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First, consider the reason you are re-homing your pet. Is it because you just had a baby and can’t dedicate the amount of time and attention that your pet needs? Are you moving across the country and your senior pet may not be travel-tolerant? Are you moving to a new apartment that doesn’t allow pets? Sometimes these issues can be easily resolved.
If you must re-home a pet, start with preparation. Make sure your pet is spayed or neutered, healthy, and up-to-date on vaccinations. Get copies of her medical records to pass on to your pet’s new adopted family. It’s generally easy to begin your search close to home: ask friends and family members if they could take in your pet (either temporarily or permanently). For example, if you’re expecting a baby, consider asking a friend or neighbor tohouseyour pet for the first couple of years after the baby arrives. This way, you can provide intermittent interaction for your pet and child over this period of time, and you may be able to welcome your pet back home when your child requires less attention (bonus: kids and pets wear each other out playing and having fun together!).
If you need to expand your search, take some good color photographs of your pet to use in advertisements and communications. Try to get photos of him doing his favorite things, playing with his favorite toys, and photos that capture his personality. In advertisements and communications, provide detailed information about your pet, her disposition, likes and dislikes, and what kind of home would be ideal for her. Consider writing the advertisement from your pet’s point of view; you know your pet better than anyone, and how you portray his “voice” can tell a potential adoptive parent a lot about the pet and how he may get along with the new family.
Once you have your advertisement written, begin circulating to your social circle first, and ask people to forward on the information to trustworthy acquaintances. Put up fliers at reputable pet stores (not shops that sell puppies and kittens from mills or other disreputable sources) and veterinary offices. Include your contact information and best times of day to contact you.
Always charge a fee if re-homing your pet to a stranger, even if it’s as minimal as $50. This will discourage adopters with less-than-honorable intentions. If you feel uncomfortable receiving a fee in exchange for your pet, you may even ask them to donate this fee to a local shelter or organization. If a person is adopting a pet for the right reasons, a nominal fee should not deter them from moving forward. Those seeking pets to use in dog fighting or other nefarious endeavors will look for the easiest and cheapest way to obtain an animal for these activities.
When you begin receiving inquiries from interested adopters, conduct a thorough interview to be sure this would be a good environment for your pet. Ask any questions that you need to, and don’t be shy; this could be your best friend’s home for the rest of her life, so be as thorough as possible. Consider beginning with these questions:
Once you find a satisfactory prospective adopter, move on to arrange a meeting. The person should visit you and your pet at your home, meet you somewhere in public, or invite you to visit his or her home. It’s important to see how the person interacts with your pet and how your pet reacts to him or her. Does your pet seem to like the person? If a family is interested in adopting your pet, does he seem to like everyone in the family, including any young children?
If applicable, ask for the potential adopter’s landlord’s contact information to verify that he or she has permission to keep a pet. Ask for written or verbal references from the person’s friends, neighbors and, if possible, a veterinarian. Call these references and ask general questions about the person’s background with pets, behavior towards pets, and any recommendations or reservations these referencesmay have about this person adopting a new pet. If you feel uncertain about someone who’s interested in adopting your pet, trust your gut. Wait for the right person to come along.
Though it may not be possible in every situation, try to take your pet to spend time with your selected adopter in his or her new home. Visit once or twice before the transition and spend time relaxing, playing, and even feeding your pet in the new home. If possible, consider a sleepover one night. The more time your pet spends in the new home, the easier it will be for him to transition completely.
When the day comes for your pet to move to his new home, take along his bed, toys, food, blankets, and anything familiar that will help ease any anxiety your pet has about the new environment. Pets pick up on your emotions easily, so try to remain upbeat and cheerful even though you may be sad about the transition. Although it’s heartbreaking to do so, try to avoid a long, drawn-out goodbye with lots of hugs and kisses, as this will alert your pet that something strange is happening. Make arrangements with the adopter to call in a few days to check on the pet and answer any questions they may have at that time.
Letting go of a pet is never easy, but due diligence and thorough preparation will give you peace of mind knowing that your pet is being cared for, loved, and is part of a family again. And who knows – you may find a friend for life in his new adoptive parents, as well.