Help! I need to rehome my pet

At PetRescue, our focus is on helping rescue groups and shelters find new homes for adoptable animals and educating the community about the benefits of responsible pet ownership.

We don’t advertise private pet listings on the PetRescue website, but what you will find here is lots of good, honest advice to help you make the best decision for your pet when you’re considering rehoming options.

First and foremost, remember that your pet depends entirely on you to do what's best for his future, even if you can't keep him anymore.

Finding the right home for him will take time, effort and patience. It’s not going to be easy to make your pet stand out when there are hundreds of thousands of cute, smart and well-trained pets looking for a new home every year in Australia. But it’s worth the persistence when you consider that over 200,000 of these adoptable pets are killed every year because a home aren't be found for them.

That’s the harsh reality. So, give this next question some careful thought before taking the next step.

Do you really have to give up your pet?

Be honest with yourself, is there something else you can do to help you keep your pet? If the reason is because of behavioural problems or change of circumstances, there are ways to overcome these issues without giving up your pet.

Here are the most common reasons for surrendering a pet and some solutions that might help you keep yours.

I’m moving house

There are rental houses out there that allow pets, you just need to put in a little time and effort to find them. Widening your search can also help. It may mean a longer drive to work, but at least you'll be able to keep your furry best friend!
Searching for pet-friendly rental accommodation? Try Pet Friendly Rentals.

To give yourself a better chance of securing a pet-friendly rental, prepare a Pet CV, include a record of your pet's medical history, training certificates and references from neighbours, previous landlords and veterinarians. Don't rely on rental ads, often landlords will consider pets if you approach them directly or find a real estate agent that will help you. Offer to sign an agreement to define appropriate behaviour for your pet on the rental premises. Encourage the owner/landlord to meet your well-behaved, well-groomed flea-free pet – meeting your furry housemate might just clinch the deal.

I don’t have enough time for the dog

Pets require time and effort, but probably not as much as you think. Dogs need minimum exercise, food and, most importantly, time just being near you.

Dog walking services are relatively inexpensive, but getting exercise is good for your health and well-being too. Taking just half an hour to get out and about with your dog before and/or after work will work wonders for both of you.

Cats and dogs can also benefit from environmental enrichment. Setting aside a few minutes each day to make their lives more interesting could make a big difference to their behaviour.

I’m having a baby

When introduced correctly, there shouldn't be any problems with your pet and new baby. Here are some useful resources on bringing a baby into a home with pets.

Tell Your Dog You're Pregnant - by Dr Lewis Kirkham

Cats and Bubs - Tips form Dr Katrina Warren

We have an allergy problem

There are some wonderful products on the market that will help keep you healthy and allergy free, so surrendering your pet for adoption could be the last option. It certainly shouldn’t be your physician's first recommendation.

Look for a physician who will be sensitive to your feelings and do everything possible, within reason, to help you keep your pet and stay healthy.

My pet has behaviour problems

If your pet is badly behaved, it’s highly unlikely that anyone else is going to want to take it on.

Most pet behaviour problems are easily managed and overcome with the right support and approach. Before you rehome your pet, get advice from a qualified trainer or speak to your vet or a veterinarian behaviourist.

Always be totally upfront about behavioural problems when you’re dealing with potential adopters. Misinforming can leave you open to legal prosecution.

My dog is aggressive

If your dog displays signs of aggression or behaviours that may lead to aggression, you must understand that you are putting others at risk. No matter how much you love your dog, if he has ever bitten anyone you need to take him to a professional trainer for assessment and rehabilitation.

Never advertise your pet as a guard dog, as they may be neglected, abused or used for dog fighting. We know it’s a very hard decision to make, but putting a dangerous dog to sleep is often the safest and most responsible thing to do.

The reality of shelters and pounds

By law, all stray pets must be kept for several days to give their owners a chance to reclaim them. After that, they can be destroyed. However, these laws don't apply to pets that have been given up by their owners. They may be killed immediately with no attempt to rehome. Cats are especially at risk in shelters with 80% of all cats entering a shelter being killed.

