How to Surrender Your Dog: A Comprehensive Guide

A dog looks up lovingly at a human while their head is being cradled in the person's hands

Going through the process of surrendering a dog to a shelter can be extremely overwhelming, stressful and emotional for both dog and owner. If you find yourself in a position of needing to surrender your dog, this article provides clear and comprehensive steps to help you and your dog through the process with answers to questions like how much does it cost to surrender a dog or where to surrender an aggressive dog.

Choosing to Surrender a Dog

Depending on the circumstances, sometimes it’s not possible to keep a pet. If a dog is a threat to the safety of any pet or person, surrendering becomes an option to consider. Before choosing this route, however, it’s imperative to exhaust all options such as rehoming your dog. Surrendering a pet to a shelter is easier said than done for numerous reasons.

1. Lengthy Process

In doing your research, you may be reading articles in search of “immediate dog surrender near me.” But while the concept of surrendering a dog to a shelter may seem simple and convenient, there is a process that shelters and rescues go through in order to take in a dog you surrender. That process often entails making an appointment and meeting with a shelter or rescue worker. You’ll likely be asked to provide a full health and behavioral history. Your dog will undergo a health and behavior exam, and even after all that, a shelter may not immediately accept your pet.

2. Acceptance Status

Meeting with a shelter or rescue to initiate a surrender is also heavily dependent on whether the facility is accepting pets. More often than not, their facilities are overcrowded and simply don’t have the space to accept animals. So go into it knowing that a lot of effort needs to be made to call around seeking out shelters or rescues that might be willing to take in your dog.

3. Surrender Fees

If you’re asking, “where can I surrender my dog for free?”, the reality is that shelters and rescue organizations require a fee to surrender a pet. While all shelters and rescues are different, many of them use this fee to provide updated vaccinations, any surgeries or medical procedures as well as flea control, deworming treatments and microchipping. These are typically standard procedures for any pet that enters their facility.

4. Potential to Adopt

The best-case scenario is that you give your dog up for adoption, and the shelter or rescue successfully finds a forever home for your dog. While many pets find new homes after surrender, there are instances where the shelter or rescue finds a dog not fit for adoption due to health issues, such as an untreatable disease. In an instance such as this, euthanasia may be considered. So, there’s no guarantee that every pet surrendered at a shelter will go on to find a forever home. 

For these reasons and more, it’s critical to consider all your options before typing “dog surrender near me” into the search bar. Only when you have thoroughly exhausted every possible option should you turn to surrender.

Where to Surrender a Dog

As discussed above, how to surrender a dog is a very involved process. Determining where to surrender dogs that can no longer live with you can be just as complex. Go into it knowing that you may need to spend a few hours calling multiple places. Your local shelter and rescue organizations are full of knowledgeable staff members who can help by providing honest information about their surrender procedures. They likely have insight into additional resources or other shelters and rescues in the area that may accept your dog even if they can’t.

If you’re wondering, “Can I take my dog to a no kill shelter?” The answer is yes, but be prepared if they’re not in a position to accept your dog. No kill shelters can be just as overcrowded as larger shelter facilities, and as much as they’d like to take in every dog they can, they simply can’t. On a more positive note, it doesn’t hurt to know how to give a dog to a no kill shelter. Call their office and ask about their surrender policies and procedures.

Surrendering an Aggressive Dog With Behavioral Issues

Again, if considering surrendering a dog due to behavioral issues, please seek out support resources before you surrender your dog to shelter facilities. Only when every possible alternative option has been considered should you pursue surrendering. Your veterinarian can be a helpful resource as well as local shelters and rescue organizations.

If you decide that surrendering is the course of action you must take for an aggressive dog, call a local animal shelter or rescue to see if they’re accepting pets. You’ll likely need to book an appointment with a shelter staff member and provide detailed information about all aspects of your dog, including the behavioral issues you’ve witnessed. While it might be tempting to not disclose this critical information about your dog, it is in the best interest of all parties – especially your dog – to be truthful and transparent from the beginning. That will give your dog a better chance at finding a home that is truly the right fit.

Surrendering a Dog is Never Easy

No matter what the reason for surrendering, saying goodbye to a pet is one of the hardest things to do. But so long as you’ve done your due diligence and made every effort to make the situation work, sometimes it does come down to a need to surrender.

As this article has detailed, the process of surrendering a pet is more than a quick giveaway. Finding a home and family that’s the right fit for your dog is difficult, and the days to come after your dog makes the transition to a new home can be equally challenging. But dogs of every age, breed, size and temperament deserve to live happy, healthy lives, and it’s important to do whatever is possible to give them that – without sacrificing the health and safety of others. 

Learn more about dog adoption with Petfinder.