Attitudes and Motivations of Owners Who Enroll Pets in Pet Life-Care Centers


The purpose of this study was to examine the characteristics, motivations, and expectations of humans who enroll their dogs, cats, and other pets into pet life-care centers. Pet life-care centers are groups or institutions that provide a permanent home for pets in the event of the owner’s illness, inability to care for their pet, or death. The long-term pet care industry has grown in the quality and type of care available to pet owners and is a classic example of the human–animal bond in action. This bond is well-documented in the literature, with most research focusing on physical, emotional, and mental health benefits to the pet owner. Few studies have examined how the human–animal bond affects the animal, and little is known about the motives and expectations of owners who enroll their pet in a life-care center. We conducted a study using a mail questionnaire sent to 163 current clients of a pet life-care center in Texas, USA. Of 101 respondents, whose ages ranged from 30 to over 70, most were female, married, and college-educated. Respondents strongly endorsed a variety of reasons for enrolling their pet in the center, with quality of veterinary care and satisfaction of their pet’s basic needs being the most highly rated. Coding of open-ended responses was consistent with these ratings and identified having no other options as another frequently endorsed reason. The open-ended responses also indicated that respondents expected that their pet would enjoy extensive social interaction, receive high-quality medical attention, and be treated like they were at home. Respondents who had previously visited the center were more willing to adopt a pet in the future than those who had not visited the center. With the dramatic growth of pet life-care centers in the United States and lack of existing literature, further studies in this area are advised.