Let’s talk about a not fun topic: rehoming a pet. Increasingly a taboo topic as pets are more often thought of as family members than as pets, sometimes rehoming a pet is a necessary step in order for both the pet and owners to thrive.
Maybe you are moving out of the country, moving in with an dog allergic partner, have a suddenly aggressive dog towards a newborn child, or have found yourself unprepared to be able to meet the needs of your pup. There’s no shame in seeking out a home where your pet can get the care they need while you move forward. Increasing cultural shame around this topic can makes some resources hard to find- which is unfortunate, since shaming individuals about their choice does nothing to improve their pet’s life or an owner’s ability to care for their pet.
I wrote this article a few years ago when I own the pet supply store and recently found it in my unpublished drafts. Not much has changed in the decades since I wrote it –except that I’ve had to give away a pet of my own and now have personal experience– so I thought I’d share it below.
So, You’ve decided you Need to Rehome your Dog
Rehoming your dog is a difficult decision, but in many cases it is better for a dog to move to a better-suited home than to stay in a home where their behavior causes conflict, their fur causes allergies, or where they won’t be allowed by the provisions of a new lease.
You don’t have to feel guilty about realizing “I need to rehome my dog,” as long as you do it responsibly and act in the best interest of your pet. The fact that you have probably found this article by searching terms like “rehoming” or “rehome” instead of “giving it up” or “getting rid of your dog” already means you’re choosing language that shows you care about your dog and will do it right.
Five responsible ways to rehome a dog:
Even though more and more animal shelters are no-kill shelters, it’s best to avoid using a shelter, “pound,” or humane society to rehome your dog. These shelters are already overwhelmed and often aren’t set up to use the info you give about your dog to help find your dog a home where it won’t end up causing conflict again (for example, a dog that has become aggressive with small dogs might be adopted to a family that already has a small dog, due to poor communication on the part of a crowded shelter, and the dog might wind up back in another shelter within months)
The best and kindest ways to rehome your dog, in order:
1. An “open adoption” to Friends or family
When I announced my move to downtown Seattle, I knew my giant black poodle couldn’t come with me. Knowing that he would not cope well with long hours left alone in my studio apartment in the heart of downtown, I put the word out on Facebook and a family with a house full of kids and a massive backyard instantly snapped him up. He lived the last four years of his life constantly entertained and doing the entertaining for his new family, with another dog for company and occasional visits from me when I occasionally returned to the area. Although heartbreaking to give him up, I knew it was the right decision and being able to adopt him to people I knew already gave me so much peace of mind confirming my decision was the best for both of us.
1. A breed rescue.
If your dog is a purebred dog or even “kinda-purebred” the rescue for that breed in your region may have a screened and preapproved home already waiting to adopt a dog fitting exactly your dog’s description. Use a search engine to locate your breed’s rescue for your state, reach out, and explain your situation plainly. Depending on the rescue, you might get a little bit of judgment, but you can reassure yourself that you are making the best decision for your pet and yourself. Most breed rescues will accept surrenders without question, but it’s helpful if you can provide a lot of information about your pet and even better if you can make a small donation to the rescue group to offset their costs of rehoming your dog.
Although this type of rescue is often organized by breed, you may find similar groups organized by breed type (i.e. all “hound” or “toy” breeds) or by age (particularly elderly dog rescues)
2. A local foster-based all-breed private rescue.
Small and local volunteer-run rescues work with local dog trainers and have local foster homes where your dog can live or be retrained before being rehomed through their private rescue. With foster-home-based private rescues (which often include breed rescues) dogs never end up in a kennel, and instead get to live in a home from day one of their journey to their new home. To rehome your dog through one of these rescues you should check petfinder.com to locate local rescues that are not humane societies.
3. Craigslist or local classifieds.
Rehoming your dog through craigslist may be very simple or very difficult depending on your dog. It’s also fairly risky. People acquire dogs from Craigslist for all sorts of reasons- usually as pets, but occasionally for dogfighting or even medical testing. That any potential adopters as best you can and never lie about why you need to rehome your dog- placement in the wrong home could result in the next owner not caring to rehome the dog so compassionately.
4. A No-Kill shelter
A no kill shelter should be your last resort but it is a viable option to rehome your dog, if for some reason all other options fail
However you choose to follow through with the decision that you need to rehome your dog, be sure to be thorough and honest with the people who use surrender your dog to. This can help provide the best possible outcome for your dog and help you feel better by knowing you did the right thing to help your dog find the right new home.