SOURCE: PetSmart Charities

PetSmart Charities

January 12, 2010 16:23 ET

Research Provides Insight to Motivators, Barriers for Pet Adoption and Spay/Neuter

PetSmart Charities® Shares Research Data That "Very Accurately" Reflects National Attitudes About Pets -- and Could Help Shelters and Animal-Welfare Groups Save Even More Lives

PHOENIX, AZ--(Marketwire - January 12, 2010) - Most Americans say they've heard about the plight of homeless pets, yet grossly underestimate the size and scope of the problem, as well as the number of dogs and cats who must be put to death in U.S. shelters every year. This, according to the findings of a comprehensive new survey commissioned by PetSmart Charities and conducted online by Ipsos Marketing among 2,000 U.S. adults and an additional 1,000 adults who acquired a dog or a cat in the past year.

"We were intrigued to learn that the overpopulation of homeless dogs and cats ranked third in terms of familiarity with social issues," said Susana Della Maddalena, executive director of non-profit PetSmart Charities, Inc., the largest funder of animal-welfare efforts in North America. "However, 76 percent of respondents estimated the number of pets euthanized in shelters every year at 1 million or fewer. In reality, that number is about 4 million pets every year. So, while the public knows there is a problem, the public doesn't know just how serious that problem is."

Given the robust sample size of the survey, she added, the data "very accurately" reflects the national attitudes and opinions about pet homelessness, pet adoption and spay/neuter services. PetSmart Charities is now sharing the findings to raise awareness about pet homelessness and help to create lifesaving solutions.

"We hope that by providing this data to others who share our passion for saving the lives of homeless pets, we can break down the barriers to pet adoption and spay/neuter that survey respondents identified," she said. "We can all use the data to develop new practices and messages based on what we now know to be key motivators and barriers."

The survey also found that about 40 percent of pet owners acquired their dog or cat without doing advance research; 76 percent of pets are acquired from sources other than animal shelters; and that the top reasons people don't adopt pets from shelters are the desire for a specific breed or type of pet and uncertainty about shelters and the pet-adoption process. Conversely, wanting to "save a life" and an overall sense that pets from shelters are "some of the best companion animals" ranked No. 1 and No. 2 respectively as top motivators for adopting a pet.

As for spaying and neutering -- which animal-welfare proponents including PetSmart Charities® identify as key to ending the epidemic of pet homelessness -- most people said confusion about the right age to have a dog or cat sterilized, as well as costs of the procedure, were the biggest barriers. Still, 65 percent of respondents said their dog or cat was spayed or neutered; meanwhile, of the 35 percent who said their dogs and cats are not sterilized, 75 percent said they are considering having the procedure done on their dogs or cats in the future.

The research also showed that 13 percent of dog owners and 19 percent of cat owners have experienced the birth of at least one litter of puppies and kittens -- but typically unintentionally. Of the pet owners whose dogs or cats had litters, 53 percent of dog owners and 54 percent of cat owners said "it was an accident." Another 20 percent of dog owners and 12 percent of cat owners said they wanted their family to see a litter being born. And although 62 percent of respondents said they are aware of low-cost spay/neuter clinics, most indicated they place a higher level of trust in private veterinary hospitals.

The survey also categorized responses by age and by geographic region in the continental United States. Twenty-eight percent of pet owners in the western U.S. had adopted their pet, while 23 percent of those in the Northeast, Midwest and South were pet adopters. Pet owners in the West also had the highest number of pets who are sterilized, while pet owners in the South had the lowest number. And while 62 percent of people aged 18 to 34 had spayed or neutered their pets, they ranked third in that category behind 35- to 54-year-olds (65 percent) and people aged 55 and older (76 percent).

In addition to the key findings, the survey provided implications and suggestions for the most effective ways that animal advocates can put the data to use. Top on the list was the need to educate the public about the size and scope of the pet-homelessness problem. In addition:

--  Messages about the benefits of pet companionship, saving lives and
    preventing dogs/cats from being euthanized because of homelessness are the
    most motivating statements to encourage pet adoptions;
--  Messages about how spaying and neutering reduces the number of
    homeless/unwanted animals born annually are the most motivating to
    encourage people to have their dogs and cats sterilized, along with
    educating the public about the safety and quality of low-cost clinics and
    the appropriate age for a pet to undergo surgery.

About the survey

The survey was conducted online by Ipsos Marketing, March 14-24, 2009, with a national sample of 2,000 adults aged 18 and older split equally by gender, and an additional sample of 1,000 adults aged 18 and older who had acquired a dog or cat in the previous 12 months. Weighting was then employed to balance demographics and ensure that the sample's composition reflects that of the U.S. adult population according to Census data and to provide results intended to approximate the sample universe. A survey with an un-weighted probability sample of 2,000 and a 100% response rate would have an estimated margin of error of +/- 2.2 percentage points 19 times out of 20 of what the results would have been had the entire adult population of the United States had been polled. A survey with an un-weighted probability sample of 1,000 and a 100% response rate would have an estimated margin of error of +/- 3.1 percentage points 19 times out of 20 of what the results would have been had the entire adult population of recently acquired dog and cat owners in the United States had been polled. All sample surveys and polls may be subject to other sources of error, including, but not limited to coverage error, and measurement error. For purposes of the survey, "pets" referred only to dogs and cats.

To review a summary report of the research findings and/or to watch a free webinar about the findings, please visit

About PetSmart Charities®

Established in 1994, PetSmart Charities, Inc. is an independent, nonprofit 501(c)(3) organization that creates and supports programs that save the lives of homeless pets, raise awareness of companion animal welfare issues and promote healthy relationships between people and pets. The largest funder of animal welfare efforts in North America, PetSmart Charities to date has funded more than $88 million in grants and programs benefiting animal welfare organizations and, through its in-store adoption program, has helped save the lives of more than 4 million pets. To learn more about how PetSmart Charities is working toward its Vision of a lifelong, loving home for every pet, visit

About Ipsos

Ipsos is a leading global survey-based market research company, owned and managed by research professionals that helps interpret, simulate, and anticipate the needs and responses of consumers, customers, and citizens around the world. Ipsos companies offer expertise in advertising, customer loyalty, marketing, media, and public affairs research, as well as forecasting, modeling, and consulting and offers a full line of custom, syndicated, omnibus, panel, and online research products and services, guided by industry experts and bolstered by advanced analytics and methodologies. The company was founded in 1975 and has been publicly traded since 1999. In 2008, Ipsos generated global revenues of EUR 979.3 million ($1.34 billion U.S.). Visit to learn more about Ipsos offerings and capabilities.

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