Date of Award

2-2008

Document Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PHD)

Department

College of Education

First Advisor

Joan Scialli

Second Advisor

Jeanette Francis

Third Advisor

Laura Hart

Abstract

Pet overpopulation is the most pressing problem facing advanced societies concerning the plight of domestic pets (dogs and cats). The problem of pet overpopulation has been caused by people and can only be resolved by human intervention. Pet overpopulation results in the euthanasia of healthy animals. The Humane Society of the United States estimates that eight to ten million companion animals (i.e., cats and dogs) are relinquished to shelters each year. Of those, four to five million are euthanized (Humane Society of the United States [HSUS], 2001; Fournier & Geller, 2004). The behavior of both humans and pets is the most critical factor leading to domestic pets being relinquished to animal shelters.

The purpose of this non-experimental, mixed-method, exploratory (comparative), explanatory, and predictive (correlational) study was to test a hypothesized model about canine relinquishment. Using purposive and quota sampling, a survey of 600 pet relinguishers was conducted at six animal shelters operating in the Southeastern Florida tri-county area. The Pet Owner Relinquishment Survey measured Pet Owner Basic Canine Knowledge, Pet Maintenance Behavior, Expectations of Pet Owners, Canine Temperament Canine, Behavior Problems, and Preemptive Relinquishing Actions in both English and Spanish. Independent t-test and chi-square analyses were used to answer the exploratory (comparative) research questions about differences in first-time and multiple relinquishers. Stepwise (forward) linear regression tested the explanatory hypotheses about the relationship among explanatory variables and length of time to relinquish their pets, the history of pet relinquishing (continuous), and relinquishing actions and discriminate function analysis tested the predictor hypothesis about significant predictors of history of pet relinquishing (first time versus history of previous relinquishing). All scales were examined for reliability and construct validity.

Findings indicated that (1) people who relinquish pets more than one time possess more knowledge about basic canine care than first-time relinquishers; (2) most canines that are relinquished live outside the home; (3) canine owners who relinquished canines had higher expectations of the pet ownership experience; (4) canines that were surrendered displayed higher levels of hyperactivity; (5) the vast majority of relinquished canines were not spayed or neutered and were mixed breed dogs: (6) annoying behaviors such as digging and destroying property or liability type behaviors (aggression, biting and escaping) behavior were the most undesirable canine behaviors reported by canine owners; (7) moving (48.4%) was the primary reason that canines in the south Florida tri county area are relinquished; and, (8) most canine owners take no preemptive actions such as listing the dogs with re-homing services, placing ads in newspapers, or talking to friends, relatives, neighbors, or coworker regarding adopting their pets to re-home their canines prior to relinquishing them to an animal shelter.

Results of explanatory and predictive hypotheses revealed that time, history of relinquishment, and preemptive relinquishing actions explained 5.8%, though 11% of the variance in relinquishment and significant predictor variables predicted group membership of first-time and multiple reliquishers with 75% prediction accuracy. Future research should explore the addition of explanatory variables and their association with pet relinquishment to reduce the measurement error in regression (explanatory) models. Implications of this study's findings include the improvement of the human animal bond through promotional advertising and educational efforts to achieve a reduction of canine relinquishment and improve owner retention.

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