Inequitable Flow of Animals in and Out of Shelters: Comparison of Community-Level Vulnerability for Owner-Surrendered and Subsequently Adopted Animals

Lexis H. Ly, Emilia Gordon, Alexandra Protopopova

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

8 Scopus citations


There is increasing awareness among animal shelter professionals regarding the role of shelters in perpetuating inequities in pet ownership, although the relationship between owner vulnerabilities and animal shelter services is largely understudied. Currently, there is no literature comparing the sociodemographic conditions of communities where surrendered animals originate and communities where they are adopted. The present study compared the “flow” of surrendered animals between originating communities (incoming) and communities where they were adopted (outgoing; n = 21,270). To analyze community-level vulnerability, we used the Canadian Index of Multiple Deprivation (CIMD), which has four dimensions of social vulnerability. We found that three of the four CIMD dimensions were significantly different between surrendering and adopting communities (Ethnocultural Composition, Situational Vulnerability (SV), Economic Dependency, but not Residential Instability). For further investigation, we also grouped our analysis by intake groups (small animal n = 2,682; puppy n = 973; dog n = 3,446; kitten n = 6,436; cat n= 7,733) and found multiple relationships for which the incoming and outgoing CIMD quintiles were different. For example, for both puppies and kittens, the median outgoing SV quintile ranks were statistically significantly lower (less vulnerable) than incoming quintile ranks, with the effect size being moderate (puppy r = 0.31, kitten r = 0.30; p ≤ 0.0025), supporting the concern of the flow of certain animals from more vulnerable to less vulnerable communities. The results of this research provide a basis for understanding potential inequities in the use of shelter services to surrender or adopt an animal. Furthermore, these methods allow animal shelters to assess community needs and create interventions to reduce intake and increase adoption of animals. Finally, these data provide further support that animal sheltering is best considered from a One Welfare perspective.

Original languageEnglish
Article number784389
JournalFrontiers in Veterinary Science
StatePublished - Nov 11 2021


  • One Welfare
  • adoption barriers
  • animal sheltering
  • social determinants
  • social justice


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