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What to do when you can no longer take care of a pet

No one gets a pet with the intention of abandoning it later on in life. But sometimes, the unthinkable happens due to a move, an illness or another unexpected issue. Regardless of the reason, re-homing a pet that you can no longer take care of is not to be taken lightly. Here we’ll take a look at what you should do when having a pet is no longer an option.

Woman holding sad dog

When the unexpected happens and you have to give up your beloved pet, consider our suggestions to help ease the transition for your animal.

Re-home through a personal contact

The best option for both you and your pet is to find him a new home through friends and family. Contact your vet, use social media, pick up the phone and do whatever you need to do for your pet. Emily Gear, founder, executive director and president of Louie’s Legacy, a rescue organization, explains that re-homing through someone you know will ease the pet’s adjustment. She continues, “If you do re-home them yourself, however, there are no easy answers, as there are many pitfalls that might land the pet in an even worse position. It is important to make sure the next owner is told the full truth about the pet and has researched the breed. It’s important to visit the home to verify that their stories add up, and I also feel it’s important to ask for a veterinarian’s reference and call to be sure they have a history of caring for their pets well.”

Rethink re-homing entirely

Ask yourself why you’re giving up your pet in the first place. Is this something you have to do or something that would just make life easier? Keep in mind that there’s no guarantee your pet would have a better life somewhere else. Emily Gear explains, “Shelters and rescue groups are already overwhelmed with animals that have no one to advocate for them [and] open admissions shelters have to euthanize for space. Rescues have to pick and choose carefully since they do NOT euthanize for space, and some, like ours, focus on relieving the burden of these open admission shelters, preferring that individual owners take responsibility to make it work with their pets or re-home them themselves.”

Look into a rescue organization

There are hundreds of rescue groups in the U.S., ranging from animal specific groups to rescues that focus on a particular breed of dog. They function through a volunteer network and foster homes. Reaching out to a rescue organization in your area is a great first step and can sometimes help find a foster home for your pet or provide resources such as what to do when you are having behavior issues.

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If behavior is an issue, address it

Animals are living creatures with personalities that need to be managed just like us humans. If your dog is out of control, take the time to work with him to address the issue head on instead of passing it off to someone else. “Many rescue groups like ours are happy to direct people to inexpensive resources to help them keep their pets, including low-cost training and pet food pantries,” explains Emily Gear. “So many problems are solved with simple solutions, and so many pet owners are not aware of current thinking on dog behavior, beyond popular TV shows. Even one consultation with a good instructor can alleviate some issues.”

Learn how dogs communicate >>

Be honest at the animal shelter

If you’re unable to find a new home through your personal network and are planning on surrendering your pet at a local animal shelter, it’s important that you’re honest with the staff about why you’re there. Don’t make up lies out of guilt and say that he’s not good with kids or that he tried to bite someone if that’s not the case. Lying will make a new adoption infinitely more difficult. The more information they have about the pet, the easier it will be to re-home him.

Louie’s Legacy is a 501(c) nonprofit rescue group that operates primarily in Cincinnati, Ohio, and New York, New York.

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More on pet adoption

What you need to know about pet adoption
6 Myths about shelter pets
Top 5 reasons to adopt a dog from an animal shelter or rescue group

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