Main Content

Giving Up Your Pet – Retention, Rehoming & Relinquishment Tips

woman hugging a brown dog

Pets are family, and new pet parents generally bring a pet into their life with the intention of providing them with a forever home. However, the circumstances of life can interrupt a person’s ability to properly house and care for their beloved pet. Studies show that every five years, 6.12 million households rehome or relinquish their pets.

Let’s look at some of the most common reasons for pet relinquishment and explore possible solutions that could help prevent you from having to make the difficult decision of giving up your pet.


1. Moving

Sometimes life throws a curveball, and you may need to find new housing by a deadline. The search for new pet-friendly housing (especially on short notice) can be difficult. In some cases, pet parents are unsuccessful and feel forced to relinquish their pets in exchange for a secure place to live.

This is such an unfortunate scenario and it’s easy to imagine the heartbreak involved. If you find yourself in this position, check out these websites that stock their databases with pet-friendly housing options:

Many standard housing resource sites have an option to filter for “pet friendly” as well. While the sites listed above are national databases, there may be organizations in your area that offer local housing help as well.


2. Landlord Issues

It can be tough if a landlord suddenly changes their mind about the pet-friendly status of their rental units. If this happens, pet parents are faced with the decision between moving or relinquishing their pets to stay in their current home.

The best way to ensure this won’t happen to you is to verify that your lease is very clear and outlines whether or not a rental is pet friendly, including any specific restrictions. Even if you don’t currently have a pet, be sure these clear guidelines are included if you think there’s a possibility you might ever add a pet to your family.

If the lease requirements are unclear and your landlord suddenly says you can no longer keep a pet in your home, try offering some options that could sway their decision. Could you pay a pet deposit? Additional rent? See what wiggle room you may have. If your landlord agrees to let your pet stay, be sure to get the new arrangement in writing.


3. Too Many Animals

If you have multiple pets in your home, the cost of pet care and the time needed to care for them increases. This can become overwhelming to some pet parents. If cost and time are an issue for you, be sure to explore the resources listed here, as low-cost services for your pets may be helpful. Reach out to local pet and community service organizations who offer free or low-cost pet food pantries where you can obtain needed supplies for your pets.

If the number of pets in your home has increased to the point where it has become a health and safety issue for yourself or your pets, it’s important to seek help before you are totally overwhelmed. Start first with a friend or family member who can support you as you make decisions, and then consider approaching shelters and rescues about affordable spay/neuter (if all of your pets are not fixed) and thoughtful rehoming options. We also have some rehoming guidance here.


4. Cost of Veterinary Care

Pet parents want what is best for their pet. When they find that they cannot afford proper veterinary services, they sometimes feel that it might be best to give their pet up to a shelter to get the care they need.

Some veterinarians may be able to work with you on the price of certain procedures or work up a payment plan. You may also find a significant difference in pricing among veterinary hospitals, so be sure to call around to find out what options are available. CareCredit allows you to finance veterinary care if you meet their qualifications.

If these options fall through and you find you are still struggling to afford veterinary care for your pet, Best Friends Animal Society has resources and affordable options sorted by state here.

If you are currently in a stable financial situation, you may want to consider preparing for possible future emergencies by investing a small monthly amount in pet health insurance.


5. Personal Problems

Life happens. It can blindside you when you least expect it, leaving you wiped out and feeling like you have to give up your pet to keep your head above water. Before making a final decision, read on to see if any of the resources listed in this article can be of assistance to you. Ask yourself, is this temporary? Is there a short-term solution, such as leaning on a friend or family member to help you care for your pet for a bit until you get on your feet again?


6. Inadequate Facilities

Sometimes, pet guardians find that their home is simply not well suited to meet the needs of their pet. Whether you have too many stairs for your senior dog or cat, or no fenced-in yard for your high-energy pup, there are potential solutions you can explore.

If your senior pet has problems navigating your home, would it be helpful to limit them to one floor or area with a gate and provide everything they need there? If your dog has a lot of energy, could you consider dog daycare or a dog walker to help burn some energy during the day? Is there any way to begin adding a fence to your home if you need one?

Often, pinpointing the exact issue is the first step in figuring out your potential solution to this problem.


