In this section you will find information on locating a temporary placement, a permanent adoptive home, considering help from a rescue organization and how to screen a potential adopter.
Is it possible a temporary placement is all you need? Some problems are resolved with time. Consider a temporary home, pet sitter, boarding facility, doggy daycare, or a rescue group who might be willing to take care of your pet until you are in a position to reunite with them.
Consider temporary or emergency housing assistance and resources.
If permanently re-homing your pet is your last option before surrendering them to a shelter, start looking for a home as soon as possible! Re-homing a pet takes time and energy and the more time you have, the better the chance that you will find a home before any deadline you might have.
WHERE to look first: Are any of your trusted friends, family members or coworkers willing to give your pet a loving and responsible home?
WHAT to do next: Start with a great photo and a well-written description which are essential to spread the word about your pet. It is better to have one striking photo than several average ones. Remember, a picture speaks a thousand words. Focus on your pet’s face and body and try to capture them looking directly into the camera.
Also, you’ll want to write something that will capture someone’s attention and make them want to meet your pet. Give details about your pet’s unique character and personality: Do they have a favorite toy? Why they were given their name. Instead of just saying “loving” or “affectionate”, be specific–let people know your dog loves to have her ears rubbed and rests her head in your lap.
Also, include some key details like their age, gender, breed, size, activity level, how they get along with children and other animals, whether they’re house trained, spayed or neutered and vaccinated. While it is important to not misrepresent your pet in any way, always start with and focus on the positive.
If your animal has (unresolved) behavioral problems, be honest with potential adopters. Try to find a home that is the right environment and fit and one that has experience.
You may also include why you are in need of rehoming your pet, but remember, some people and organizations will want to know that you took every step possible to find resolution to keep your pet.
HOW to get the word out: Publicize and promote your pet for adoption.
FLYERS are inexpensive and can be highly effective. Information can be edited down for fliers. Be sure to cut the bottom of the page into pull-off strips, so that people can rip off your contact information. Post them in as many places as possible (vet clinics, dog parks, coffee shops, supermarkets, bookstores, health clubs, pet supply stores, religious institutions, libraries, etc.) Pass them out to your friends and family and ask them to post them in their neighborhoods or offices as well.
ONLINE RESOURCES and SOCIAL NETWORKS are great tools and most allow you to upload photos and text–but PLEASE BE CAREFUL! Not everyone that will respond to your ad has your pets’ best interest in mind. People with ill intentions (dog fighting, laboratory animals etc.) may seek out your ad. The second part of this guide will give advice on screening potential homes.
Craigslist has become a popular place to network lost/found animals, and adoptable pets. Again, exercise extreme caution. Plan to re-post your pet at least once a week. People sometimes flag ads for removal, so check that your ad has not been removed. If you have a deadline, you can include it in the subject line on such sites. Never offer your pet for free on Craigslist or any other advertisement. Charge a reasonable rehoming fee ($25). Include in the ad that you will be checking with their veterinarian for a reference. The vet may request permission first, but will be able to tell you if this person’s current pets are spayed/neutered, up to date on shots and receiving routine medial care.
Social networks are another great way to advertise. Use Facebook, Twitter, or any other social networks that you have access to and get the word out that you need a new home for your pet.
On Facebook, in addition to your own page use Re-Home Pets and Keep Them OUT of Shelters and any rescue organization that specializes in the breed that the animal looks like.
Place an ad online or in your local paper(s). Write a creative ad ie: “Orange tabby with great personality ready to steal your heart! Simba is a 3-year-old neutered male. Gets along well with other cats. Up to date on all shots. Call Susan at 301.555.1234. Adoption fee required (adoption fee explained later under “Screening Adopters”).
Does your neighborhood have a listserve or a yahoo.group? If so, this is another great place to post your pet.
And last (but not least), Rescue Groups
Did you purchase your dog from a breeder or adopt it from a rescue group or no-kill shelter? You may have signed a contract agreeing to first offer to return your pet to them. If any of these are the origin of your pet, they should be contacted first. Please keep in mind, that while rescue organizations want the opportunity to rehome their original pets, many organizations are stretched to their limit. They may strive to help you find a way to keep your pet and often have extensive knowledge about available community resources.
Sometimes, luck is on our side and animals in need of rehoming CAN be placed with a rescue group or no kill shelter even if you didn’t get your pet from one.
If your animal is a purebred or has a strong resemblance thereof, search local or national rescue groups for your pet’s breed. Potential adopters that contact a purebred rescue group are fans of the breed and knowledgeable breed specific rescue groups are usually very successful in finding the right match for the individual animals they take in. While policies vary, many purebred rescue groups accept mixed breed animals, especially if there appears to be a predominant breed.
If your animal is not a pure breed, look for local or regional all breed rescue groups.
