When a Pet Must Go

Whatever the reason for relinquishment, it is almost always heartbreaking when a pet must go.  Add in the stigma and guilt that often accompanies the choice to give up a pet, and the situation can easily become a nightmare for the pet and the family.  The good news is that there are alternatives to giving your pet up to a shelter, and plenty of resources to help you through this difficult situation if you know where to find them.

Get help from a local shelter

As a first step if you find yourself in a situation where you can’t keep one of your pets, reach out to a local shelter.  Many shelters have special programs to help keep pets with their families, or they can direct you to other organizations as needed.  Often, there are free or low-cost ways to help you overcome a problem with your pet.  Shelter websites may link you directly to resources for your problem.

We talked to Casey Waugh, Communications Director for Wayside Waifs to learn more about the ways shelters can help.  Before the shelter takes an animal in, staff make every effort to keep the pet with the family.  At Wayside Waifs, staff don’t ever want a pet to feel like a burden to his pet parents.  The organization maintains a pet food pantry to help struggling families feed their pets, because staff never want a family to lose a pet due to the inability to afford food.  If the pet needs to be spayed or neutered, Wayside Waifs will point the family to low-cost or free veterinary care.

The shelter has a behavioral team that offers consultations for pets exhibiting some types of behavioral issues such as house soiling or aggression.  In some cases, the team may even make a home visit.

Use social media

If you are unable to resolve the issue with your pet, you may be able to successfully rehome her.  Reach out through social media. Creating a great bio can help you inform potential adopters about your pet’s history and highlight her personality.  The San Diego Humane Society has a fantastic rehoming kit that includes a template for your pet’s bio. Be sure to include a photo.  It can be intimidating to admit to your contacts that you need to rehome your pet.  But finding a great new home for her will be worth the effort.

List your pet with a breed-specific rescue group

Breed-specific rescue groups can match your pet with potential adopters.  These groups reach people with an interest in your pet’s breed.  These adopters are often well-acquainted with breed-specific issues and are prepared for challenges.

Surrender to a quality shelter

It isn’t always possible to rehome a pet on your own.  In those cases, a quality shelter with a reputation for compassionate animal care is the best option.  Most shelters will help you through the process. At Wayside Waifs, for example, you will be asked to complete a detailed application.  Information you provide about your pet will allow the shelter to provide the best care and to find the best new parents for your pet.  You may be asked to pay a nominal surrender fee.  These fees help care for your pet while she is in the shelter.

The shelter may not be able to take your pet right away, but be sure to talk to them if you are absolutely unable to keep the animal.  Some shelters work with foster families on a case by case basis to provide care in special circumstances. If for any reason your pet doesn’t qualify for surrender at a particular shelter, staff should help you find alternatives.

Jake, a success story

“If you don’t take him, I’m going to shoot him.” That’s how Jake, a 13-14 year old Golden Retriever who had been living outside on a farm, came to Wayside Waifs.  In this case, although there was no room in the shelter, Wayside Waifs made a place for him.  Jake was eventually adopted by one of the staff and enjoyed a very useful and happy life as a therapy dog with a great home. Sometimes, rehoming really is the best option.

This topic will be continued next week in a special post comparing two different adoptions.  We’ll discuss the ways that pet parents and shelters can approach the adoption process in order to prevent the need to rehome.

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His owner was going to shoot him, but Jake was successfully rehomed by Wayside Waifs.  Photo courtesy of Wayside Waifs.

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