Study: Younger pet owners avoid shelters

Many 18 to 34 don't realize need, harbor misconceptions

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CHICAGO — After years of public awareness campaigns and efforts to promote the adoption of cats and dogs from shelters — initiatives that seemed to be making great strides — a recent study has delivered some troublesome findings.

The survey by Best Friends Animal Society (bestfriends.org), the Utah sanctuary that's one of the leaders in the no-kill movement, has found that the pro-shelter/pro-adoption message is being lost on young people.

Survey participants between 18 and 34 were found to be more likely to purchase a pet from a breeder or pet store than to consider a shelter adoption (46 versus 31 percent total). The survey also uncovered misconceptions among young adults, nearly 40 percent of whom don't believe shelter animals are at risk, and 46 percent of whom see shelter animals as less desirable than those from breeders.

"In the last decade, animal rescue and animal rescue organizations have become so prominent, people have been bumping into them and (you) would have thought their experience and their concept of the market would have been different," says Francis Battista, vice chairman at Best Friends. "I would have thought this age bracket would have been pretty heavily exposed to animals for adoption."

Kelly Campbell is the senior manager of knowledge and research for PetSmart Charities (petsmartcharities.org), which has been at the forefront in popularizing adoptions. She's in that 18-to-34 demographic, and says it's disheartening to see young people turning to breeders.

Campbell says younger people may not realize that just about any breed is available through shelters or breed-specific rescues.

Some people also believe animals from breed rescues have the same problems -- including behavior and health problems -- that shelter animals are supposed to have. Battista says Best Friends is fighting that "damaged goods" canard.