Researchers discover way to boost shelter dog adoptions

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boosting shelter dog adoptions
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US researchers have found that implementing shorter-term fostering programs at animal shelters vastly improves adoptions for our canine friends.

The findings by the research team at Virginia Tech and Arizona State University are published in Animals.

Spending time with a dog is one of the most consistently effective ways to improve a dog’s life in the shelter. Time out of the kennel with a person can reduce physiological measures of stress, as can a single night or more in a foster caregiver’s home.

In this study, the researchers assessed the effects of outings of just a few hours and fostering stays of one to two nights on dogs’ length of stay in the shelter and their adoption outcomes.

The researchers found that brief outings and temporary fostering stays increased dogs’ likelihood of adoption by five and more than 14 times, respectively. The team also found that these programs were more successful when a greater proportion of community members were providing outings and stays to the shelters’ dogs as well as when these programs were carried out by shelters with more resources.

The results showed that for foster outings, about four per cent of the people ended up adopting the dog. For overnight stays, the number increased to about 12 per cent. Both results show that the vast majority of adopters were not the foster families.

Data was analysed from 51 animal shelters in the US on 1955 dogs that received these fostering interventions as well as 25,946 dogs residing at these shelters that served as the study’s controls. 

The increase in dog adoptions with short-term foster programs underscores their value to local shelters, the researchers said. Their findings highlight the importance of having resources available to shelters to support these programs. These programs are not as easy for some shelters as they are for others—it takes support both financial and human.

“Currently, shelters are struggling with dog adoptions, and we have evidence that these programs support placement into homes, which in turn can help shelters help more dogs,” Lisa Gunter said.

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