Shelters often kill to make space for new pets arriving every day. Some are so busy your pet could be killed the same day it arrives. Others may have waiting lists several months long, as they can only take in new pets when existing ones are rehomed.

Use our Rescue Directory to contact as many rescue groups and shelters in your area as you can. You are likely to find they are already over their capacity and unable to take any more animals, you may be able to wait until there is a foster carer available but don't rest all your hopes on a rescue finding your pet a home for you.

If they know you’ve done everything you possibly can to find your pet a new home, most rescue groups and shelters will be glad to try and help you. So, be sure to put in a good effort before asking for their assistance.

The best way to rehome your pet is to do it yourself

Doing it yourself is the only way you can be sure your pet goes to a really great home and will be cared for.

Getting ready to rehome your pet

1. Give yourself plenty of time

There are dogs and cats that have been sitting in shelters for months waiting for the right home, so you have to accept that it can take a long while to find a pet a home. Give yourself plenty of time to place your pet responsibly, seeking out the right family who are willing to care for them for life.

2. Call the person you got the pet from

Make your first call to the breeder, rescue, or person you originally got your pet from. Responsible breeders will either assist you in finding a new home, or take the pet back to rehome themselves. Many rescues also state in their contracts that the pet can be returned to them, no matter how much time has passed.

3. If your pet can’t be returned, evaluate their adoption potential

When considering putting your pet up for adoption, you need to be realistic. If your pet is old, a large breed dog, has health issues, or is unfriendly towards strangers, it will take a long time to find a new home, possibly many months. Realise that rehoming won't happen immediately.

4. Identify the ideal home for your pet

Make a list of what you feel is most important for your pet. What kind of environment does he need? Is he ok with children? Is he OK with other pets? What kind of people would suit his personality and energy levels?

Once you have a firm idea of what you're looking for, it will be easier to plan your search and get the results you want for your pet.

Getting your pet ready to be rehomed

1. Get your pet desexed

If you have no records or knowledge of your pet being desexed, make sure this is the first thing you do. Why? Because there’s a $million puppy farming industry in Australia that often gets breeding stock by duping people out of their unsterilised animals to breed them for profit.

These breeding dogs receive little or no medical care, they’re kept penned, are over-bred until deemed unusable and then they’re disposed of. These puppy farms target both cross-breed and purebred dogs, but small breeds such as Maltese and popular breeds like Labradors are especially sought after.

Make sure your pet doesn’t meet this fate. Eliminate all bogus callers by having your pet desexed and advertising it as such. If you’re unable to afford the cost of desexing, there are many organisations offering discount programs. Visit the National Desexing Network for more information.

2. Get your pet’s health checked

Your pet will be much more appealing to adopters if he's healthy. So book him in for a full health check at the vet and make sure he’s up to date with his vaccinations (and heartworm treatment for dogs). Ask your vet for a printout of his medical history and start a folder of information about your pet.

3. Grooming

A bathed pet with trimmed nails, clean ears and a well-groomed coat is much more desirable to potential adopters than a smelly, messy-looking one. So get out your grooming tools or get down to the grooming parlour.

4. Prepare a pet profile

Look at the pet listings on PetRescue to get an idea of how to write a great pet profile. It needs to be positive, feature the best things about your pet and give people an idea of your pet's personality.

  • Accurately describe the appearance, size and age of your pet
  • Include the pet's name and a good photograph
  • Mention that the pet is desexed
  • Describe his/her nature and appealing qualities
  • Define any limitations the pet might have (e.g. not good with cats or small children)
  • Don't forget your phone number and the times you can be reached

5. Take a great photo!

While your pet is clean and freshly groomed, take his photo to place on posters and websites. A good photo plays a big part in helping potential adopters connect with your pet, so make sure your pet is relaxed and doesn't look anxious or scared.

Keep the photograph simple. Ideally, the pet should be looking at the camera, with a focus on the face and eyes. Discard any photos with red eye as it makes the pet look possessed!