7. No Homes for Littermates

If you find yourself in a position of needing to relinquish littermates, you will want to be sure they’re going to a new guardian who can provide them with proper veterinary care, including spaying or neutering. Don’t be afraid to ask for references, including a veterinary contact, to place the littermates appropriately and responsibly. Reach out to local clinics or some of the low-cost veterinary resources to see about the possibility of spaying and neutering the young pets before they are placed into new homes. Of course, it’s most important to be sure the mother, whether she’s your pet, a friend’s, or a stray, is also spayed so you don’t find yourself facing the same dilemma again. If you need help finding a low-cost spay/neuter clinic, check out the spay/neuter search at Spay USA.


8. No Time

Pets do require a lot of time and attention. When responsibilities get overwhelming, some pet parents may feel that their pet would get more play and attention in a new home. If you find yourself worrying about this, look for options. Is a dog walker in the budget? Or someone who can stop in to check on your cat when you are working long hours? Is there a dog daycare that can give your pup some play options? Is there a family member or friend who wouldn’t mind helping you to give your pet the attention they need–especially if they would love a pet of their own but are unable to have one?

Feeling overwhelmed and short on time is hard enough without also missing the comfort and support your pet adds to your life. Explore these options before making a tough decision.


9. Illness

Illness can impact our ability to properly care for our pets, and sometimes leads pet parents to consider relinquishment. Some of the resources mentioned earlier may be of assistance if you or someone you know is dealing with illness. It’s sometimes hard to ask for help, but there are times we need to lean on friends and family. Medical and community support providers might also be aware of local pet support services that can assist you. It’s during difficult times that we really need the comfort and company of our pets.


10. Biting

Biting and other aggressive behaviors can lead a pet parent to consider relinquishment. Dealing with growling and snapping takes serious dedication and can require a financial commitment for training as well. Biting can be a cry for help from a scared, anxious or confused pet that can be managed or resolved with professional assistance.

If you can hire a professional, it’s important to know what you’re looking for. For basic obedience you would want a trainer, but for problems with fear or aggression, you will want a dog or cat behavior specialist. There are three types:

  • Behavior counselors require no certification as a behaviorist, but will be certified as a pet trainer. They are advanced trainers who can deal with some behavioral problems based on their experience and background.
  • Certified Applied Animal Behaviorists are professionals who are certified by the Animal Behavior Society.
  • Board-certified Veterinary Behaviorists are certified veterinarians who have studied behavior and are able to administer medication to your pet if deemed necessary.

To access affordable behavioral counseling, check out these resources:

Also, consider researching local programs that can assist with finding you affordable behavioral resources. This may prevent you from needing to relinquish your pet.

Every dog, regardless of breed, is capable of causing accidental damage or injury–even by something as simple as enthusiastically leaping up to greet a visitor. Puppy socialization and obedience training are great ways to help a dog become a good canine citizen. When choosing home and rental insurance, be certain your policy covers every breed of dog, since you never know what type of dog you’ll fall in love with and adopt!

Additional Cat-Specific Issues

There are also additional issues that are more commonly (but not exclusively!) seen with cat relinquishment.


1. Allergies.

If someone in your home is allergic to your pet, consider trying over-the-counter antihistamines daily to see if this helps reduce the problem. If not, consider having them see a doctor for testing and medications to address it. Some cat guardians will build an immunity to their pet’s dander over time, with the assistance of daily medication to manage symptoms. Because allergies can range from mild to serious, check out the many suggestions available here.


2. Inappropriate Elimination.

Dealing with a cat who refuses to go to the bathroom inside their litter box is incredibly frustration. Inappropriate elimination can be due to behavioral or medical problems. See above for resources related to finding affordable help with either of these, and check out additional information here specific to litterbox problems and training.


3. Not Getting Along with Other Pets.

Pet parents want to know that their pets enjoy being together as family members. It can be stressful for people and pets alike when this isn’t the case. A behaviorist may be able to help you teach your pets to coexist peacefully. We also have additional advice for you when cats and dogs don’t get along.

When life presents us with difficult roadblocks, it can be daunting to come up with a solution that enables us to keep our pets. Sometimes just knowing how and where to ask for help can be the difference between giving up a pet and living happily ever after.

Share this Article

Recently Viewed Pets