7 Reasons Pet Sharing Works

by Mary Haight on October 14, 2012

pet sharingPet sharing had been a fringe topic, an idea shared between friends and neighbors on an informal basis for years, and when a company tried and failed to monetize it, more people became aware of the possibilities of sharing a pet. I was talking to a friend of mine who mentioned he and his tenant (who is also his friend) had discussed the idea of sharing his dog with her. She has a cat, but would love to have a dog to walk and play with. He keeps irregular hours and this would give his young dog more exercise. So pet sharing popped into my head when I heard the results of a survey conducted by the American Humane Association Animal Welfare Research Institute (AHA) on barriers to pet ownership.

Why The Decrease In Pet Ownership

The AHA survey was designed after the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) found that there was a decrease in pet-owning households between 2006 and 2011. The participants in the survey were 500 people who had previously owned a cat but not in the last 12 months, 500 people who had previously owned a dog but not in the last 12 months and 500 people who had never owned a dog or cat as an adult. I looked at the top 5 barriers to pet ownership:

  1. Veterinary Expenses (30%)
  2. Lifestyle (30%)
  3. Cleaning Up (30%)
  4. General Expenses (29%)
  5. No Time (27%)

Each of these objections can be overcome, if 2 people involved want a dog or cat in a pet sharing arrangement.

Barriers to Pet Ownership and Retention

Pet sharing is not likely to become trendy with droves of friends and neighbors storming the gates of local shelters to adopt, but this could be considered by shelters when adopters call to relinquish a pet or better yet, use it as a program to catch problems before failure occurs.

Of course, proximity to one another is key in such arrangements as are pet-friendly landlords – but here’s the thing. We have an aging population of boomers who have never learned how to take “no” for an answer and are suddenly faced with that bleak prospect. The AHA survey revealed that those 65 and older said, no, they would not get another pet, and I bet that would response would change if people could count on sharing the duties and expenses. That leads us to the last two reasons why pet sharing can be one tool used to remove barriers to pet ownership:

  1. Health problems
  2. Income constraints

Boomer pet owners might be having trouble getting around. Arthritis and other infirmities can make it difficult to give a dog enough exercise. Because of health and income issues people think twice about getting another dog when their faithful friend passes away, and when you’ve been attached to a dog or cat or both for much of your life, this is a harsh reality to face. Pet sharing can be an excellent answer to the too expensive, lack of time, and lifestyle objections, though putting together a solid approach for successful outcomes might take some thoughtful program design.

Pet Sharing, Can Shelters Use This?

Admittedly the only thing we can do about those in the AHA survey who have never had a pet in their adult lives and object to cleaning up after them is educate them. But then, not everyone is suited to caring for pets.

The good news for shelters: “The survey found that only 22 percent of previous dog owners and 18 percent of previous cat owners acquired the previous pet from a shelter or rescue organization. A much higher proportion of prospective pet owners said they would acquire a future pet from a shelter or rescue organization.” (AHA) The second of this three part survey will take a look at outcomes of shelter dogs 6 months after adoption, and the third will look at improving retention.

Do you think a formal pet sharing program could work, possible help keep dogs and cats in their homes? Are there any shelters you know or have heard of making these connections?

 

(Photo credit: courtesy of Amazon CARES)

Additional Resources

An Idea Whose Time Has Come: The Time-Share Dog

13 comments
jkhadir
jkhadir

I'm currently considering this option with a dog we rescued from the streets. We rescued her while my husband was out of town. We have two sons and I've NEVER owned a pet! I have a friend who is an animal guru and offered to foster the pup for us until my husband got back and we were able to have a conversation about it. My husband is back and is on board to keeping her. I am apprehensive though because she's spent the last three weeks at my friend's house with a back yard and another dog to play with. When here, we work and the kids are at school full time and we live in an apartment with no backyard. I feel terrible about her being left alone all day, and while I know that lots of dogs get used to having their owners away during the day, I am still anxious about it. My friend has offered to let us drop her off in the morning and take her back home after school with the kids. It'll be another tricky transition in the morning and afternoon, but I'm considering it. What do you think? Will this create confusion for the pup?

pypekamp
pypekamp

I opted to share my dog with a foster family as I work during the week. However, after 1,5 years I think my dog has (separation) anxiety. He follows me around and exhibits anxious behaviour (looks like aggression but is not) and I am wondering whether I am doing him a favour. The foster family has kids and cats and, although he seems happy to go there and runs inside without looking back, perhaps he has difficulty with constant "pack-changing". Would he rather spend all day at home? He is probably about 9 or 10 years old (he was a street mutt that I found in Montenegro) and has a dog flap to the garden. Any ideas?

MaryEHaight
MaryEHaight moderator

@pypekamp I'd call a certified behaviorist and have them take a look at how the dog reacts in both homes. Ask your veterinarian for a referral in the area. You can read about finding professional help on the ASPCA website, or the certifiedanimalbehaviorist.com

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thatmutt
thatmutt

Unfortunately I think many rescue groups and shelters would be against it, but I think it's a great idea and it could catch on. When you think about it, this is sort of what fostering is. How often do people foster a dog for a few weeks and then another foster home takes over? Rescues have no problem with that, so maybe adopting animals out to two individuals or two families could work. It will take some open minds, though. Thanks for spreading the word and getting us thinking.

somethingwagging
somethingwagging

I love this idea. I saw a program where a retired couple shared a dog with their neighbors with young children. The dog slept with the young family. Each morning, the retired woman would pick up the kids and the dog and drop the kids at the bus stop. The dog spent the day with the retired couple and the kids would pick him up after dinner.They made an agreement that if either family decided to move away, the young family would take the dog.I'm a big fan of community building and, at its best, this would benefit more than just the pets. 

DagsDiTom
DagsDiTom

There was a company in NYC a few years back (not sure if they're still in business) that did a pet membership type of thing for people who only wanted a dog part time. At the time, it sounded like a cool idea but after getting a dog of my own and getting married, I'd liken pet sharing to spouse sharing and not sure it's the best idea for the pup or the families involved. Just my 2 cents.

wantmorepuppies
wantmorepuppies

Very interesting idea... I've never heard of a group doing anything like this for adoptions, but I feel like I've seen it in a foster situation on occasion. 

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