6. Prepare a general history

Add a profile of your pet’s history to their file, including details about their food preferences, favorite treats and toys, relationships with other animals and other likes and dislikes. All this information will help potential adopters get acquainted with the pet and make the transition to a new home much easier for your pet too.

Advertising your pet

To give your pet’s advertisement maximum exposure, make use of all the available resources.

Family members and friends first

Some of the best homes are with people who already know and like your pet. Friends and family may be willing to offer your pet a new home, so ask around your immediate circle first.

Facebook and social media

Post your pet's photo and profile on Facebook. Give a brief explanation of why you have to rehome your pet. Don't threaten (if he's not rehomed tomorrow he's going to the pound), don't bribe and stay positive. Ask your friends and family to share the post as widely as they can.

Out and about

Do you visit a dog park? Ask around to find out if anyone is looking for a new pet. If your pet stays at a boarding kennel when you go on holiday, ring them to see if they can ask around. Ask your vet, ask neighbours. Dog washers and dog walkers are also good contacts to find out who’s looking for a new pet. Ask pretty much everyone you deal with on a daily basis – you never know who might come forward!

Classified ads

Don't be afraid to use classified ads to advertise your pet. For many people seeking a pet, the local newspaper is the first place they look. Be sure to mention your pet is desexed to ensure you only receive enquiries from people genuinely seeking a family companion.

Club newsletters

If you're a member of a church, club or group, ask if you can place an advert in their newsletter or on their noticeboard.

Flyers

Put up flyers in your local supermarkets, vets and community centres. Email a flyer to all of your friends and ask them to add it to their work noticeboards. Some rescue groups will also allow you to display a flyer at their premises for free, or in exchange for a small donation.

Screening callers

You have every right to screen all potential new owners who enquire about your pet. Don't let anyone rush or intimidate you. Think of it as an adoption, not a sale. Choose the person you think will make the best companion for your pet.

If someone responds to your advert, you should screen them over the phone before introducing them to the animal. This will help you rule out any unsuitable adopters early on.

To start, you might say: "This dog/cat is very special to me, and I am looking for just the right home for him/her. Would you mind if I asked you a few questions about yourself and your home?"

Let all applicants know you will be checking references and need to speak to their vet (if they've had pets before).

Once you've chosen a family (or families) that you feel are good candidates, arrange two meetings with the potential new owners – the first appointment for them to meet the pet, and the second for you to see their home.

We strongly advise that you do not hand over your pet until you've seen the adopter’s living arrangements. It's all too easy for people to tell you what you want to hear, rather than how it actually is. By seeing their home you’ll be able to gauge their suitability as an owner.

Trust your instincts. If you have any concerns, don't be afraid to discuss them or to reject them. To make a non-confrontational exit, tell them other people are also interested in meeting your pet and that you'll get back to them.

Important things to mention to the new owners

  • All rehomed pets go through an adjustment period as they get to know their new people, learn new rules and mourn the loss of their old family. Most pets adjust within a few days, but others may take longer.
  • Advise the new family to take things easy at first, avoiding anything stressful, such as bathing their new pet, attending obedience training classes or meeting too many strangers at once. Assure them this will give the pet time to settle in and bond with them.
  • Tell them not to worry if the pet does not eat for the first day or two, he'll eat when he's ready.
  • Some of the best house-trained pets can temporarily forget. Assure the new owners that it’s not unusual for rehomed pets to have an accident during the first day in their new home and it rarely happens more than once.
  • Keep cats indoors for at least four weeks after a move.
Tell the family they should call you if the adoption doesn't work out. Let them know you want to keep in touch and will call them in a few days to see how things are going. Tell them to call you if they have questions or problems. Be willing to take the pet back if things don't work out the way you both expected.

The paperwork

Update your pet's microchip details, council registration and change of ownership papers.

Notes on rehoming a stray

If you find a stray animal, first you need to find out if it has an owner. If you rehome a pet that isn't homeless, you are effectively selling stolen goods.

Contact your local council animal management department to seek advice and information about the legal requirements for handling found pets in your area.