Objective—To evaluate a behavioral intake questionnaire
in animal shelters for the presence of biased
results and assess its use in the characterization of
behavioral problems of dogs relinquished to shelters.
Animals—54 dogs being relinquished to a shelter
and 784 dogs belonging to veterinary clients.
Procedure—Owners who were relinquishing their
dogs and agreed to complete the behavioral questionnaire
were alternately assigned to 1 of 2 groups;
participants were aware that information provided
would be confidential or nonconfidential (ie, likely
used for adoption purposes). Data from confidential
and nonconfidential information groups were compared,
and the former were compared with data (collected
via the questionnaire) regarding a population of
Results—Analyses revealed significant differences in
2 areas of reported problem behavior between the
confidential and nonconfidential information groups:
owner-directed aggression and stranger-directed fear.
Compared with client-owned–group data, significantly
more relinquished shelter dogs in the confidential
information group were reported to have ownerdirected
aggression, stranger-directed aggression,
dog-directed aggression or fear, stranger-directed
fear, nonsocial fear, and separation-related behaviors.
Conclusions and Clinical Relevance—Among persons
relinquishing dogs to a shelter, those who
believed questionnaire responses were confidential
reported owner-directed aggression and fear of
strangers in their pets more frequently than relinquishers
who believed responses were nonconfidential.
Confidentiality had no apparent effect on the reporting
of other assessed behavioral problems. Results suggest
that behavioral questionnaires may sometimes
provide inaccurate information in a shelter setting, but
the information may still be useful when evaluating
behavior of relinquished dogs. (J Am Vet Med Assoc 2005;227:1755–1761)