A Review of Behavioral Assessment Protocols Used by Australian Animal Shelters to Determine the Adoption Suitability of Dogs Academic Article uri icon


  • Shelter dogs typically undergo preadoption assessment for suitability as companions. Dogs who pass are available for adoption. Available resources determine whether dogs who fail are euthanized or rehabilitated. Accurate assessment of shelter-dog behavior is imperative to protect community welfare and dogs in the shelter system and to ensure potentially dangerous dogs are not rehomed and suitable companions not wrongly euthanized. This study reviewed a sample of Australian nonhuman animal shelters assessment protocols to determine adoption suitability. The study observed more than 50 assessments in 8 shelters, collected materials relating to the observed assessments, and interviewed 26 shelter workers who assess dogs. The results showed that Australian shelters use a variety of protocols to assess adoptability. Although shelters do their best to ensure meaningful results, assessments developed in-house predominate and lack standardization in content and methodology; none have been adequately evaluated in the peer-reviewed literature. This does not necessarily mean invalid or inappropriate assessments; rather, it indicates the need for behavioral scientists to assist in developing standardized and scientifically validated protocols for assessing shelter dogs' behavior and adoption suitability.

publication date

  • September 17, 2010