These are small groups of volunteers that do not operate out of a physical shelter, but foster animals in their homes until a permanent one is found. A home environment is ideal to a shelter.
Some rescue groups will take owner surrenders, depending on how much room they have and each individual situation. Consider if you are able to offer a onetime or ongoing sponsorship of your pet until it is adopted. Other groups can offer what is commonly referred to as “Place Assist”, where you ready your animal for adoption based on their criteria and then they allow you to participate in one of their adoption events and/or post on their online pet listings.
To increase your chances of finding a home and the likelihood of success in the new home, we strongly encourage you spay/neuter your pet before it is rehomed. This will help your pet, the adopter and the future of all homeless animals.
Tips for Screening a Potential New Home
As desperate as you may be to find your pet a new home-it is strongly recommended that you thoroughly screen any interested party. Do not agree to give your pet to someone until you have properly screened them and visited their home.
Go with your instincts. If something doesn’t feel right, do not adopt your animal to the person in question. And remember, even honest and well-intentioned people may not be a good match or have the right home for your pet.
If an adopter is truly interested, they should be asking about your pet’s health, behavior, likes/dislikes, and why you are giving up your pet.
It is also your job to ask questions. Once you start hearing from people, be prepared to screen potential adopters over the phone. Ask them questions to understand why they are interested in your animal, what kind of prior experience they have had with companion animals, and what sort of environment the pet will be in. Some specific examples will follow under “Interview Questions” and many reputable rescue groups post their adoption applications online which you can use as a reference. How potential adopters answer these questions can tell you a lot about the person’s understanding of how to be a good pet guardian.
Once you are ready to move on to the next step with a potential adopter, set up a time to meet in person. Because animals are often uncomfortable when out of their normal surroundings, you may start with initial introductions by having the person come to you.
If you live alone, make sure you have another friend there for your safety or consider a public place. Maybe your cat’s veterinarian would allow you to reserve a room for 20 minutes.
The meet and greet can also serve as a Home Visit to the potential adopter’s home. Never let a person adopt your dog that won’t allow you to view the home it will be living in. That is an absolute red flag. On a home visit, be sure to screen the home carefully and consider every element, such as if the owner has children or a cat, a securely fenced yard etc.
Although you know your pet’s disposition, quirks and needs, here are some recommended Interview Questions for Potential Adopters:
If they have any previous pets, ask about them. What happened to them? The best answer is “Yes; It died at age 17.” What you really don’t want to hear is that their last pet was hit by a car, died of a preventable disease, ran away, or worse… was turned in to a shelter.
Do they have a pet now? Already having a pet is good. It demonstrates that they already know what is involved in having one.
If you have another dog/cat, is it altered? Your rehomed pet should not be used for breeding or to add to the population.
Do you own your home or rent? Do you have a fenced yard?
Will you provide references? (It is not unreasonable to ask for references from a job, friends, or a vet, and for identification like a drivers license that you can use for your records. Rescue groups do this on their applications and contracts.)
Will the pet be a member of your family or a gift for someone else? Are you willing to allow a home check?
How will you handle unwanted behaviors? If the pet has an accident in the house, what type of correction do you plan to use?
How many hours per day will the pet be alone?
Do you have children? How old are they? Have they ever been around pets? Children should not be expected to be responsible for the pet.
Will the pet be going outside at all? Cats that go outside have a significantly reduced expected life-span, get hit by cars, poisoned intentionally, poisoned unintentionally, get lost, can contract illness etc. You want to hear that this will be an indoor cat (unless you are relocating a feral/wild). Outdoor/indoor is okay for dogs, but remember, dogs are pack animals and want to be where you are. Leaving a dog outside when the rest of his family is inside is a lonely experience for a dog.
Will you be declawing the cat? Do you realize that cats can live for more than 20 years?
Do you realize that dogs can live for more than 15 years?
If you’re satisfied with their answers you may suggest a Trial period -so that the potential adopter can spend some real time getting to know your pet and you can visit to see how she is doing. During this time, either side can cancel the arrangement. If you feel certain about the new home, consider creating a contract with them that requires them to contact you if they ever have to re-home your pet themselves in the future. Many rescue organizations post their adoption contracts online. Use theirs as a template for your own.
Both parties should have their contact as well as an emergency contact on the contract, sign it and retain copies.
“Free to good home” pets can attract people who will sell animals to research facilities or another horrible end. To eliminate the largest risks associated with rehoming a pet do not give your pet away for free. Charge a small rehoming fee, somewhere around $25-50. Please consider and let them know that you will give the fee to a non-profit organization that helps animals.
Lastly, make sure you provide the new guardian with any of your animal’s medical records, as well as favorite toys and special food or treats. Be prepared to follow up and stay in touch, but allow time and patience to let your pet bond with it’s new guardians.