Written by an animal welfare volunteer
If you are going through hard times financially, have already cut back on your expenses where you can, and have made efforts to increase your income, but still feel that you can no longer afford to keep your pet(s), you have my compassion. I am a huge animal lover, but I do understand that if it comes down to the choice between feeding your children and feeding your pets, you may come to the very painful decision that you need to let your animals go.
The fact that you found this article proves that you are looking for a responsible solution to a very difficult situation. You are likely feeling guilt, shame, and embarrassment. You are afraid that others might judge you, and some probably will, but I won’t…as long as you follow through on your decision in a way that is in the best interest of the animal(s).
The most important thing to remember is: Please do not delude yourself into thinking that if you dump the animal on the side of the road, some kind stranger with a nice house and a white picket fence will come along and give them a life of love & luxury. That might happen. But it is also possible that your abandoned pet could be hit by a car, attacked by humans or other animals, slowly starve to death, or be picked up by animal control and then euthanized (“put to sleep”). Do not think for a minute that if you abandon your animal in a house that is about to be foreclosed, the bankers will appear at your door the next day to whisk your animals off in their air-conditioned vehicles. Your animals will quite possibly die a slow and painful death of dehydration, starvation, or heat exhaustion. Don’t let that happen!
Be an adult. Please behave responsibly toward the animal(s) and carry out your decision as humanely as possible…you are their caretaker after all, and when you took them in to your home it was with the understanding that you would look after their well-being. Here are some suggestions. Most of them will involve some emotional discomfort on your part, but down the road you will feel better knowing that you did the right thing.
Ask your family, friends, neighbors and co-workers if they can take your pet
Hopefully you know someone who will be willing to help out and not judge you. If you know someone whose pet has died, they may be happy to welcome your animal into their home.
Locate an animal rescue organization in your area, and ask them if they can take your animals
You can go to petfinder.com and do a search for pets like yours to find the names and numbers of organizations that might be able to help you. If you have a purebred dog, you will almost certainly be able to locate a rescue organization that deals with your dogs’s breed, but there are many out there that deal with mixed breeds dogs, cats, and every type of animal imaginable. They will probably ask you to sign a release form, and they may ask for some information about your pet’s history and habits, but please be reassured that they will be non-judgmental. People surrender their pets all the time for all sorts of reasons; they have seen and heard it all, and they will be supportive of your decision.
You can post an ad to give your pet “free to a good home”
Please be very careful if you choose this route, and check out the people who respond. Make sure they are really looking for a pet; ask for their history with pets, ask to see their home, and get in touch with their veterinarian to make sure they are responsible pet owners.
Taking it to a shelter
If you are planning to surrender your animal to your government-run (county, city, etc.) shelter, do not stick your head in the sand about what may happen to your animal. Make this choice with your eyes wide open. Get some information. Do they put animals down? It’s likely they do. Shelters are forced to euthanize adoptable animals all the time. Many shelters publish their kill statistics on-line, or they will tell you if you ask. They will probably tell you that they will do their best to find a good home for your animal, and they will, but unfortunately they have limits on the number of animals they can keep at one time, and if they run out of space they may have to euthanize your pet.
Last Resort Decision
If you have exhausted your better options, you may find that your only choices are between surrendering your animal to a “kill shelter” or just setting it loose. This will not be an easy decision, and it is one I cannot imagine facing. If your animal could be a danger to people or other people’s pets, then as a responsible person you have no choice but to surrender your animal to the shelter. Otherwise, ask yourself what you would prefer if you were in your animal’s place. Would you prefer to be set loose in to a world? Or would you prefer to be put to sleep in a humane manner? Do you live in an environment where your animal truly could survive without too much difficulty? Does your animal have the necessary temperament and skills for survival? Or do you think they will be terrified and lonely, unable to survive on their own, easily injured or killed? Life in the great outdoors is very different for a Toy Poodle living in coyote territory than it is for a Husky in a quiet area where people take kindly to strays. Do what you think is best for the animal.
Image courtesy of Thruhike98