Match pets with the right owners

Match pets with the right owners

It often takes more than luck to match the right pets and people for a lifetime of love. If you can get involved early, you can save heartache for pets and people.
Jul 11, 2014

I recently met an elderly gentleman whose beloved Labrador had passed away at the grand old age of 14. That old Lab had been his dearest friend and confidant for years. They were inseparable, an old Lab and a little old man. He managed life for several months without a pet, but an empty home and lonely life was just too much. He said to me, "I used to walk the beach every day with my dog, and people would talk to me. I walked the beach alone for months after he passed away and nobody stopped to talk to me. I was lonely, so I got a puppy."

He purchased an adorable Labradoodle puppy. The puppy grew, and he enrolled the pup in obedience classes so the dog could learn to walk without pulling the 86-year-old man over. As time went on though, it became apparent that this dog was just too much for him to handle. He even contacted dog walkers and additional trainers, and in the end he had to find a new home for his exuberant house mate.

Though the details of the story may differ, how frequently do you hear this story? Somebody purchases a pet that is not the right fit. Or owners purchase a pet that they can't afford. Or the owners don't have the necessary time to meet the many needs of their pet.

Don't leave it to a roll of the dice

Figure 1: Top 10 reasons dogs are relinquished
Between 6 and 8 million pets enter shelters each year, and some of these pets are relinquished. In a study conducted by the National Council on Pet Population Study and Policy (NCPPSP) and published in the Journal of Applied Animal Welfare Science, researchers went into 12 animal shelters in the United States over a year and found out the reasons for animal relinquishment. (See figures 1 and 2.) If we know the top 10 reasons for animal relinquishment, we can help keep this sad story from repeating.

Figure 2: Top 10 reasons cats are relinquished
As a profession that cares for the needs of animals, we can reduce the number of relinquishments over time by properly educating pet owners about pet ownership. We need to develop programs and systems for the benefit of our clients and their pets.

Where should you start in this giant endeavor, you ask? You can begin by establishing your clinic as a community resource to pet owners as they tackle the task of selecting their next pet. We all laugh at the silly commercials where people have the wrong pet for them—the active person trying to jog with a bulldog, or a tiny elderly person being dragged down the street by the happy chocolate Lab. We know the pet isn't the right fit, and we could have helped them in advance if they had only asked.

People don't know what they don't know unless you tell them. We need to educate them during the pet selection process. If the pet requires constant grooming that's time consuming and costly or the pet requires two hours of running a day and the owner can't meet those needs, the result may be behavior problems—or ultimately relinquishment of the pet. Just look again at the list above.

There are multiple tools available online to assist in pet selection. You can find links to a few at If your clinic provides care for exotics, you may want to link to a pet selector that includes reptiles, fish, birds and other animals.