In Shelters

For first-time pet owners, there’s often a stigma attached to dogs and cats that come from shelters and adoption centers. Due to the mistaken belief that shelter animals were given up because they didn’t make good pets, many potential owners see them as tainted or undesirable. As a result, shelter animals are frequently overlooked in favor of the puppies and kittens in pet store windows.

The folks at set out to debunk this myth by publishing survey data showing the real reasons dogs and cats are given up. The results may surprise you, and will hopefully encourage newbie owners to reconsider opening their homes to shelter animals.

Abandoned dog

Here’s a breakdown of the top reasons dogs and cats end up in shelters*:


  1. Owners are moving (7%)
  2. Landlord doesn’t allow pets (6%)
  3. Cost of care is too high (5%)
  4. There are too many animals in the household (4%)
  5. Owners have personal problems (4%)
  6. Owners’ facilities are inadequate (4%)
  7. Owners don’t have enough time (4%)
  8. Dog is ill (4%)
  9. Dog has been biting (3%)
  10. No homes are available for litter mates (3%)


  1. There are too many animals in the household (11%)
  2. Owners are moving (8%)
  3. Family members have allergies (8%)
  4. Landlord doesn’t allow pets (6%)
  5. Cost of care is too high (6%)
  6. No homes are available for litter mates (6%)
  7. Cats are soiling owners’ house (5%)
  8. Owners have personal problems (4%)
  9. Owners’ facilities are inadequate (2%)
  10. Cat is incompatible with other pets (2%)

Far from being tainted or unadoptable, it seems relinquished dogs and cats are simply at the mercy of unequipped owners or unfortunate circumstances. Often it’s a case of living in the wrong place at the wrong time.

The next time you or someone you know is thinking about making a furry addition to the family, consider checking out your local shelter. Many offer information to potential adopters about the animals’ previous circumstances so you won’t be in the dark about where they’re coming from. An adopted pet will be every bit as loving, loyal and well behaved as a purchased pet, even if it’s former home wasn’t a good fit.

You can do your part to help! October is Adopt A Shelter Dog month! Can’t adopt an animal right now? That’s ok. You can still pledge to show your support for adopt a shelter dog month by volunteering at a local shelter, fostering a shelter animal, sharing this video on your wall, and taking the pledge to do your part for adopt a shelter dog month! Take the pledge to help shelter dogs here! 

* NOTE: Percentages were compiled in an article on The percentages do not add up to 100% because they represent only the top ten reasons owners gave.



Dr. John G. New, Jr. and Dr. M. D. Salman , et al.“Human and Animal Factors Related to the Relinquishment of Dogs and Cats in 12 Selected Animal Shelters in the United States.” Journal of Applied Animal Welfare Science 1, no. 3: 207-226.

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