Exploring the Relationship Between Human Social Deprivation and Animal Surrender to Shelters in British Columbia, Canada

Lexis H. Ly, Emilia Gordon, Alexandra Protopopova

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

14 Scopus citations


Previous studies identify owner-related issues, such as cost and housing, as common reasons for relinquishment of companion animals to animal shelters. It is likely that the burden of surrendering for owner-related reasons falls on those who are socially vulnerable (e.g., low income, unemployed); however, very few studies have assessed social determinants as a predictor of animal relinquishment. The present study used the Canadian Index of Multiple Deprivation (CIMD), which uses four factors of social vulnerability (Ethnocultural Composition, Economic Dependency, Residential Instability, and Situational Vulnerability) to predict risk of surrender for various reasons, of various species and breeds, and of various health statuses across British Columbia, Canada (n = 29,236). We found that CIMD factors predicted increased risk of surrender across many shelter variables. For further understanding of differences between areas in the province, the present study also analyzed the relationship between CIMD factors and animal surrender variables in two areas of interest: Metro Vancouver (n = 3,445) and Kamloops (n = 2,665), and plotted these relationships on a geospatial scale. We found that there were some similarities across areas, such as Situational Vulnerability predicting increased odds of surrendering pit bull-labeled dogs vs. all other dog breeds. There were also differences in predictors of animal surrender variables, suggesting that provision of animal services, such as veterinary care, for vulnerable groups may be specific to location. For example, whereas Ethnocultural Composition predicted increased risk of owner surrender for multiple owner-related reasons in Metro Vancouver, these same reasons for surrender were predicted by Residential Instability in Kamloops, indicating demographic differences that affect animal shelter service use. The results of this research validate the use of geospatial analysis to understand relationships between human vulnerability and animal welfare, but also highlight the need for further interventions in marginalized populations to increase retention of animals.

Original languageEnglish
Article number656597
JournalFrontiers in Veterinary Science
StatePublished - Mar 10 2021


  • animal shelter
  • animal welfare
  • one welfare
  • relinquishment
  • social determinants
  • social vulnerability


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