It’s a situation no dog or cat parent wants to think about. The idea of rehoming your pet is out of the question. But what if you’ve exhausted every single option and you are left with no other choice? Perhaps there was a death in the family, maybe you lost your job and are having a hard time affording your pet (Check out these resources if that’s the case!), maybe your dog or cat is having behavior problems (Does your cat scratch furniture? Here’s what you can do!) and despite help from a specialist, the problem doesn’t seem to be getting better.


Whatever the case may be, the fact remains that good-hearted people do sometimes have to make the tough decision to rehome their pet. While there are certainly cruel people out there who dump their animals on the side of the road like trash, there are many people who want what’s best for their cat or dog, even if that means not living with them anymore. So what options are available if you must re-home your cat or dog?

Safety Net

With six to eight million cats and dogs entering the nation’s 3,500 shelters every year, according to the Humane Society of the United States, animal shelters first want to make sure you have indeed tried every single resource to keep your pet with you. Many animal shelters have a program called “Program Safety Net” that provides behavior assistance, re-homing services or assistance with low-cost vaccines for your cat or dog with the goal of providing alternatives to re-homing your pet.

How to Re-Home a Pet

If you have exhausted all options, many animal shelters do offer a re-homing service. It’s important to your local animal shelter for exact details as they vary but most shelters will help publicize your dog or cat. This allows the dog or cat to stay with you until a new home is found, reducing the pet’s stress. Importantly, this also means the dog or cat does not enter the shelter systems, which are overcrowded across the U.S. and need all of the resources possible.


Usually, if you take high-quality photos of your dog or cat (photos can make all the difference!) and write a short bio about the animal (what kind of home s/he would do well in, their likes and dislikes, why you are relinquishing them, etc.), then the animal shelter will put up the photos and the bio on their website in hopes of finding a new guardian. Anyone interested in your dog or cat will be able to contact you directly, so you will be able to play a role in finding your dog or cat a new home.

There are a few things that are absolutely required to help ensure your pet’s safety:

  • Charge a re-homing fee. Show the animal is worth something to you and anyone who really cares will understand. This will help discourage those who prey on free and cheap animals.
  • Use an adoption application and adoption contract. You can find them online or you can ask to use one from your local animal rescues.
  • Get a copy of their driver’s license to verify their identity. Be sure to check public records for any criminal history.
  • Do a vet check. This simply entails calling their veterinarian and asking if their pets are all current on vaccinations and are spayed or neutered. If they are, that’s a good indication they will take proper care of your pet.
  • Ask for two or three personal or professional references.
  • Do a home visit. Go to their house and make sure it is safe. Is the backyard fenced in? Are there outer buildings that look like they may have housed breeding animals at one time? You don’t have to require a meticulous home that would pass a white glove test, but you want to make sure the home is safe and that your pet will be treated like part of the family.

Advertise, Advertise, Advertise 

Once your pets listing is up on your local animal shelters website, you can send the link to friends, family, colleagues, anyone who could help you get the word out. It’s also important to note that talking to breed specific rescue groups is a great step to take. Rescue groups that focus on specific breeds can provide more specific opportunities for your pet, even the possibility of your pet staying in foster care until a new home is found.


Posting on local groups, such as Facebook groups that you are a part of is also a great way to get your pet seen. But please be careful of online postings, such as posting on Craigslist. Putting up “Free to a Good Home” ad could have dire consequences for your pet.

During a recent study, it was discerned that 41 percent of all guardian-surrendered animals at shelters were obtained via “free to good home” ads. Not to mention, when you forfeit your pet to someone you’ve never met nor know anything about, there’s a potential that the animals new happy ending could really be a horror story wrought with neglect, cruelty, and abuse.

Ask for Help

Shelters and rescues want animals to find the right family, so don’t be discouraged to ask for help from your local animal shelter or rescue group. In the end, all they want is what’s best for you and the animal, and to make sure your dog or cat finds the right home. And please share this article within your network to help get the word out about these important resources for our furry friends!

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