December 5, 2012
Finding a Responsible Home for Your Pet
How to make sure your pet will be cared for if you can't keep her
Do you feel you can no longer keep your pet and want to find a new home for him or her? Perhaps you are frustrated with a behavior problem. Or your child has pet allergies. Or you are having trouble finding rental housing that accepts your pet.
Step One: Step back and reevaluate the situation
Many pet-related problems can be frustrating, and you may feel that relinquishing your pet is the only solution. But before you take that drastic step, be aware of the wealth of resources available to help pet owners such as yourself deal with problems that can seem overwhelming.
If you are dealing with a pet behavior problem, consider first consulting with your veterinarian. Many problems may be due to a treatable medical condition. For example, a housetrained pet may begin urinating in the house due to a urinary tract infection rather than a behavior problem. Your veterinarian will be able to rule out any physical cause of the problem and may also be able to refer you to an animal behaviorist or trainer in your community who has the experience and expertise to help address your pet's behavior problem.
In a recent study, "moving" and "landlord won't allow" were among the top reasons for the relinquishment of pets to shelters. If you are moving and are having trouble finding animal-friendly housing, or are experiencing other pet-related housing difficulties, please see our resources »
Allergies or other health problems
Do you or a family member have a health problem (for example, an allergy or an infection that weakens the immune system) that makes it difficult to keep your pet? Has a physician actually recommended you give up your pet? Before taking such a drastic step, read our information on how you can help an allergic or immunocompromised person keep their pet without sacrificing their health or comfort.
Step Two: Ensure your pet has a safe and caring new home
Getting help from shelters and rescue groups
If you ultimately decide that you cannot keep your pet, you have several options.
A great resource is your local animal shelter. Most shelters screen potential adopters to make sure that they will be able to provide a safe, responsible, and loving home for your pet.
The easiest place to start your search for your local animal shelter is online at theshelterpetproject.org. Here you can enter your zip code and find a list of animal shelters, animal control agencies, and other animal care organizations in your community. You may also want to look in your phone book. Animal shelters are called by a variety of names, so look in the Yellow Pages under listings such as "animal shelter," "humane society," or "animal control." Public animal care and control agencies are often listed under the city or county health department or police department. You can also call information at 411.
If you have a dog of a specific breed, there may be a breed rescue organization in your area that will accept him and work to find him a new home. Purebred rescue groups are usually run by people with in-depth knowledge of a specific breed. Rescue groups usually keep adoptable animals until they can be placed in loving, permanent homes. To locate a rescue group that specializes in your dog's breed, contact your local animal shelter or go to theshelterpetproject.org.
In some cases, breed rescues only work with animal shelters and may not accept pets directly from owners. Be sure to find out as much as you can about the rescue group, and always carefully screen a breed rescue organization before relinquishing your pet. You should make sure the current animal residents appear well cared for, that the group screens potential adopters, and that the group offers post-adoption support services. Do not be afraid to ask questions.
Finding a responsible home on your own
If you decide to try to find a new home for your pet yourself, rather than relying upon a local animal shelter or rescue organization, be sure the animal's best interests remain your top priority. Finding a new home for a pet can be difficult. A "good" home means a home where the animal will live for the rest of his or her life, where he or she will receive attention, veterinary care, and proper nutrition, and be treated as part of the family.
If you choose to find a home for your pet yourself, follow these guidelines:
- Advertise through friends, neighbors, and local veterinarians first; then try the newspaper, if all else fails. Your chances of finding a good home are increased when you check references with someone you know.
- Visit the prospective new home in order to get a feel for the environment in which your pet will be living. Explain that the pet is part of your family and that you want to make sure she will be cared for properly and that you want to see how the animal responds to the new home. Screen potential homes carefully.
- Don't be fooled. If anyone refuses to allow you to visit their home, do not place your pet with them. Individuals known as "bunchers" routinely answer "free to good home" ads, posing as people who want family pets when, in actuality, they sell pets to animal dealers who in turn sell animals to institutions for invasive experiments. These people are "professionals" who may even bring children or their mothers with them when picking up pets.
- Always be mindful of your own safety when you go to interview potential adopters or if you allow a prospective adopter to enter your home.
- Carefully consider all the elements of the new home: Will your pet get along with small children? Is the family planning to keep the dog chained outside as a watch dog? Will the cat be kept only as a mouser? Does the family have a veterinary reference? Do not be shy about asking questions. Your pet's life and happiness may depend on it.
- Ask for a valid form of identification (preferably a driver's license). Record the number for your records and require the new owner to sign a contract stating the requirements of adoption upon which both parties agree. As part of the contract, require the new owner to contact you if he or she decides at some point that they must give up the pet.
- Have your pet neutered or spayed before he or she goes to the new home. This will make the animal more adoptable and help stop irresponsible breeding.
- If your pet is chronically ill or has behavior problems, it may be difficult to find him a suitable home. A new owner may not be willing or able to deal with these issues, and it may also be difficult for the pet to adjust to a new home. The decision to humanely euthanize such a pet should not be made without thoughtful input from a veterinarian, a behaviorist, and the family, based on how well they believe their companion would adapt to a new home.
Finding a quality home for your pet can be a difficult and time-consuming process. Remember: Your local animal shelter has a qualified staff trained to screen and counsel adopters. Relinquishing your pet to your local shelter may be the best option for you and your pet.