According to the Humane Society of Southern Arizona, six percent of pets adopted nationally are returned to the facility. Many factors play into the rate — agency policies, community demographics, post-adoption follow-up, the pet-owner matching process and transparency about the background of the animal up for adoption, according to the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.
Three shelters in Tucson – Pima Animal Care Center, Humane Society and Hermitage – fall below the national average, each with a five percent return rate. Two shelters in the Sahuarita/Green Valley area – Paws Patrol and TALGV – have higher rates. Here are the rates and the reasons.
Pima Animal Care Center — 5%
Kristen Auerbach, PACC's director of animal services, said the county-operated facility doesn't have a strict adoption policy and the barriers in place are typically safety related — such as a person who is under the influence of any substance or shows signs of aggression toward animals. PACC keeps a database of people with animal neglect charges and will not allow them to adopt pets.
Auerbach attributes PACC's low return rate to making better matches between animals and humans and providing the support to make it work. However, Auerbach said returns are always going to happen no matter what facilities do or how strict policies are, and it's often the result of people getting home with the pet and realizing they aren't the best fit.
Humane Society of Southern Arizona — 5%
Monique Conway, marketing and public relations lead at the Humane Society, said if a pet is being returned there might be an opportunity to learn more about the pet and what an ideal home might be for the animal. The Humane Society will also schedule an appointment for people to return pets through the organization's admissions department. Scheduling an appointment time could give the adopter an appropriate amount of time to find out why the pet isn't a good fit and might also provide an opportunity to provide assistance that could result in the owner keeping the pet, she said.
Hermitage No-Kill Cat Shelter & Sanctuary — 5%
Amber Nix, Hermitage's executive director assistant, said the shelter's strict adoption policy is for the animal's benefit. Being under the influence of substances, having a history of returning pets or of animal abuse or violent criminal offenses will bar somebody from adopting. While shelters often bar working or single people who may be away from home all day from adopting, cats are self-reliant and there are no restrictions provided owners do not plan to be away for extended periods, Nix said.
The Animal League of Green Valley — 22%
President and intake/adoption coordinator Jean Davis said that there are factors unique to Green Valley and their shelter which accounts for the high return rate. TALGV has a policy of always being first in line to receive a pet they have adopted out if the situation changes or doesn't work out. In Green Valley, this often means after an owner dies or moves to assisted living the pet will be returned to TALGV. Many times, this could be years later, which could skew the return rate in a particular year.
Adoption barriers depend on the animal. For cats, there are strict barriers when it comes to declawing or keeping the cats outdoors. In general, TALGV wants to know about other pets in the home and whether they are spayed or neutered.
Paws Patrol — 15%
Patti Hogan, president at Paws Patrol, said their cats are typically from the outdoors, which sets them apart. Paws Patrol doesn't take cats in from the general public unless it is a cat they adopted out. They have a higher return rate because the cats originated in colony packs, are feral or have had little human interaction, she said. It is not uncommon for cats to need to spend longer periods in Paws Patrol care or to go through a couple of owners for the cat to become settled in, Hogan said.
•Rates for the Humane Society are from fiscal year July 2018 to June 2019.
•Rates for TALGV, PACC, Hermitage and Paws Patrol are from 2018.