To increase the public’s awareness of animals needing homes, PetRescue, Australia’s largest online directory of animals in need of adoption, lists animals available from rescue and welfare shelters nationwide. The current study examined the descriptions accompanying online PetRescue profiles. The demographic data and personality descriptors of 70,733 dogs were analysed for associations with LOS in shelters—with long stays being a potential proxy for low appeal. Univariable and multivariable general linear models of log-transformed LOS with personality adjectives and demographic variables were fitted and the predicted means back-transformed for presentation. Further analyses were conducted of a subset of the dataset for the four most common breeds (n = 20,198 dogs) to investigate if the influence of personality adjectives on the LOS differed by breed. The average LOS of dogs was 35.4 days (median 18 days) and was influenced by several adjectives. Across all breeds, the LOS was significantly shorter if the adjectives ‘make you proud’, ‘independent’, ‘lively’, ‘eager’ and ‘clever’ were included in the description. However, the LOS was longer if the terms ‘only dog’, ‘dominant’, ‘sensitive’ and ‘happy-go-lucky’ were included in the description. Some of the association of descriptors with relatively long LOS are difficult to explain. For example, it is unclear why the terms “obedient” and trainable” appear unappealing. The confidence adopters have in these terms and their ability to make the most of such dogs merits further exploration. As expected, the LOS differed in different breeds with the Labrador retrievers having the fastest adoption rate among the most common four breeds with an average LOS of 14.5 days. Breed had interactions with four personality adjectives (gentle, active, quiet and energetic) indicating that the adoption rate of dogs with these descriptors in their online PetRescue profiles differed by breed. This highlights an important knowledge gap, suggesting that potential adopters have differing expectations according to the breed being considered. Increased awareness of the breed-specific influence of personality adjectives on appeal to potential adopters, may enhance adoption success by allowing dogs with risk factors for low appeal to be promoted more intensively than high-appeal dogs.
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