Attitudes Toward Dog Relinquishment as Assessed Through a Survey of University Students

Allison L. Martin, Kennesaw State University
Angela S. Kelling, University of Houston-Clear Lake
Suma Mallavarapu, Kennesaw State University


Significant numbers of dogs are relinquished to shelters each year, impacting dogs, owners, and communities. Attitudes surrounding relinquishment may guide how a dog owner responds to situations such as behavioral problems or financial difficulties and may also influence what owners disclose to shelters at the time of surrender. However, no previous studies have examined attitudes toward relinquishment from those not currently involved in the process. In this study, university students (n = 443) completed an online survey examining their attitudes toward dog relinquishment in various scenarios focused on either dog-related or owner-related reasons for relinquishment. Additionally, participants were told that the dogs were either adopted from a shelter or purchased from a breeder. Dog source had no significant effect on judgments of the decision to surrender; therefore, a bias against shelter dogs was not evident. Participants rated individuals relinquishing dogs negatively, but there was a significant effect of scenario, with more sympathy for those relinquishing for financial difficulties or serious dog behavioral problems. Dog relinquishment was rated as less acceptable by those with current or previous ownership of a dog, previous experience with professional trainers, and those who reported higher pet attachment. These results supplement the existing research on attitudes toward relinquishment. A better understanding of attitudes surrounding relinquishment provides context for owner-stated reasons for surrendering dogs and information that could help guide future interventions for decreasing relinquishments.