Part of being a responsible pet owner is sticking with your best friend through both good times and bad. Puppies and kittens don’t stay young and adorable forever; they turn into dogs and cats who go on to need time, attention, and resources. As your pet gets older, your life and financial circumstances may change just as your furry friend does. Responsible pet owners know that an animal is a lifetime commitment, honored through snuggles and surgeries, rich times and lean.
Sadly, many people are all too willing to cast aside a pet once it becomes inconvenient, and the result is too many pets in shelters, with too few potential owners to take care of them. Sometimes, though, even responsible and loving pet owners find themselves in situations where the best thing for everyone is to find the animal a new home.
1) Human Illness
When someone in a family is struck with a serious or life-threatening disease, a pet’s daily needs can seem like the furthest thing from everyone’s mind. Even though many people equate their pets with children, when push comes to shove, it’s the people that have to come first. Nobody faults a sick pet’s owner, for example, for relinquishing an animal because he can’t care for it, or an elderly person who gives up her pet to enter a long-term-care facility.
However, during hard personal times, it can be comforting to have a beloved pet by your side, and it may not be necessary to get rid of the animal entirely. It’s possible that family and friends could help take care of the animal’s needs. Some cities and charities even have programs in which volunteers care for sick or elderly people’s pets.
2) Behavior Issues
To be clear, most pets’ behavioral problems are fixable. If a pet is chewing, barking, spraying, digging, or scratching, it can usually be solved by extra attention and training. As the saying goes, there are no bad pets, only careless owners. Before getting a pet, every prospective owner should ensure that she understands her pet’s specific needs related to its breed, age, or temperament, and should keep in mind that most behavioral problems result from a pet’s not getting enough attention or exercise.
But sometimes an animal’s acting out can’t be stopped. My fiancé and I once had a cat who refused to use her litterbox. We took her to the vet, switched the brand of litter, gave her more attention, and did everything else we could think of, but we finally had to realize that she wanted to be an outdoor cat, as she had been at our previous house. Living in an apartment made her simply miserable, and constantly cleaning up after her made us miserable, too. Although we tried hard to make her happy, we had to give her to a couple with a backyard, where she never exhibited the same behavior. If a pet is unhappy, it’s humane to find him a home where a new owner can give him what he needs.
3) Aggressive Actions
It’s normal for animals to swipe and bite when they’re playing. It’s even normal for an animal to nip at a human when it’s startled, hurt, or scared. But if an animal begins to show violent behavior or aggression toward other pets, keeping it may become impossible, especially if you have children. Aggressive pets are a danger not only to your family but also to visitors. If you’ve tried behavioral training and still find that your pet acts out inappropriately, it might be safer to remove the pet from the presence of children or elderly people who may not be able to defend themselves. Sometimes the pet simply needs to go to a home where it’s the only animal.
When to Stick It Out
Pet ownership requires dedication even when things get expensive or inconvenient. Some situations that seem challenging may actually have simple solutions. People often give up a pet when moving, for example, when they could just as easily put forth the effort to find a pet-friendly home. Some choose to get rid of their animals if they’re expecting a baby, even though the overwhelming majority of children and pets coexist peacefully. It’s also common for people to give up a pet when their finances take a turn for the worse, even though most local shelters and SPCAs offer free or low-cost vaccinations and veterinary care to defray the costs of pet ownership.
If, for whatever reason, you’ve decided that you and your pet are no longer able to coexist, there are some steps you should take to try to give the animal the best shot at finding a loving new home.
- Do contact the breeder or shelter where you originally acquired the animal. Many require that owners relinquish unwanted pets to them, so they can do their best to find it a good home.
- Don’t abandon the animal or turn it loose. House pets usually do not have the skills to fend for themselves in the wild and are likely to be attacked by other animals, hit by cars, or starve to death. Animal abandonment is also illegal in some cities.
- Do contact your friends and family members. Someone may be willing to take in the animal, especially in nonpermanent situations like an illness, a temporary job relocation, or the stress of having a new baby in the house.
- Don’t lie about past inappropriate or aggressive behavior. Concealing information from new owners will make it only more likely that they’ll abandon or euthanize the animal when they inevitably find out
- Do be realistic about the animal’s chances for adoption. Animals who are under two years old or are an in-demand breed are far more likely to be adopted than older animals are. Likewise, older pets and those without training or who have untreated medical problems are less likely to ever find homes.
- Don’t lie and claim the animal is a stray. It’s easier for a shelter to place an animal with a new family if the shelter knows the animal’s social and veterinary history.
It’s a sad day when a family has to part with a beloved pet. Before you get an animal, think about the responsibility and the commitment you’re undertaking, and evaluate whether you’re really ready to weather life’s unpredictable currents with your animal.