We’ve all seen them. The flyers hanging on utility poles. The sign on a cardboard box in front of the grocery store. The Craigslist ads. Maybe you’ve even used one of these methods to re-home a pet you no longer wanted or could care for.
The sad truth is that while not everyone who’s interested in a free pet is a bad person, there are people in the world who want your free pet for reasons I don’t even want to think about, reasons like:
- Turning your pet into a breeding machine, only to heartlessly discard it when its usefulness is gone;
- Live bait for a dog-fighting ring;
- Reasearch and testing in laboratories;
- Some people simply want something to abuse, torture, and kill.
The sad truth is, “free to good home” often means a death sentence or a life of pure pain and misery for your pet. And you’ll never even know it.
So what should you do if you have a pet that you can no longer keep? Well, I’m glad you asked.
First of all, be honest with yourself when you start considering your reasons for wanting to re-home an animal. Is the problem something that can be fixed? Is it just a temporary situation? Can you invest a little time and money in training the animal to make it a better fit for your family or your lifestyle? Is there really no other alternative but to “get rid” of the pet?
You owe it to the pet to thoughtfully and honestly consider the situation before giving up on it.
If, in your mind, there really is no alternative, it’s going to require a little work on your part to do what’s best for your pet. Here are a few ideas that will help you find the best, most loving, safest home for a little creature that is depending on you to do right by it:
- DO NOT ADVERTISE YOUR PET FOR FREE. Charging even a small amount like ten or twenty dollars will discourage some people whose intentions might not be honorable. Pets are expensive, and if a potential adopter can’t afford to pay even a small fee to adopt the pet, how on earth will he afford to feed it and give it proper vet care?
- DO NOT GIVE YOUR PET AWAY AS SOON AS YOU MEET THE POTENTIAL ADOPTER. If they’re sincerely interested in your pet, they won’t mind waiting a day or so while you verify they’re who they claim to be.
- DON’T GIVE YOUR PET TO THE FIRST RESPONDER TO YOUR AD. Meet lots of potential adopters to determine the best fit for your pet.
- ASK FOR PERSONAL AND VET REFERENCES and then check them! Someone who’s not on the “up and up” won’t want to give you any references, and that should be all you need to know before you send them on their way. Even if you get references, they may not be entirely honest with you, but you have to at least do your due diligence and go through the process.
- IF THE POTENTIAL ADOPTER HAS CHILDREN OR OTHER PETS, insist on meeting them and seeing your pet interact with them BEFORE giving away your pet. Make sure everyone gets along before sending your pet into a home where it might be injured by a more dominant animal or child.
- ASK LOTS OF QUESTIONS. What will you feed the pet? Where will it be kept when you aren’t home? What methods will you use for discipline and training? Do you own or rent? If you rent, does the landlord allow pets? Do you have a fenced yard? These are legitimate questions that you certainly have a right to ask.
- INSIST ON A HOME VISIT. When you’re ready to surrender the pet to the potential adopter, take it to them at their home. Ask to see where the pet will sleep. Ask to see the backyard. Look for signs of other pets and/or children that you may not have already met.
- WATCH YOUR PET for signs of fear or aggression when it interacts with the potential adopter. If the pet seems fearful or angry, this isn’t a good match.
- REQUEST A FOLLOW-UP VISIT IN ONE WEEK. Go ahead and firm up a date and time before leaving your pet with the new owner.
- FOLLOW YOUR HEART. If it doesn’t feel right, it’s probably not a good match. Don’t leave your pet with anyone if you have doubts or questions.
A potential adopter whose intentions are good won’t mind answering your questions or allowing you to follow up in a few days.
Remember, people will show you only what they want you to see. This is human nature. They’ll put their best foot forward to make a good impression. It’s impossible to be one hundred percent sure about the true nature and intentions of a total stranger, but you must do what you can to get the facts. You owe it to your pet.
My final suggestion, though, is this: spay and neuter your pets. Avoid the need to give away a litter of puppies or kittens by preventing it. And before getting a pet, do your research. Search your soul. Make sure you’re willing and able to commit to ten to fifteen years of loving and caring for a pet BEFORE you bring it home. If people will learn to do these things, we can end the cycle of unwanted pets ending up in shelters… or worse.