I Can’t Keep My Companion Animal, What Can I Do?

Do you feel you can no longer keep your companion animal and need to find a new home for him or her? This page provides the information you need to help find a good home and ensure that your companion will be well cared for in the years to come.

Before You Make That Drastic and Final Decision
You may be dealing with a behavior problem, or someone in your household has allergies, or you are having trouble finding housing that will accept your companion. These situations can be frustrating, and you may feel that giving up your companion is the only solution. But before you take that drastic step, be aware of the resources that are available to help you deal with these problems.

Behavior Problems
If you are dealing with a behavior problem, talk to your veterinarian. Many problems are due to a treatable medical condition. For example, a housetrained animal may begin urinating in the house due to a urinary tract infection. Your vet will be able to rule out a physical cause of the problem and may also be able to refer you to an animal behaviorist in your community who has the expertise to help with your companion’s behavior problem. These web sites also have helpful tips on solving behavior problems:

Best Friends Library of Pet Care Tips
Animal Humane Society Pet Behavior Online Library

You can also call the Animal Humane Society Behavior Helpline at (763) 489-2202 from 10am to 6pm, 7 days a week.

Health Problems
Does someone in your household have a health problem such as an allergy that makes it difficult to keep your companion? Has a physician actually recommended you give up your companion? Before taking such a drastic step: Read PETA’s Living With Allergies to Animals.

Housing Problems
In a recent study, “moving” and “the landlord won’t allow” were among the top reasons for giving up companion animals. If you are moving and are having trouble finding animal-friendly housing, or are experiencing other animal-related housing difficulties, read the San Francisco SPCA Tenant’s Guide to Keeping Your Pet.

Finding a Safe and Loving Home for Your Companion
Finding a responsible home for your companion animal is the least you can do for an animal that has doubtlessly given you trust and unconditional love. When you look for a new home for an animal, please be sure the animal’s best interests remain your top priority.

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.

Please do not turn your companion loose “out in the country.” This is one of the cruelest fates any companion animal could meet. The suffering and fear they will endure is heartbreaking.

Breed Rescue Groups
For purebred dogs, there may be a breed rescue organization in your area that will accept the animal; check this list of Minnesota breed rescue organizations.

Newspaper Ads
For other animals, try a carefully placed newspaper ad in your local paper. Always charge a fee of at least $50 for adopting the animal. This will eliminate people who resell cheaply acquired animals to research, or use “free to good home” animals for training dogs for dog fighting. The brutal, illegal dog-fighting business looks for free kittens, puppies, and older dogs that fighting dogs can kill for practice.

ARC recommends visiting any prospective new home to get a feel for the environment. Screen potential homes carefully. If someone refuses to allow you to visit their home, do not place the animal with them. Don’t be afraid to ask questions, impose conditions, or say no. The San Franciso SPCA’s Surrendering Your Pet: The Last Resort has a great writeup on screening people who answer your ad and a list of questions to ask during a telephone interview: Ask for a form of ID. Record the number, name, and address for your records and require the new owner to sign an adoption contract. As part of the contract, require the new owner to contact you if he or she decides at some point to give up the animal. Follow up in a few weeks to see how the animal is doing.

Another option is to contact local no-kill shelters (but be aware that these shelters are often full).

Humane Societies
If the no-kill shelters are full, you can try local humane societies. However, be aware that animals surrendered to humane societies are often evaluated for adoptability, and there’s a good chance the animal will be killed – especially if the animal is older, or too nervous or fearful during the evaluation.

We do not recommend surrendering an animal to your local pound or animal control facility. Surrendering an animal to a pound or animal control facility is generally a death sentence for the animal and in some parts of the U.S, municipal pounds surrender animals to research institutions who ask for them. Many municipal pounds do not put any effort into adopting out animals and often animals are only held for a few days before being killed.

Finally, only as a last resort, if your companion is terminally ill or has critical behavioral issues such as aggression, you may be considering having him or her euthanized by a veterinarian. Many people leave these animals at shelters, avoiding the reality of what will happen to their “best friend.” It may be easier on you, but your companion will suffer for it by being thrown into a strange place, only to die there because he or she is unadoptable. Placing such an animal in a new home is difficult. Your companion may be traumatized by the shock of a new home or even abandoned by the new owner once his or her problems are discovered. If you choose euthanasia, as a final kindness, you should remain in the room to comfort your old friend during his or her passing. No one should die alone or with strangers.

Serial Pet Dumping
If you do give up your companion animal, please think long and hard before you consider getting another one. Make sure that what caused you to consider giving up this animal will never, ever happen again. When you took in this animal, you took responsibility for a living creature. You may have to accept the fact that you just are not able to have a companion animal.

Please, do not become a serial pet dumper!!