By SUE MANNING, Associated Press

     LOS ANGELES (AP) — Where do people get their pets? A new poll found that the most common way people acquire a pet is as a gift, followed by taking in a stray.

     About four in 10 pet owners say at least one of their current pets was given to them by friends or family, while a third say they have a pet that showed up on their doorstep as a stray.

     Shelters and breeders are next on the list as sources for pets. Thirty percent of those polled say they adopted through a shelter, 31 percent got a pet from a breeder and 14 percent bought an animal at a pet store.

     Karen Hulsey, 63, adopted a cat from a Texas shelter. Greyson is about a year old now and “he’s cuddly and clean,” she says.

     She calls her shelter experience very upbeat because the cat “has turned into a wonderful pet with a good attitude and I felt like I was doing something positive.”

     Another quarter obtained a pet in some other way, including 3 percent who say they went to an animal rescue group and 2 percent who purchased them using an online or print classified ad.

     More than half of the pet owners polled say they’ve taken in a shelter animal at some point, and two-thirds of them say their experiences have been extremely positive.

     Jackie Schulze, 77, of Williamsport, Pa., got Sassafras, a white cat with periwinkle eyes, from Lycoming Animal Protection Society Inc., a no-kill cat rescue that operates a local shelter. The cat, which was rescued from a meth lab in Scranton, is very attached to Schulze, following her around and sitting in her lap.

     ”Sassy chose me,” Schulze said.

     Among those who had the most positive shelter experiences, 44 percent cite positive interactions with shelter staff. Just 3 percent say they’d had a moderately or very negative shelter experience.

     Edward Acosta, 46, of Thomasville, N.C., said if he were getting a new pet today, he would probably go to a pet store or breeder, not because he doesn’t like shelters but “because I like thoroughbreds.” He and his wife Vicki bred Pomeranians for years and still have three descended from their original pair. They also own five chickens — Rhode Island Reds bought at a feed store — whom they consider to be pets.

     Cat owners are more likely than dog owners to have adopted a stray or shelter animal. Forty-three percent of cat owners polled say one of their pets came from a shelter, compared with 29 percent of dog owners. More than half of cat owners (52 percent) say one of their current pets was a stray, compared with 30 percent of dog owners.

     Fifty-eight percent of shelter adopters say being socially responsible was extremely or very important in their decision to use a shelter. It is usually cheaper to adopt than to buy from a breeder or pet store, but 60 percent of those who adopted shelter pets say the cost made no difference.

     Thirty-six percent of shelter users say they had more confidence in the staff at pet shelters than they did in the staff at pet stores or breeders. Thirty-six percent of those who obtained animals from shelters also say they believe shelter animals were more likely to have had recent veterinary care than animals from pet stores or breeders.

     And more than two-thirds of those who have adopted from a shelter — 68 percent — say they would do so again.

     Not all pet owners see shelter adoptions as a positive. Thirty-six percent of those polled say that if they were to adopt an animal from a shelter, they would be extremely or very concerned that the pet might have hidden medical problems; 29 percent express concern about psychological problems and 33 percent say they would worry the animal wouldn’t fit in with their families.

     Ojala Reino, 31, of Fairmount, Ga., who got his boxer bulldog, Bruster, from a friend, said he was one of those who would worry about the physical and mental health of a shelter dog.

     ”I watch of lot of those shows on TV where the animals come in and have been abused,” he said.

     Fifty-two percent of pet owners say they have gotten a pet from a shelter or rescue at some time, but only 23 percent have taken an animal to a shelter. Of those who turned in animals, 59 percent say the animal belonged to someone else.

     If shelters started charging a $25 fee to accept unwanted or stray animals, about a third of those polled (34 percent) say they would be dissuaded from leaving animals and 52 percent say it would make no difference.

     By region, adopting a stray is most common in the West, where 39 percent got a pet that way compared with 34 percent in the South, 30 percent in the Northeast and 29 percent in the Midwest. Forty-one percent of rural-dwelling pet owners say their pet was a stray, compared with 28 percent of suburbanites and 34 percent of urbanites. And suburbanites were most likely to have adopted from a shelter: 36 percent compared with 30 percent in urban areas and 22 percent in rural parts of the country.

     The Poll was conducted Oct. 13-17, 2011, by GfK Roper Public Affairs and Corporate Communications. It involved landline and cell phone interviews with 1,118 pet owners. Results among pet owners have a margin of sampling error of plus or minus 3.6 percentage points.


