What Happens to Shelter Dogs? An Analysis of Data for 1 Year From Three Australian Shelters Academic Article uri icon


  • Annually, welfare shelters admit many dogs, including those whose caregivers surrender them or dogs who are strays. This article analyzes admission data from 3 metropolitan Australian shelters. The study collected data for a 1-year period and analyzed them to identify the characteristics of the typical shelter dog; patterns of relinquishment, sales, reclamation and euthanasia; and duration of stay and reasons underlying euthanasia, relinquishment, and postadoptive return. The study tracked more than 20,000 admissions during this period. To facilitate reclamation, the local Code of Practice requires a mandatory holding period for stray dogs; assessment for suitability for rehoming then occurs. Dogs failing the assessment are euthanized. Surrendered dogs can be assessed immediately. The Code of Practice also recommends that unsold dogs be euthanized 28 days postassessment. Typically, shelter dogs in Melbourne are strays, sexually entire, adult, small, and-usually-male. The majority of admissions are reclaimed or sold. Most reclamations occur within 4 days, and postadoptive return rates are low. That current desexing messages do not appear to have reached the owners of stray dogs to the same extent as they have other dog owners is a major finding, suggesting that a targeted education campaign may be required.

publication date

  • January 2004