The heart-wrenching task of re-homing the family pet is often due to circumstances like the loss of a job or home, a debilitating illness or injury, or PCSing to a location where personal animals aren’t allowed. Here are some tips on how to re-home your dog or cat responsibly and humanely.
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 are usually taken hastily and may show a fearful, depressed or highly stressed animal in a less-than-ideal setting.
Prepare a brief description/biography. List any training your dog or cat has had: house-, crate-, and/or obedience training, if applicable. How does she get along with other animals or children? Describe her medical history and any current medical conditions, including any medication she may be currently taking. What are her favorite and least favorite foods, treats and activities?
Be honest. Full disclosure will help you find a new home that is a good fit for your beloved dog or cat, and ease the transition to a new home. Disclosing up front that your four-legged family member needs more training 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 haven’t 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.
Re-homing on your own
Avoid personal ads. As tempting as it may seem, re-homing a pet through Craigslist may place your pet in significant peril. Sadly, animals advertised on Craigslist have wound up victims of abuse and neglect, re-homed unknowingly with backyard breeders, hoarders, and dog-fighting rings. Black cats and kittens re-homed through Craigslist have been found tortured to death by those interested in the occult.
Instead, consider professionally managed pet matching communities. Services like Get Your Pet offer ways for people who need to rehome their pets to connect with people who want to welcome one into their homes. With careful vetting, tips on what to ask, where to meet, and even lists of participating veterinarians who will provide a free exam, this offers a safer way to conduct person-to-person adoptions than classified advertising.
Another safe way to re-home is to ask trusted family, friends, coworkers and others you know whether they are interested – or know of anyone who may be interested – 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 not-for-profit humane societies and animal rescues accept courtesy listings for their websites from those seeking to re-home a companion animal. Social networking on animal rescues’ or breed-specific Facebook sites may expedite the re-homing 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 a pet like yours?
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 – and often the most humane.
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, which 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 if they’re unable to transport to other rescue groups, earning the unfortunate name “kill” shelter.
Older pets, large breed dogs, and animals with special needs, behavioral issues, injuries, or illnesses are the first to be put to sleep 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 re-home, 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.
Breed rescues – an option for mixed breeds/mutts as well
Finally, explore breed-specific rescues up to a few hours from your home. Even if your animal 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, meaning that if accepted, your pet 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 their process for accepting owner-surrendered pets since surrender fees and waiting list may apply. 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.
For more details on how to responsibly re-home your pet, check out the ASPCA website.