The High Cost of "Free To Good Home"

Free To Good Home

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:

  1. 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?
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. 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.
  7. 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.
  8. 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.
  9. 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.
  10. 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. 

Someone who will love and protect your pet understands that you need to feel good about the match, and they won’t pressure you to make a quick decision or turn your pet over to them immediately.
Anyone who tries to bully you or convince you to do something you’re not comfortable with isn’t a good fit for your pet.

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. 

If you are unwilling to take these steps to ensure your precious pet is getting a safe, loving new home, I suggest taking the pet to a no-kill or low-kill shelter. Our shelters are bursting at the seams with unwanted dogs and cats, but at least in a shelter they will be safe from predators. They’ll be warm and dry, fed and cared for, with the possibility of being rescued by a reputable adopter.

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.

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Christina Berry

Christina is a wife, mom, Virtual Assistant and Social Media Strategist, Pet Lifestyle Blogger, movie lover, recovering Diet Dr. Pepper addict, and planner junkie. She loves helping bloggers and handmade shop owners create successful businesses, and enjoys advocating for pets by volunteering with her local humane society and a Pit Bull rescue. Learn more about Christina and the mission of The Lazy Pit Bull here.

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  1. Blair Shackle says

    Great post and so smart. It breaks my heart to see when people “have” to give up their pets, but if they do, this is a thoughtful resource. Thanks for sharing :) 

  2. Lcarlton says

    Thank you for this Christina.  These are all the same reasons we give to folks wanting to re-home their pets.  I hope you don’t mind if I share it with folks coming to our shelter or on our FB page.

  3. Stacy says

    This is very true – for me, especially #5 and #9. I had to give up my adorable, feisty rat terrier due to horrible allergies that my infant daughter developed. I kept in touch with the family that adopted my dog, only to cringe in horror when, about nine months later, the mom told me that her three boys “treated her more like a football” and she spent most of her day hiding from them, clinging to the mom. And instead of giving her back to me, she gave her away to people I did not know. It turned out favorably – they were dog lovers who were childless, and had a big yard and a canine “sister” for her – but still. The whole experience was very upsetting to me and haunts me still, nine years later.

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