Making the decision to rehome a pet should not be done lightly. It is difficult on both the pet owner and the pet, and can result in stress for both parties. In addition, making sure that your pet goes to an appropriate new home that will treat him or her humanely and kindly can take some effort and research. Nevertheless, sudden life-changing events and extenuating circumstances sometimes can put pet owners in positions where finding a new home for their pets may be in the pets’ best interests. In these cases, there are resources that pet owners can use to help them find the best possible homes for their pets.
Before rehoming your pet, however, there are some considerations that you can make to determine whether rehoming your pet is necessary, and if so, what you can do to find your pet the best possible home. Ask yourself the following questions:
1. Why am I rehoming my pet?
There are a few common problems that can make pet owners think they have to rehome their pets, but some of these problems can actually be resolved without having to make that sacrifice. For instance, behavioral issues, which are common motivating forces behind the decision to rehome a pet, especially dogs, may be resolved with some training. Ideally, dog owners should start training as soon as they bring their dog home. However, a lapse in training does not always need to result in giving the dog away. “If the behavior issues are the only thing (or the largest thing) driving the decision to rehome, then the pet owner should make every possible attempt to train and fix these problems before relinquishment,” said Mailey E. McLaughlin, M. Ed., the behavior and training manager with the Atlanta Humane Society.
Getting some help with training can lead to a decrease in unwanted behaviors, which in turn may result in a situation where you can keep your dog. And even if you still need to rehome your dog in the end, having the dog go through training will in the very least improve its chances of finding a new, permanent home and family.
“Call local trainers and agencies and explain your predicament,” suggests McLaughlin. They will be able to help, or at least refer you to someone who can.
But dogs are not the only animals that wind up being rehomed due to behavior issues. Other pets, like rabbits, can also exhibit undesirable behaviors. “If a pet guardian wants to give up his/her rabbit because of behavioral problems, contact a rabbit rescue group for advice, as many of those problems can be easily resolved, ” said Natalie Reeves, founder of Big Apple Bunnies, a rabbit advocacy group. “Problems with marking or poor litter box use are often fixed when the rabbit is spayed or neutered.” Other problems, like aggression, may also be resolved with those procedures.
Allergies can also make pet owners consider relinquishing their pets, especially since allergies may come on unexpectedly for some individuals. If this happens, step back and do some sleuthing. It may be that you are not allergic to your pet, but rather to something you are using on or for your pet.
“Many people give up rabbits because they believe they are allergic to them,” said Reeves. “But often, these people are actually not allergic to the rabbit, but rather to the hay they give the rabbit.” Doing some research and eliminating pet products as the culprit of allergies can help you determine if you are truly allergic to your pet.
Relocation is another factor that causes individuals to relinquish ownership of a beloved pet. If you need to relocate, try to find a housing situation that permits pets. Do your research and talk to landlords before you make a move. If you move without asking whether you can have pets, you may find yourself in a situation where you have to hastily rehome your pet or face eviction.
Finally, if you think you are too busy for your pet, consider that many individuals work and have families, and yet are still able to keep a pet healthy and happy. “Some people give away their rabbits because they don’t have a lot of time,” said Reeves. “But with the large number of pets looking for a home, it’s likely that the next place the rabbit goes — whether it be a shelter, a rescue group, or a home — may also have busy people with limited time.” The same goes for dogs, cats, horses, and other pets. In other words, it may be better off for the animal if you found some time to care for it rather than risk giving it to another owner who may also be busy.
But even if you are in a position where you cannot keep your pet, rehoming your companion may not be necessary. There are alternatives that you can consider. For instance, if you need to relocate to a home that does not allow pets, you can ask a family or friend to keep your pet for a while. If that is a possibility, you may be able to see your pet and then take him or her back once you are ready.
But don’t abuse the pet sitting perk if someone agrees to do it. “Keep in mind that just because your family and friends love your pet, it doesn’t mean that they are capable or willing to take over care indefinitely,” said McLaughlin. “And even if they are, make sure it is a proper fit for the pet, too.” If the circumstances are right, however, this may be the best route for your pet.
Even if none of your family or friends can take in your pet, you might be able to find a temporary solution for your pet while you work toward a situation where you can take him or her back.
“If your situation will be short-lived, and you can afford it, boarding your pet may be an option that allows you to get him or her back when your situation changes,” said McLaughlin. Shorter stays with boarding facilities are better than longer ones, but this is a viable option for those who may be in transition. If you are unsure whether a boarding facility will accommodate your pet for an extended period of time, call and ask.
Of course, those solutions may not work for everyone. If you absolutely must rehome your pet regardless of attempts to try and maximize your ability to keep your pet, continue reading to find out how you can at least find your pet the best possible new caretakers.