     AP Polling Director Trevor Tompson, Deputy Director of Polling Jennifer Agiesta and News Survey Specialist Dennis Junius contributed to this report.





How the poll was conducted



    The Associated Poll of pet owners on shelter adoption was conducted by GfK Roper Public Affairs & Corporate Communications from Oct. 13-17. It is based on landline and cellphone telephone interviews with a nationally representative random sample of 1,118 pet owners.

     Digits in the phone numbers dialed were generated randomly to reach households with unlisted and listed landline and cellphone numbers.

     Interviews were conducted in both English and Spanish.

     As is done routinely in surveys, results were weighted, or adjusted, to ensure that responses accurately reflect the population’s makeup by factors such as age, sex, education and race. In addition, the weighting took into account patterns of phone use — landline only, cell only and both types — by region.

     No more than one time in 20 should chance variations in the sample cause the results to vary by more than plus or minus 3.6 percentage points from the answers that would be obtained if all pet owners in the U.S. were polled.

     There are other sources of potential error in polls, including the wording and order of questions.

    Topline results are available at and

AP-GfK Poll: Clerks must issue gay marriage licenses
WASHINGTON (AP) — Linda Massey opposes gay marriage. But she was incensed last summer to see that Kim Davis, a Kentucky county clerk, was refusing to issue marriage licenses to gay couples.

“If the government says you have to give out those marriage licenses, and you get paid to do it, you do it,” says the 64-year-old retiree from Lewiston, Michigan. “That woman,” she said of Davis, “should be out of a job.”

Americans like Massey are at the heart of a shift in public opinion, an Associated Press-GfK poll has found. For the first time, most Americans expect government officials to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples, even over religious objections.

It’s partly a matter of expecting public servants to do their jobs. But more broadly, the issue touches on a familiar dispute over which constitutional value trumps which: religious freedom, or equality under the law?

The question in recent months has entangled leaders with political sway, among them Pope Francis and the 2016 presidential contenders. But it’s not a new conflict for a nation that has long wrestled with the separation of church and state.

Where Davis’s answer was the First Amendment’s protection of religious freedom — and she served jail time to back it up — a majority of respondents don’t buy that argument when it comes to public officials issuing marriage licenses. That’s a shift since an AP-GfK survey in July, when Americans were about evenly split. Then, 49 percent said officials with religious objections should be exempt from issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples and 47 percent said they should be required to issue them.

Now, just 41 percent favor an exemption and 56 percent think they should be required to issue the licenses.

That shift was especially stark among Republicans. A majority of them —58 percent — still favor religious exemptions for officials issuing marriage licenses, but that’s down 14 points since 72 percent said so in July.

The timing of the surveys is important, coming during rapid developments in the politics of gay rights and religious freedom.

Public opinion has favored same-sex marriage in recent years and some politicians — President Barack Obama, 2016 presidential contender Hillary Rodham Clinton and some members of Congress among them — have come around to that view. In June, the Supreme Court effectively legalized gay marriage nationwide.

The cultural change has influenced the governing bodies of some of the most conservative religions, including the Catholic Church under Pope Francis and the Mormon Church, which last week called for compromises between protecting religious liberties and prohibiting discrimination. Both institutions are trying to accommodate society’s shifting views while keeping a firm grip internally on their own doctrines against gay marriage and homosexual activity. And both churches steered clear of the appearance of backing Davis. The Vatican said the pope’s brief meeting with her in Washington should not be construed as a sign of support.

Mormon leader Dallin H. Oaks last week told a closed gathering of judges and clergy in Sacramento, California, that when conflicts between religion and law rise and are decided, citizens of a democracy must follow court rulings.

Davis, a Democrat, Apostolic Christian and clerk of Rowan County, Kentucky, became the face of religious Americans who bristle at government requirements that conflict with their beliefs, whether those mandates cover gay marriage, contraception or abortion referrals. On June 27 — the day after the high court ruling — Davis refused to issue same-sex marriage licenses. In September she spent five days in jail for defying a court order to issue the licenses. Affixing her name to the certificate, she wrote in a statement, “would violate my conscience.” After serving her jail sentence, Davis returned to work — but her name no longer appears on marriage licenses for gay couples.

Nick Hawks, a business consultant in Ararat, North Carolina, agrees with Davis.

“We’ve got to decide at some point who’s going to be protected first,” said the father of three boys, 50, who says he’s a Republican-leaning independent. “It doesn’t seem quite fair” to allow a minority such as gay people to “control the policy.”

