Animals are a passion of mine. For as long as I can remember, my family has had a pet or three to love and care for. After I became an adult, I immediately starting fostering and adopting animals of my own, and volunteering with rescue organizations. First with livestock and horses in Ohio, and then with dogs, cats, and other furry creatures in New York City. I've been there as people have made the extremely difficult decision to give up their pet, and it's heartbreaking. Learning how to responsibly rehome your pet can make all the difference. Not only for your peace of mind, but also for the safety of your furry friend.
There are many reasons you may find yourself in a situation where you need to rehome your pet. In my experience, the most common reasons are that you need to move and cannot take your pet, there is a financial hardship or illness, or you have a child who is allergic to your beloved family friend. It's crushing, but it happens. If and when it does, you need to take stock of the situation, prepare your family for the situation, and make a plan.
The first step is to try to personally rehome your pet. As per the Animal Humane Society, this often results in the best outcome for your pet. A friend, a relative, or even someone you know from work could be looking for a forever friend, and you can vet them personally.
Rehoming a standard poodle is different from rehoming a guinea pig. Smaller pets are fairly easy to rehome, provided you're giving their future owner all the initial supplies required to get them set up. I have a girlfriend who now has six hamsters and a bearded dragon because she has room for them and loves them when others cannot. Dogs and cats (and horses and sheep and chickens) aren't so simple.
However, there are ways you can boost the likelihood of finding a great home for your little dude. This means having your pet spayed or neutered, making sure they're up to date on their shots, well-groomed, and plan to rehome your pet with their crate, collar, bed, and leash, so that the transition is easier on your animal (if they require these things). Be honest with potential adoptees about why you're rehoming, especially if it's due to the behavior of the animal. You don't want your pet being surrendered soon after being adopted.
If you're rehoming a cat, make sure they have a scratching post and that their nails are trimmed. Trust me when I tell you, angry claws don't make good first impressions on anyone. When I was adopting my little beasts, they were feisty juveniles, and their foster parents had them clipped down. It was wonderful. (Now that I'm the one doing the clipping? Not so much. I do love them, though.)
If you can, give yourself time to find a good home for your pet. I know that's not always feasible, especially in the event of an impending move or an allergy, but generally more time is better than less, according to the Animal Humane Society. Local pet boards that match animals with safe adoptees like Get Your Pet are the places to post if you cannot find someone you know personally. While Facebook and Craigslist might seem like a good idea, they often lead to poor outcomes for your pets, according to a report in The Huffington Post. The peer-to-peer boards help you get references, and meet the people interested in adopting your pet.
If you aren't successful at personally finding a new family for your pet, there are other ways to humanely rehome. The Humane Society has a list of resources that are categorized by region that are incredibly helpful. Shelters are the stop of last resort. There are other options like breed-specific (and yes, even mixed breeds) rescue operations like Labs4Rescue in larger regions of the country. There are also no kill animal shelters like Sean Casey here in New York City. As for barnyard animals or other unexpected creatures, Vegan.com has a long list of rescue organizations here to help.
Giving up your pet is an excruciating decision, but knowing you've done absolutely everything you can to ensure that they go to a good home will help ease the pain for both of you.