“…Life [is] like a box of chocolates. You never know what you're gonna get.” At least, that’s what Forrest Gump’s momma taught us, and I agree. Life is beautiful, yet unpredictable and scary at times. Whether it’s discovering you’re expecting a baby, getting laid off of your job, having financial issues or making a big move for your dream job, we never know what each day will bring. With the world spinning from the unexpected news, it’s easy to get swept up in the millions of thoughts racing through our heads without considering a very important family member – our pet.
It’s easy to do because we never imagined a life without our pet. You thought the only way you would be without them is when either your or their time came to move on to the next life. Suddenly, your time has been cut short by life’s alternate plans. You look into the kind eyes of your furry companion and realize you can no longer give them the life they deserve.
Owner surrenders accounted for 22% of total animals the Albrecht Center received in 2017. This doesn’t even include the animals that were adopted and returned by their adopters. Reasons varied as to why an animal was surrendered or returned. According to Petfinder, a popular online database for adoptable animals, these are the top reasons for owner surrenders: moving, landlord not allowing pets, too many animals in the household, cost of pet maintenance, owner having personal problems, inadequate facilities, no homes available for litter mates, having no time for pet, pet illness, biting, allergies, house soiling and incompatibility with other pets (www.petfinder.com).
I want to make it clear that the number one way to prevent rehoming or surrendering is to be a responsible pet owner before even adopting. Rentlingo says it best, “The easiest way to conquer these issues is through prevention, not through reaction” (www.rentlingo.com). Make an honest assessment of the time, money and care it will take for you to own a pet before you adopt. Visit our “Things to Consider” page to guide you through the assessment process: www.letlovelive.org/things-to-consider. Treat adopting as the life changing decision it is.
However, sometimes we make a careful and conscious decision to adopt, but later find ourselves in a tough spot. Still, there are many options to try before making the decision to surrender your pet to a shelter, which is not always the best choice. If you’re moving, use sites like Apartmentlist.com, which offer pet policy details and 80% of their listings are pet friendly. Meet with a trainer or do online research to assist with unwanted behaviors, which are usually just a byproduct of stress or boredom. If you’re burdened with pet care costs, look for affordable veterinary care in your area, like the Albrecht Center’s Veterinary Care Center. Toys and other supplies can even be found at our area SPCA Thrift Stores for low prices.
Of course this all seems easy enough, but sometimes the issues that result in rehoming are more complicated and are beyond our means to fix. At the Albrecht Center, we are big proponents of, “If you choose to own a pet, then you have made a commitment to that animal for the rest of their life.” However, we are not unaware of the unforeseen obstacles that life may bring.
We have seen many loving, brokenhearted pet owners having to surrender their animals. For those that have just completely run out of options and must rehome their pet, here are some steps to take before surrendering to a shelter that is already overcrowded. Take these steps as soon as possible. If it comes down to having to surrender to a shelter, many times there is a waitlist weeks, even months long:
Reach out to family and friends to rehome. Finding a home with someone that your pet has already been around rather than putting them in a shelter is undoubtedly less stressful for your pet.
Use a website like Adopt-A-Pet to rehome (www.rehome.adoptapet.com). You can upload your pet’s information and create an application to screen potential adopters and find the best-fit home for your companion.
Create a flyer or newspaper ad for your pet to find a new home. Be sure to meet with any interested adopters and get to know them and see if they are the right fit.
Reach out to breed specific or local rescue groups and see if they have room to take in your pet. Again, the environment of a rescue group will likely be less stressful.
If all else fails, reach out to your local shelter to discuss surrendering. To ensure your pet does not have to wait long for adoption, please be sure all vaccinations are up to date and your pet is spayed/neutered.
We understand pet owners forced with surrendering do not normally take this decision lightly. The SPCA Albrecht Center is committed to educating and assisting local pet owners and are happy to council you and your family through this process if it is unavoidable. Please call us at (803) 648-6863 if you need advice on what to do if life decides to throw you a curveball.