Idaho Humane Society Logo

Why Dog Surrenders?

When I first applied to work at the Idaho Humane Society, I was ecstatic. I always enjoyed being around animals and thought I would feel right at home. I imagined being able to interact with the animals who came into our shelter, showering them with affection and wishing them off when their owners came. Reality was much different. Some days were like the ones I imagined. Those were the days where one of our fosters finally got approved for adoption and were sent to the perfect home, or when a family was reunited with a pet that had been missing for three months. Most days, however, were brutal.

Before continuing, I would like to explain how Animal Control runs. The Idaho Humane Society is contracted by various cities to perform the service of Animal Control. These cities set mandatory redemption fees that must be paid if an animal enters our shelter.

These fees are as follows:

  • Boarding Fees: $6/day. This fee helps cover the cost of food, toys, blankets, or anything else provided to pets while in the care of the Idaho Humane Society.
  • Licensing Fees: Price varies by city. All cities within Ada County require dogs to be licensed through the city. The price of a license can also vary on whether or not the animal is altered or unaltered.
  • Altered Fees: Price varies by city. Typically, the fee is cheaper if the pet has been altered as a way to increase people getting their pets spayed/neutered and decreasing the chances of unwanted litters.
  • Vaccine: $14.00 for Parvo/Bordetella boosters. These are given to every pet that enters the shelter in an effort to prevent them from coming into contact with any diseases while in the care of the Idaho Humane Society.
  • Rabies Vaccine: $14.00. All cities in Ada County BY LAW require this vaccine is given by the Idaho Humane Society before the animal is allowed to leave the shelter. If the owner has proof of an updated rabies vaccine that is accepted.

In my time at the Idaho Humane Society, I had been screamed at, cussed out, and had death threats thrown at me. I have had people twice my age and size threaten to come back and kill me because I couldn’t release their dog to them without a valid form of identification. I have also had heartbreaking phone calls with various cities, begging them to wave some of the fees so those who can’t afford them could be reunited with their pet. While redemptions were hard, helping people through the surrender process was even more heartbreaking.

Owner arrest, unable to afford vet bills, and death of a relative. These are some of the reasons a dog might end up in a shelter, and some reasons an owner might find themselves making the difficult choice to rehome a dog. In my time working at the Idaho Humane Society I have heard a plethora of reasons for an owner to surrender their dog. These reasons ranged from moving to not expecting their Golden Retriever to reach 60 pounds because he was only 13 pounds when they got him.

Owner surrenders are hard on everyone. Especially the dog. This dog is being displaced from a home it might have been in it’s entire life, being around people and dogs it doesn’t know, going through medical and behavioral exams, and will hopefully be placed in its new forever home. Animal shelters all over the United States accept hundreds of thousands of animals each year for a variety of reasons. The Idaho Humane Society alone accepts around ten thousand pets each year. It is for this reason I wanted to research, and maybe find a cause as to why so many pets are rehomed. For this project, I teamed up with the Idaho Humane Society in order to analyze the reasons a dog might be surrendered to the shelter.

The graph to the left lists out all of the dogs surrendered to the Idaho Humane Society from January through March of 2021. Keep in mind these months are typically slower in terms of animal surrenders. A majority of animals are surredered during the summer months as it is what most animal professionals call "Kitten Season", as cats tend to produce offspring in the spring and summer months. In addition to this, people will sometimes rehome their pets to go on vacations, and sometimes the animals escape due to the incease traffic of guests in the home.

January and February of 2021 both had the American PitBull Terrier as the most surrendered dog breed, and it would have been the most surrendered dog breed for March as well if it was not for an extreme case of animal hording the Idaho Humane Society dealt with, accounting for all fifty-five of the Papillons surrendered that month. The American Pit Bull Terrier accounted for a total of fifty-two surrenders over these three months. Following the American Pit Bull Terrier is the German Shepherd Dog, totaling thirty-four surrenders, then the Siberian Husky, coming to twenty-six total surrenders.

With these numbers in mind, I wanted to delve furthur into these specific breeds being surrendered, and perhaps determine some potential causes. My hope is by exposing some of the biggest reasons dogs are surrendered, I can encourage dog lovers out there to do their research and really reflect on themselves before adopting an animal.

There are many reasons for an owner to feel the need to rehome their pet. The graph to the right highlights the top five reasons owners gave the Idaho Human Society upon surrendering their animals. The reasons are as follows:

  1. Not Enough Time
  2. Too Many Animals
  3. Moving
  4. Unrealistic Expectations
  5. Aggressive/Reactive Behaviors

Most of the dog breeds surrendered with the reason being Not Enough Time tend to be working breeds, such as the German Shepherd Dog, Siberian Husky, and Cattle Dogs. Not every dog breed is fit for the home, and working breeds such as these are not for novice owners. These dogs have been gaining popularity recently and shelters have experienced and influx of these breeds, typically between the ages of seven months and three years. This is typically due to the fact that a majority of dog owners do not train their pets. In fact, The American Pet Product Association conducted a recent survey and found only 4.7% of dog owners enroll their pets in dog training classes. Not training your dog more often than not leads to an under socialized and often fearful animal.

As mentioned above, fifty-five out of the fifty-six dogs surrendered for too many animals was due the hording case that occured in March.

A majority of the dogs surrendered due to their owners moving were due so because of breed restrictions. Many landlords have policies against owning certain types of dog breeds. These typically include misunderstood dog breeds that have been labeled as having a history of attacking others, such as the American PitBull Terrier, German Shepherd Dog, and Rottweilers, as well as dogs considered to be wolf hybrids, such as the Siberian Husky.

This last graph compares the number of dogs surrendered based upon age groups. There are four main age groups sor dogs, puppy, adolescent, adult, and senior. In my research I found that the most dogs surrendered came from the adult age group, followed by puppies, adolescents, and seniors. This is most likely due to the fact the adult age group consists of five years, while contain two or less.


After going through the data collected and taking into account the information above, I feel it is imparative for a potential dog owner to conduct proper research and educate themselves on what it takes to own a dog before getting one.

Research To Be Done

Breed Specifications:

  • What the breed was originally bred to do
  • Sizing
  • Temperment
  • Drooling Levels
  • Coat Type
  • Coat Length
  • Openess To Strangers
  • Playfulness Levels
  • Protective Nature
  • Adaptability
  • Trainability
  • Energy Level
  • Barking Tendencies
  • Mental Stimulation Needs

Cost of Owning a Dog:

  • Training
  • Vet Bills
  • Pet Insurance
  • Food
  • Treats
  • Toys
  • Collars
  • Medications
  • Pet Licensing

Acceptance Level In The Community:

Some communities have rules against owning certain dog breeds, most notably Huskies, German Shepherd Dogs, and American Pit Bull Terriers/Bully Breeds.

Breeders and How to Spot Red Flags

Links and Sources