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Risk Analysis of Behavior Problems: Overview Part 1

Owners face distress when thinking about their pet with a problem behavior

M. Bain

Melissa J. Bain, DVM, DACVB, MS, DACAW

Source: M. Bain

By: Melissa J. Bain, DVM, DACVB, MS, DACAW, University of California-Davis School of Veterinary Medicine, Clinical Animal Behavior Service

Problem behaviors are responsible for as much or more stress for owners, especially when they feel that they need to make some serious decisions. Sometimes they feel that they have no options, or feel ridiculed by friends and family members.

Three options

In all of veterinary medicine we have 3 options:

  • Do something
  • Find the fairy godmother/shelter/home on the farm that will take this pet and treat it humanely, not let it bite anyone, and not sue if it does
  • Euthanize

Do something: These options vary widely, from pure management to full behavior modification.

Find a new home: Rehoming an animal with a history of a problem behavior is risky at best, both for the safety of people and the particular animal in question, as well as other animals that it may encounter. The animal may be at risk for inhumane treatment or yet another rehoming. Animal shelters and rescue agencies are often over-run with pets available for adoption and may have limited resources to rehabilitate a pet with a problem behavior. Of course there are shelters and other organizations that can and do work with the animals to make them adoptable and offer support to new adopters, and if an owner is going to rehome a pet, they need to do their due diligence.

Owners also have to consider potential liability that they may face if they rehome a pet with a history of aggression. They should consult with a lawyer, or at least their home owner’s insurance company.

Euthanize: If an owner is not able or willing to work with the pet, or to find it a new home, then euthanasia may be the only viable option.

Imagine a ven diagram with three things that affect recommendations…the animal, the environment, and the owner. We need to look at the intersection of these three when evaluating the situation and, while they are separated into different sections, they occur interchangeably.

We will go over these factors in the next few blog posts.


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