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      Demographics and economic burden of un-owned cats and dogs in the UK: results of a 2010 census

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      BMC Veterinary Research
      BioMed Central

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          The population of dogs and cats passing through rescue shelters may be subject to compromised welfare and increased susceptibility to disease. Little information exists to describe this population, its dynamics and associated management practices. The aim of this study was to carry out a census of un-owned cats and dogs in the UK in 2010, and to document the origins, destinations, husbandry and costs associated with the care of these animals.


          A sampling frame was constructed by searching the databases of publicly registered charities for England, Scotland and Wales, registers of breed rescues, and by internet searches of animal welfare websites. Overall, 2,352 contacts for 1,380 organisations were identified. All were sent a postal questionnaire asking for data on the number of dogs and cats housed, their origins and eventual outcomes, and details of husbandry between January 1 st and December 31 st 2010. For those which were registered charities (595), financial records were also obtained.

          A response rate of 38.8% was obtained. Overall, in 2010, 89,571 dogs and 156,826 cats entered the care of the participating organisations. Approximately half of these animals were relinquished by their owners. Other origins included being found as strays or confiscated for welfare purposes. Seventy-five per cent of dogs and 77.1% of cats were rehomed. The next most common outcome was euthanasia, accounting for 10.4% of dogs and 13.2% cats. For dogs and cats, 44.3% and 62% of participants respectively reported having a waiting list, which frequently exceeded the actual capacity of the facility. Over 19,000 people were involved in the care of these animals, on a paid or voluntary basis. Financial records were available for 519/595 (87.2%) of the registered charities, and their total expenditure in 2010 was £340 million.


          This study showed that a large number of animals become un-owned each year, which could have considerable implications for their welfare. Despite the resources expended, demand still exceeds capacity for many organisations, and a substantial number of both cats and dogs are euthanased, suggesting that further understanding of how and why these animals become un-owned is essential in order to target interventions.

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          Most cited references21

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          Increasing response rates to postal questionnaires: systematic review.

          To identify methods to increase response to postal questionnaires. Systematic review of randomised controlled trials of any method to influence response to postal questionnaires. 292 randomised controlled trials including 258 315 participants INTERVENTION REVIEWED: 75 strategies for influencing response to postal questionnaires. The proportion of completed or partially completed questionnaires returned. The odds of response were more than doubled when a monetary incentive was used (odds ratio 2.02; 95% confidence interval 1.79 to 2.27) and almost doubled when incentives were not conditional on response (1.71; 1.29 to 2.26). Response was more likely when short questionnaires were used (1.86; 1.55 to 2.24). Personalised questionnaires and letters increased response (1.16; 1.06 to 1.28), as did the use of coloured ink (1.39; 1.16 to 1.67). The odds of response were more than doubled when the questionnaires were sent by recorded delivery (2.21; 1.51 to 3.25) and increased when stamped return envelopes were used (1.26; 1.13 to 1.41) and questionnaires were sent by first class post (1.12; 1.02 to 1.23). Contacting participants before sending questionnaires increased response (1.54; 1.24 to 1.92), as did follow up contact (1.44; 1.22 to 1.70) and providing non-respondents with a second copy of the questionnaire (1.41; 1.02 to 1.94). Questionnaires designed to be of more interest to participants were more likely to be returned (2.44; 1.99 to 3.01), but questionnaires containing questions of a sensitive nature were less likely to be returned (0.92; 0.87 to 0.98). Questionnaires originating from universities were more likely to be returned than were questionnaires from other sources, such as commercial organisations (1.31; 1.11 to 1.54). Health researchers using postal questionnaires can improve the quality of their research by using the strategies shown to be effective in this systematic review.
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            Human and animal factors related to relinquishment of dogs and cats in 12 selected animal shelters in the United States.

            Since the 1940s, perceived companion animal overpopulation in the United States has been an important issue to the animal welfare community (Moulton, Wright, & Rinky, 1991). This surplus of animals has resulted in millions of dogs and cats being euthanized annually in animal shelters across the country. The nature and scope of this problem have been notoriously difficult to characterize. The number of animal shelters in the United Stares, the demographics of the population of animals passing through them, and the characteristics of per owners relinquishing animals are poorly understood. What portion of these animals are adopted or euthanized, why they are relinquished, and their source of acquisition are all questions for which there have been little data. Consequently, we are no closer to answering the fundamental question of how and why many animals are destroyed each year in shelters (Arkow, 1994).
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              Reasons for relinquishment of companion animals in U.S. animal shelters: selected health and personal issues.

              In personal interviews, people surrendering their dogs and cats to 12 animal shelters in 4 regions of the country discussed their reasons for relinquishing their companion animals and answered questions about their own characteristics and those of their pet. The interviews identified 71 reasons for relinquishment. Personal issues lead the class of reasons for relinquishment of cats and ranked 3rd among those given for relinquishment of dogs. The top 3 health and personal issues cited for giving up cats were allergies of a family member to cats, owner's personal problems, and anew baby. For dogs, the top 3 reasons cited were lack of time for the dog, owner's personal problems, and allergies. Analysis of these health and personal issues suggests that education and counseling before and after acquisition of a pet, as well as the availability of temporary accommodations for pets during times of personal crisis, may reduce relinquishments.

                Author and article information

                BMC Vet Res
                BMC Vet. Res
                BMC Veterinary Research
                BioMed Central
                13 September 2012
                : 8
                : 163
                [1 ]Centre for Evidence-based Veterinary Medicine, School of Veterinary Medicine and Science, The University of Nottingham, Sutton Bonington Campus, Loughborough LE12 5RD, UK
                Copyright ©2012 Stavisky et al.; licensee BioMed Central Ltd.

                This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License ( http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0), which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.

                : 25 May 2012
                : 10 September 2012
                Research Article

                Veterinary medicine
                Veterinary medicine


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