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Public Policy and Administration


Gema Hernandez


When Department of Defense (DoD) personnel receive orders to relocate to a new duty installation, nearly one third abandon their companion animals, which negatively affects the local shelters' costs, personnel, and capabilities to provide quality care for shelter animals. There is a lack of research on relevant policies among local government policy makers, installation commanders, directors of animal shelters, and animal rights advocates about the abandonment of companion animals by DoD personnel. The purpose of this qualitative descriptive case study was to investigate the relationship between the influx of abandoned DoD companion animals and the management and logistical (including financial) operations of 2 publicly funded animal shelters near a Midwest DoD installation. The theoretical framework was Merton's theory of unintended consequences. Data were collected through interviews with 2 shelter directors, 10 surveys completed by shelter personnel, and a review of the shelters' logistical and financial documents spanning fiscal years 2013 - 2014. Data were analyzed after coding for themes and patterns. According to study findings, the abandonment of companion animals by DoD personnel has a negative impact on the shelters' finances, shelter personnel workload and stress, and the quality of life for incoming animals as well as those already in the shelters. The implications for positive social change are to inform policy makers of the importance of implementing policies to keep DoD companion animals with families, thereby easing transitions for those at risk, which helps to maintain the financial solvency of animal shelters, reduce stress for shelter personnel, and help companion animals to adjust as they are adopted into new homes.

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