Personal Finance, Relationships

If You Can No Longer Afford Your Pet, Help is Available

can't afford your pet

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 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

8 thoughts on “If You Can No Longer Afford Your Pet, Help is Available

  1. Thank you for writing about this issue. It’s important for people who are facing a crisis to know there are options. I would go to great lengths to keep my pets but sometimes there are unforseen events (death or severe illness). Most of us are hurting financially but it doesn’t stop me from feeding three additional stray cats in the neighborhood who were abandoned by their owners. It’s all about respect.

  2. What a sensible and well-written article. As a fellow animal lover I applaud your compassionate addressing of such a senstive situation.

  3. There are some animal rescue leagues that will provide “support” in the form of food, altering, defray medical costs, and even temporary housing for some pets. Take the time to ask questions and truly find out all the options. Abandoning your pet is never a good option.

  4. Do NOT turn your pet loose, like this article mentions in option five. Take responsibility for yourself!!! Take your pet to the closest animal control location, and pay the fee, and leave your pet there to be killed. Sound harsh? It is. You should’ve thought of that before you took in a pet.

    If the shelter won’t accept your pet because you don’t live in their area, take a friend with you who does live within their boundaries, and have them pretend to be the pet’s owner.

    Very few animals who are turned loose (dumped) are welcomed into anyone’s home. They starve to death, or are killed by cars, bullets and other animals.

    I dispatch for a law enforcement agency. Our agency gets four or five calls PER DAY about abandoned or dumped animals. There is no animal control in our area. There is nothing we can do. If the animals are vicious or sick we will shoot them. Otherwise, we don’t do anything, and the poor animals starve to death.

    I am sick of it.

    Everyone needs to be responsible for their decisions.

    Thank you for putting up with my rant.

  5. Thank you for bringing up a very valid point. If you can’t afford a roof over your head or the barest amount of food for your family, YOU CAN’T AFFORD A PET! I have known people who are in over their heads with fanancial problems and you bring up this one way to save money (get rid of pet humanely) and they absolutely refuse to do this. As much as people like to think their pet is a ‘child’ or a member of the family. It isn’t. If you can’t afford one then you need to let it go along with the cable TV, cell phones, etc. All the same type things that the person who refuses to give up a pet also refuse to give up. Somehow these people think they will be rescued without effort or sacrifice on their part. That isn’t how personal finances work. I appluad you for writing a sensitive article, however I doubt that the people who really need to read this ever will.

  6. Last year we had to adopt-out our six year old Australian Sheppard. My son developed extreme alergic reactions to out big family pet. When our son went away to college last year and then came back home his system had a meltdown. He would have been fine to just deal with the alergic reactions but he had a serious knee injury in football (He plays Division I football) and it looked like he was going to have to come home for a semester and have ACL and MCL surgery.

    So we made the decision to look for a new home for our Bubba. Man, this was a hard decision. Not only did it impact out entire family but we also have a small chihuaha and they are like an old married couple. Having never sold or had to adopt out a dog we weren’t quite sure what to do. So we ran ads in craigslist and one or two sites we found on the web. To my suprise we had about a dozen people interested in bubba but two stood out. Both were retired folks who lived on farms in rural communities. For a dog from suburbia my wife and I kept telling ourselves, her through her tears, that it was a retirement community for the old pooch. Becuase we screened our adoptors carefully we were able to place bubba with another family, and older couple with another Australian Sheppard (a girl for our big guy) and have received regular photos of bubba romping in the bush. As much as we miss him we are greatful there are people out there looking for good pets, both old and young. Our neighbors just adopted a mature dog for thier three boys whos former masters lostr their home. A good pet found a very good home.

  7. Option No. 5 is very irresponsible. I live in a horse area near a big city and we get tons of scared, abandoned dogs. Most do not get taken in. Even if you ‘take kindly to strays’ it’s impossible for residents to take in all the abandoned pets. we just call animal control and the poor animal gets taken away before it is killed by a car or coyote.

  8. I could never let my dog just be dropped off somewhere. She got out of her harness once and I was frantic she would run too fast and far that I couldn’t catch her. I was actually shaking. My finances are tight and its getting harder to get her the vet care she needs and so many people have said “just give her up” Easier said than done I just lost my MOM in sept 13 and to have to give up my dog is killing me. So if anyone know of cheap vets or anyone that allows payments please let me know. Feeding her is not a problem its just the vet care. thank you

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