Characteristics and Welfare of Long-Term Shelter Dogs
Institute of Animal Welfare Science, Department for Farm Animals and Veterinary Public Health, University of Veterinary Medicine, Vetmeduni Vienna, Veterinärplatz 1, 1210 Vienna, Austria
Authors to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Received: 27 December 2020
Revised: 11 January 2021
Accepted: 13 January 2021
Published: 15 January 2021
In no-kill shelters, overpopulation is an often-faced problem. Some individuals have better adoption chances than others, and over time, long-term dog populations develop. Our aim was to identify certain characteristics that long-term shelter dogs share and to investigate if long-term shelter dogs experience an impairment of welfare due to the restricted environment. In our study, long-term shelter dogs were more often of older age, male, of large size, neutered, and of a “dangerous breed”. They were also described more often as having behavioural problems regarding aggression and high arousal. The physical wellbeing of long-term shelter dogs was not impaired. However, they did show some stress-related behaviours, suggesting that they might be more affected by acute stressors and have more difficulties relaxing in the shelter environment. In sum, certain morphological and behavioural characteristics of dogs can be used to identify individuals at higher risk for a long-term stay. Thus, these dogs require special attention and effort to enhance their adoption chances. The results of this study serve as a scientific basis for developing such dog-specific strategies.