Op Ed
June 23, 2006

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What to consider when your cat or
dog needs a new home

by Tina Perrin

Many people believe that giving up your cat or dog will be as simple as contacting the local rescue group or shelter, signing some papers, and then leaving the animal there. Many people also believe that once their pet has been taken in by a shelter, their animal will get adopted and live a happy life with someone else.

For the great majority of pets, however, this is not the case. According to a study done by American Humane, only 25% of dogs and cats that enter an animal shelter are adopted. Nearly 56% of dogs and 71% of cats that enter an animal shelter are euthanized. In the year the study was conducted, 2.7 million animals, in just the 1,000 shelters that were studied, were euthanized.

Why is it so hard to find the animals homes? It is not because animal shelters don’t work toward adoption. They do. It is because there are just too many animals. With 6-8 million cats and dogs entering shelters each year, there aren’t enough homes for them all.

So what do you do if you are faced with a situation of having to give up your pet?

Re-Evaluate your decision

Knowing the facts of what will probably happen to your pet should make you re-evaluate your reasons for giving the animal up.

Is it a behavior issue? Many common problems can be solved with a simple and inexpensive training class. Potty training, general rambunctious behavior, stealing food and other problems can be remedied rather quickly with the right discipline and some exercise. Local dog parks provide a great outlet for that extra energy and an hour at the dog park may just buy you an entire evening of good behavior. For larger behavior problems there are specialized trainers and dog behaviorists that can help.

If moving is an issue, try contacting a rescue group in the city where you are moving. They may have some resources to help you find pet friendly housing in the area.

New baby? Give it a try. You may be surprised how well your furry one does with your new little one. If you are having problems with children, again, a behaviorist can help.

There are many reasons to give up a pet. There are also many solutions to problems pet owners experience; and there are resources to help if you are willing to work with your pet to keep it.

Time is of the essence

As soon as there is any thought that you might have to give up a pet, start working on it. Many people contact rescues the week or day before they need to have an animal out of their house. Usually, this is too late. If you start early, you may be able to get your pet on a waiting list for a no-kill shelter. You also may be able to foster your own pet.

Many rescues will accept an animal into their program if you will continue to foster it. This will allow you to take your pet to adoption events, post it on the Internet, meet potential adopters, and use other resources that rescue may have for finding your pet a home.

Make your pet adoptable

There are simple things you can do to help your pets’ chances of getting adopted, or getting placed in a rescue group. Even if you can only do a few of the things on the list, each one will increase your pets’ chances.

  • Get them groomed — First impressions are everything. A well groomed pet has a better chance than one that is matted, unbathed and smelly
  • Get them to the vet — Make sure your pet has been spayed/neutered, updated on vaccinations, and tested for heartworms or FIV/FeLV
  • Be Honest — if you are giving your pet to a rescue group or an individual, be honest. Tell them the truth if your dog bites or your cat is not good with the litter box. It will help the rescue find the right home for your pet, and help an individual know if it is the right decision. Even though it may make it more difficult to find them a home, it is better than having them go to the wrong home and end up being euthanized later.
  • Work on training — Make a conscious effort to work on sit, stay, lay down and jumping up. No one wants to adopt a dog that mauls people when they come too close to the kennel.

Finding a home

Even if the shelters and rescues are full that doesn’t mean that you can’t find them a home. Place ads in the local papers or hang posters at local pet stores. Make sure to put contact info, and detailed information about your pet on the posters. And don’t forget photos, which can be a real selling point in giving the pet a home.

If you have someone interested in your pet, screen that person to determine their motives and attitude toward animals. If you need help with screening questions or information about what to look for in making a decision concerning a potential adopter, contact a rescue group.

NEVER give your pet away for free. Free pets sometimes end up in the hands of people that will abuse them. Dog fighters, animal testing labs and abusive homes often look for a free dog or cat. Many will also know how to answer your screening questions, and may seem like the perfect home. Always charge an adoption fee, even if it is only $25!

Make a donation

Most rescue organizations and shelters are at or beyond their financial limits on an almost constant basis. The cost of taking on one more animal may be more than the shelter can afford. If you can offer financial assistance to help them offset the cost of food, vet bills, and other expenses for your pet, they may be able to accept the animal into their program. In some cases, they may even be able to get a discount at a boarding facility, and your donation can help pay to board your animal until a foster home can be found.

Remember, the best way to make sure that your pet has a happy home is to keep it in yours!

Tina Perrin is secretary for the nonprofit group Furry Kids’ Refuge that works with area shelters to provide a safe haven for abandoned, abused or unwanted domestic animals. For more information, visit www.furrykidsrefuge.org.


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