How to Find a Good Home when You Must Give up Your Pet

If personal hardship forces you to give up a pet, finding a new, caring home for your companion can be daunting. But by carefully planning your search and by taking care to avoid common missteps, you will increase your chances of finding your companion a permanent, caring home.

People who love their pets know that in exchange for a pet's companionship, they are making a commitment to provide a home for a lifetime. But sometimes personal hardship can make it impossible to keep a pet. Many Baby Boomers who are helping their aging parents are suddenly faced with the challenge of finding a home for a pet after its owner has died or moved to a nursing home.

Finding good homes for adult animals is never easy; but choosing the right avenues for advertising and carefully screening the people who reply to your ads will improve your chances of finding a loving home for a pet. Your mission is to promote your pet to the right audience, and to carefully screen out undesirable inquiries.


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    Reach out to other responsible owners. The Humane Society of the United States suggests advertising through friends, neighbors, and local veterinarians. If you deal with a groomer or a boarding kennel, advertise there too. People who provide their pets with regular veterinary care, get them groomed, and board them at well-run kennels tend to have friends or family who would also be responsible owners.
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    Post a picture. Your audience is continually being bombarded with information, all competing for attention. Whether you are promoting your pet on printed posters or on your blog, without an attractive color photo, your pet won't get a second look. If you don't have a digital camera, find a friend who does. Got video? Even better. Put it on line and use your printed posters to direct people there. This gets attention!
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    Make your pet attractive, but remember to be honest. Use your pet's name, and describe his best qualities. Be honest about any behavior issues. Be specific about any special requirements, for instance, a home with a fenced yard or without small children. If your pet is not already spayed or neutered, have that surgery done. It will protect your pet from being used for breeding. It will also curb the impulse to roam or to urine-mark his new territory.
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    Be careful how you advertise and wary when evaluating replies to your ad. Back in the "newspaper age," some humane organizations warned that newspapers are as likely to attract people who want to use pets for unethical purposes, as they are to reach responsible pet-owners. The same is true of the Web in our "digital age." But the potential for reaching a large audience in an economical way cannot be overlooked. Compared to the free access that many Web offers, newspaper advertising is often too costly. Even small classified ads are expensive, and once readers are done with the paper, they throw it away, and your ad goes with it. If you feel that a newspaper ad is a must for promoting your pet to your community, be brief and use the newspaper to direct people to your pet's ad on the Web. Because you are reaching a broad audience, be wary when screening replies so you can avoid anyone who wants your pet for puppy-mill breeding stock, "bait" for training dogs to fight, or to sell to a research lab.
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    Never advertise your pet for "free." Animal welfare groups warn that "free pet" ads attract dog fighters and other unscrupulous people. Charging even a modest fee and not publishing the amount but discussing it privately, instead, with potential adopters is one step in screening out undesirable inquiries.
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    Consider these guidelines for screening responses:
    • Thank responders for their interest and say that someone is already considering your pet but you are still taking names. This way you won't feel pressured to meet with everyone. Follow up with those who seem to be responsible.
    • Ask callers about any other pets they have had and what happened to them. offers a list of other helpful questions. Check with your local humane society or an animal rescue organization to find out what else you should ask of potential adopters. These groups are skilled at interviewing to determine whether a would-be adopter is likely to be a responsible caretaker. Some organizations even provide their adoption applications on line. Look them up and see how asking similar questions can help you identify the best home for your pet.
    • Check vet references. This is a must. Get the name and address of the person's vet, and then look up the phone number yourself. Explain why you are calling. Ask if the vet would recommend the person as a responsible owner who would provide a good home. If there is any hesitation on the vet's part, trust that judgment and look for someone else as an adopter.
    • Get the address. Would the adopter permit a home check so you can see where your pet would live? (For your own safety, take another adult with you if you go. Never go alone when meeting a stranger.)
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    Consider surrendering your pet to an animal shelter as a last resort. It is true animal shelters have experience in placing pets, but no shelter can guarantee that it will find your pet a home. Shelters are often filled to capacity, and most must eventually euthanize some animals for lack of space. "No-kill" shelters and rescue organizations can accept only limited numbers of animals. They may have waiting lists for accepting pets. But it can still be worthwhile to contact them. The number of foster homes and rescue organizations is increasing. Ask your local humane society for contact information, and also check the directory of shelters and rescues.


  • Be patient, be informed, be careful, and you will improve your chances of finding the right home.

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Categories: Pet Loss