2. How long can I hold onto my pet?
Ideally, if you find yourself in a situation where you must rehome your pet, you should start the process as soon as possible. A time crunch will make it difficult for you to do your research, and will often add stress to what is already a difficult situation. Don’t wait until the last minute, or it could cost your pet a high-quality home.
In fact, you can take steps to ensure your pet will always have a good home, even if you never plan on rehoming your pet. Start training and socialization as early as possible. Friendly and well-behaved pets have a much better chance at finding homes. “Even if you don’t care about whether or not your pet is trained for your own sake, remember that training is not just for you — it’s for him,” said McLaughlin.
Then, if you are ever in a situation where you have to make the choice to find your pet a new home, your pet will already have a good start.
3. How do I find my pet a good home?
If you have determined that the best approach is to rehome your pet, then it is important for you to consider your options. Thankfully, there are many rescues, shelters, and advocacy groups that can help.
Unfortunately, some shelters are so full that it’s difficult for employees and volunteers to spend much time with the dogs, cats, and other animals they receive. It is common for some of these shelters to impose time limits on animals, due to the sheer number of pets they receive and their limited resources. The truth with these shelters is that they dispose of pets that do not get adopted within a certain time frame. Doing so enables them to take in more pets and strays, who are then given a similar chance to be adopted. For this reason, keep in mind that while these facilities may take your pet, your pet may not be able to find a new home before it is too late.
However, there are no-kill shelters that do not impose such time limits on pets. “A well-run shelter, humane society, or rescue group can be a great resource for people looking to permanently rehome adoptable pets,” said McLaughlin. “They also have the knowledge to screen adopters, provide some health care, and provide a safe haven for pets awaiting homes.” If you are unsure about whether a shelter has a time limit on pets, call and ask.
Rescue groups are another option for finding your pet a new home. There are breed-specific rescue groups, mixed breed rescue groups, exotic pet rescue groups, rabbit rescues groups, and even rescue groups for horses. These groups sometimes accept relinquished pets and often arrange for them to stay with foster homes where they will be loved and, if necessary, rehabilitated. Rescue groups also screen potential owners to find the best fit for pets. Unfortunately, many rescue groups are very busy with the pets they take in and do not always have enough foster homes to meet demand, so there may be a waiting list. In the meanwhile, however, some groups may put up courtesy listings on Facebook, Twitter, or their webpages to help pets in need find homes. Courtesy listings are an excellent option for pet owners who are looking for homes for their pets, but who are not under pressure to find a home immediately.
“One of the easiest ways to find these groups in your local area is to go to PetFinder.com,” said Reeves. PetFinder.com allows you to search your local area for adoptable pets of different animal types and breeds. Doing so will present you with the pets up for adoption in your area and the groups caring for them. You can then contact those rescue groups to see if they can take your pet or help you with a courtesy listing.
In addition to the good resources for rehoming a pet, there are also some resources out there that you may want to consider avoiding. Craigslist, newspaper ads, and other similar resources may seem like a good way to find your pet a new home, but they can be problematic, as the people who respond to ads may not be who they present themselves to be. Rescue groups have the ability to perform home visits and extensive interviews before they rehome a pet — you may not be able to do so when giving away a pet on Craigslist.
“Private rehoming is only recommended when the parties involved know one another,” said McLaughlin. “Websites like Craigslist provide no security for the ‘adopter’ or the relinquisher.” It is also extremely difficult to verify the information provided to you through Craigslist or similar venues.
The fact is that not everyone who adopts through Craigslist or other local ads has good intentions. “Rabbits given away through Craigslist and local newspaper ads often end up fed to dogs, snakes, and other animals, or even sent to labs,” said Reeves. Similarly, some of the dogs acquired through Craigslist have been used in dog fights and other sad circumstances.
If you are going to rehome a pet on Craigslist despite the risk, ask for a rehoming fee. “People tend to be more inclined to care for things for which they have paid,” said McLaughlin. “You might call around and see what local adoption agencies ‘charge’ for your type of pet, and go from there.”
And no matter how dire your situation may be, never release a pet into the wild. That is a death sentence, no matter the animal’s type or breed. “Rabbits and other pets released outside are usually killed by predators, but those ‘lucky’ pets who are not killed immediately by predators, cars, poison, or other threats are usually injured or covered with parasites when rescued,” said Reeves. In addition, in many areas, the abandonment of animals is illegal and can result in penalties.
In the end, your best bet — and your pet’s best bet as well — is to contact local rescue groups, no-kill shelters, and/or humane societies to find the best possible home for your pet.