What To Do With an
Unwanted Pet

by Gary Le Mon

The reasons for getting a new pet are typically wrapped up in emotions. They’re sweet or cute or cool. But what seemed like an awesome idea at the time can run up against cold, hard reality. Pets require time, effort and money, and some of those needs may turn out to be more than expected. Unfortunately, a pet that can no longer be properly cared for leads to making tough decisions about what to do with it.

First option, worst choice

The first option that typically comes to mind is the local animal pound. But that should be a last resort. According to the Humane Society of Utah, available space and the likelihood of the pet being adopted dictate how long an animal can be kept. The majority of animals in shelters come from owners no longer wanting them rather than strays. Shelters are chronically overcrowded, meaning that the chances of euthanasia in the animal’s near future are high.

Few free drop-offs

Many shelters charge a fee for pet drop-offs. Los Angeles County Animal Shelters charge from $10 all the way up to $250 depending on the type of pet and the circumstances. This is not meant to discourage people from giving up their pets, but the animals will need food and care which cost money. However, there are some places that accept surrendered pets for free. You will need to research the various shelters in your area to see what fees are charged.

Simply dropping a pet off at the shelter when it’s closed is a bad idea. Abandoning a pet is illegal in many states. For instance, the Humane Society of Ocean City, New Jersey, only accepts pet surrenders by appointment. They warn that they will prosecute anyone caught leaving a pet outside. Another reason not to just abandon a pet is that it can be difficult to adopt it out since the animal’s medical history and general temperament are unknown, according to the Virginia Beach SPCA.

Better options

Shelters are an option, but there are other possibilities. If lack of funds is a main reason for giving up your pet, there might be help out there for you. The Humane Society of the United States offers a long list of organizations nationwide that can possibly help with paying for big expenses like unexpected vet bills, or small expenses like pet food. If it’s your animal’s behavior that is causing problems, such as a dog digging holes or a cat refusing to use a litter box, then consult with a veterinarian or animal trainer to see if there are any free or inexpensive resources available to help you through these issues.

Best option for your pet

If keeping the pet is simply not an option, then try to find a new home on your own. Out of all the options available, this one has the greatest chance of success for your pet. Talk to family and friends to see if anyone is willing to lend a hand. However, make sure everyone is clear on the final arrangements. Is the other person now the official owner, or is he just a temporary caretaker? It wouldn’t hurt to document these expectations in writing.

Many people put ads in the local paper advertising a pet “free to a good home.” But the Hillside SPCA in Pennsylvania recommends charging a fee. All too often unscrupulous people will collect free animals and then sell them to laboratories, puppy mills, or those who participate in illegal animal fighting. By charging about $25 you can usually weed out these people. Use every resource available to you to advertise. Make flyers and post them everywhere you legally can, such as at pet stores and veterinarian offices.

If you got your pet through an animal breeder, try contacting them to see if they will take the pet back. According to the Michigan Weimaraner Rescue, ethical businesses should want to help make sure the dogs they bred are happy and healthy in good homes. Some even require the return of the animal in the original contract. There are also many rescue organizations, such as the Weimaraner one, that care deeply about their particular breed and will be happy to help you as best they can.

We're responsible for all animals

Even though dogs and cats are the most popular types of pets, there are plenty of birds, spiders, ferrets, pigs, and snakes, too. Sometimes these nontraditional pets require even more time and money than the more common ones. But it’s important that pet owners be responsible! Several times a year there are news reports about large non-native snakes being released into the wild, such as in the Florida Everglades. It’s become an epidemic that’s seriously damaging the delicate natural balance.

There is rarely ever a quick fix to serious pet problems. It will likely take much more time and effort to find a new home for a pet than it did to get it in the first place. But stick to it and do the right thing. That critter is still depending on you!

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