More generally, the poll offers evidence that Americans remain slightly more likely to say that it’s more important for the government to protect religious liberties than the rights of gays and lesbians when the two come into conflict, 51 percent to 45 percent. But that, too, is a slight shift since July, when 56 percent said it’s more important to protect religious liberties.


The AP-GfK Poll of 1,027 adults was conducted online Oct. 15 to Oct. 19, using a sample drawn from GfK’s probability-based KnowledgePanel, which is designed to be representative of the U.S. population. The margin of sampling error for all respondents is plus or minus 3.3 percentage points.

Respondents were first selected randomly using telephone or mail survey methods, and later interviewed online. People selected for KnowledgePanel who didn’t otherwise have access to the Internet were provided access at no cost to them.



Poll results:

AP-GfK Poll: Americans still feeling economic gloom

WASHINGTON (AP) — Americans are more likely than they were a year ago to have positive views of the nation’s economy, but they’re still feeling more pessimism than optimism, according to a new Associated Press-GfK poll conducted ahead of CNBC’s GOP primary debate on Wednesday.

The candidates will attempt to impress Republicans in particular, who the poll finds feel much gloomier about the economy than Democrats.

Here are some things to know about opinions on the economy from the latest AP-GfK poll:



A majority of Americans — 54 percent — say the nation’s economy is poor, the new poll shows. Just 45 percent call it good. Still, views of the economy are slightly rosier than they were over the summer, when a July AP-GfK poll found 41 percent of Americans described the economy as good, and more positive than they were a year ago, when just 38 percent said so.

Half of men, but just 4 in 10 women, describe the economy as good.

Americans are even less likely to see the nation heading in a positive direction overall. Just 36 percent think the country is heading in the right direction, while 63 percent think it’s headed in the wrong direction.

More than 8 in 10 Americans in the new poll described the economy as an extremely or very important issue, down slightly since July. Still, the economy rates higher in importance than any other issue in the poll.



The candidates will aim their messages at a Republican Party that has a particularly negative view of the economy.

While 65 percent of Democrats describe the economy as good, just 29 percent of Republicans say the same. Seven in 10 Republicans say the economy is poor, including more than 8 in 10 GOP supporters of the tea party. Eight-five percent of Republicans say the country is heading in the wrong direction.

Independents, too, are unhappy with the economy, with 33 percent seeing it as good and 62 percent poor.



Few Americans — just 17 percent — think the economy has improved over the past month, while 21 percent think it has gotten worse and the bulk — 60 percent — think it’s stayed about the same.

Most Americans don’t expect to see improvement in either the nation’s economy or their own financial situations in the next year, either.

Thirty-one percent say they expect the general economic situation to get better, 32 percent expect it to get worse, and 34 percent expect it to stay about the same. Likewise, 29 percent expect their household financial situation to get better, 25 percent expect it to get worse, and 44 percent expect it to stay the same.

Republicans are more likely than Democrats to say the economy has gotten worse in the last month, 31 percent to 13 percent. Democrats are more likely than Republicans to expect it to get better in the next year, 40 percent to 21 percent.



Whichever GOP candidate emerges victorious in next year’s presidential primaries will need to convince Americans that the party can do a better job than Democrats at handling economic issues.

Americans are slightly more likely to say they trust Democrats than Republicans more on handling the economy, 29 percent to 24 percent, the poll shows.

But neither party’s a clear winner on the issue — 15 percent say they trust both equally and 30 percent say they trust neither party.

Republicans are more likely than Democrats to say they trust neither party, 29 percent to 17 percent. A majority of independents — 55 percent — don’t trust either party.



Americans are slightly more likely to disapprove than approve of President Barack Obama’s handling of the economy, 52 percent to 46 percent, according to the new poll. But that’s an apparent rise in his approval rating on the issue since July, when just 42 percent said they approved.

Americans’ rating of Obama on the economy is nearly identical to how they feel about how he’s handling his job overall, with 46 percent approving and 52 percent disapproving.


The AP-GfK Poll of 1,027 adults was conducted online from Oct. 15 to 19. The sample was drawn from GfK’s probability-based KnowledgePanel, which is designed to be representative of the U.S. population. The margin of sampling error for all respondents is plus or minus 3.3 percentage points.

Respondents were selected randomly using telephone or mail survey methods and interviewed online. People selected for KnowledgePanel without Internet access were provided it for free.



Poll results: