Rehoming your pet is heartbreaking. It is often due to circumstances like the loss of a job or home, an illness or injury, or PCSing to a location where personal animals are not allowed.
Here are some tips on how to find your dog or cat the best possible home.
Put your pet’s best paw forward
Take a good color photo of Fluffy or Fido. If you already have a good photo, make it readily available for use. If not, take one which shows your pet’s best side, as soon as possible.
Shelter intake pictures may show a fearful, depressed or highly stressed animal in a less-than-ideal setting. If you are surrendering your pet to a shelter they may use images that you supply.
Prepare a brief description/biography. List any training your dog or cat has had: house-, crate-, and/or obedience training. How does she get along with other animals, children, strangers?
Describe her medical history and current medical conditions, including any medication she may be taking. What are her favorite and least favorite foods, treats, and activities?
What makes your pet special?
Be honest. Full disclosure will help you find a new home that is a good fit for your beloved dog or cat, and ease his transition to a new home. Disclosing up front that your four-legged family member needs more training, for example, may spare him from being dismissed from his next home for being unruly.
Prepare your pet. Make sure your dog or cat is groomed, up-to-date on her vaccinations, and is flea- and tick-free. If you have not done so already, have your pet spayed or neutered.
Low-cost vaccination and spay/neuter clinics may be available in your area. Check with local shelters and pet stores.
Do not get personal
Avoid personal or classified ads at all costs.
As tempting as it may seem, rehoming a pet through Craigslist may place your pet in significant peril. Many animals advertised on Craigslist have wound up victims of abuse and neglect, rehomed unknowingly with backyard breeders, hoarders, dog-fighting rings or other criminal elements.
Black cats and kittens rehomed through Craigslist have been found tortured to death. There are better options.
Doctor knows best
Speak with your pet’s veterinarian. He or she know your pet best, and may have other clients who are looking to add a pet to their families. Many veterinary practices allow clients to post flyers in their office to help dogs and cats find new homes.
Consider a professionally managed pet matching community, such as Rehome. It is managed by Adopt-A-Pet with support from the Petco Foundation.
Adopt-A-Pet is the nation’s largest nonprofit pet adoption website, and your pet’s profile can be seen by millions of potential pet adopters.
Rehome provides detailed tips and checklists on how to create a pet profile, review applications, meet potential adopters, and finalize your pet’s adoption.
Get Your Pet
Another excellent do-it-yourself resource is Get Your Pet. This online service offers ways for people who need to rehome their pets to connect with people who want to adopt.
This service offers a safer way to conduct person-to-person adoptions than classified advertising. Get Your Pet offers guidance on careful vetting, tips on what to ask, where to meet, and even lists of participating veterinarians who will provide a free pet exam.
Friends and family
Ask trusted family, friends, coworkers, and others you know to adopt your dog or cat. Speak with other pet guardians in your area, veterinarians, groomers, pet store staff, boarding or daycare staff, and others in the local pet care industry.
Many nonprofit humane societies and animal rescues accept courtesy listings for their websites from those seeking to rehome a companion animal.
Social networking on animal rescues’ or breed-specific Facebook sites may expedite the rehoming process.
Once a prospective adopter contacts you, consider interviewing the individual and conducting a home visit to make sure your pet’s next home is his forever home.
Does the adopter have prior experience caring for pets? A home and/or yard big enough to accommodate your animal? Do they have the financial means to care for your pet – especially if he has special needs or a chronic medical condition?
Most importantly, do they have realistic expectations about living with your pet? For instance, placing an active dog where she is home alone for 8-12 hours a day will not likely end well.
Surrendering your pet to a shelter
If you are not able to find a home on your own, surrendering your pet to a humane society, animal rescue, or municipal animal shelter is a viable option. In fact, many adoption contracts require you to return pets to them rather than have you rehome on your own.
When you contact your shelter, ask if they have any programs to prevent relinquishment. If you are rehoming due to short-term financial hardship, the shelter may have temporary support available to help you keep your pet. And many animal welfare organizations have training resources if behavior issues are the reason you are thinking about giving up your pet.
Consider each organization’s surrender and adoption policies before you give up your dog or cat. Find out if they partner with other organizations to increase the adoption potential of the animals in their care.
If surrender is not an option – for example, the shelter is at capacity – ask if they allow courtesy posts. These can give your pet additional exposure to potential adopters.
The myth of “no kill” versus “kill” shelters
Most shelters are open-admission, meaning they take all incoming animals. When they run out of space or funding, most euthanize animals to make room for new arrivals.
This is done only if they are unable to transport to other rescue groups, earning the unfortunate name “kill” shelter.
No animal welfare professional wants to kill animals. However, shelters must abide by safe and legal limits about the number of animals they are permitted to have in their care.
Heartbreaking, life-and-death decisions need to be made when shelters must take all incoming animals.
Older pets, large breed dogs, and animals with special needs, behavioral issues, injuries, or illnesses are the first to die when a shelter reaches capacity. In some cases, an incoming animal might have as little as three days to be adopted or put to death.
No shelter wants to kill animals, but when the supply of available adopters is outpaced by the shelter’s capacity to house and care for homeless pets in its community in a safe and legal manner euthanasia is typically the result. This is equally the case if transports to shelters that have capacity are not available.
Other organizations are limited-admission, meaning they only take in the number and type of animals they can rehome, and do not euthanize for space. These are often referred to as “no-kill” shelters, but the label is misleading.
The vast majority of shelter staff are not “pro-kill,” but often lack the means to humanely manage the velocity of incoming pets. And even no-kill shelters euthanize animals deemed unadoptable due to illness, aggression or other factors.
Still others keep pets for months or even years; some are effectively “never kill.” This in itself can be inhumane because a shelter is a refuge, not a home. And animals deteriorate in as little as a few weeks in even the best shelter environments.
Breed rescues – an option for mixed breeds/mutts as well
Finally, explore breed-specific rescues. Because they are less common than all-breed animal welfare organizations you may need to search outside of your community or municipality.
Even if your pet is not a purebred, many breed rescues are open to mixes of the breeds in which they specialize. In most cases, breed-specific rescues are foster-based. This means that if your pet is accepted, she will live in an approved foster family’s home until she is adopted.
If you must surrender your pet, research what facilities are available in your area. Consider search terms like humane society, animal rescue, animal shelter.
Ask about the process for accepting owner-surrendered pets. Surrender fees and wait lists may apply – and some shelters do not have capacity to accept owned animals. Find out about their efforts to care for and re-home pets in their custody, and their policy on euthanasia.
When surrendering your pet, offer the photo and history described above to facilitate efforts to find your pet his next home.
Giving up a beloved dog or cat is difficult. A little research and preparation may save you some heartache and lead your pet to a loving, caring forever home. We wish you every success if you are faced with this decision.
If you are serving in the military and are considering re-homing your pet due to PCS orders, read our blog post about PCS and your pet.