It's a big responsibility to have a dog, and sometimes life gets in the way. You might have to make serious and unexpected choices, such as giving up a beloved pet, if you encounter obstacles in your life. There are many ways to avoid this, but if you've exhausted all of your options, please know you are not alone.
Consider contacting animal rescue groups, many of which will accept dogs under certain circumstances. If you cannot find a new home, foster arrangement, or rescue group, your last resort may be giving away a dog to a shelter or surrendering your pet to animal control. You should never abandon a dog even if you are having trouble finding another solution; it is traumatic and potentially very dangerous to your dog, as well being illegal to do so in many states under animal cruelty laws.
Nearly 400,000 dogs in the United States are euthanized each year because of overcrowding in shelters, so try to find a new home for your dog whenever possible.
Here is a list of situations you may be experiencing and alternative options to consider before deciding to give your dog away.
I’m Moving and My New Place Does Not Allow Dogs
With diligence, it's possible to find a pet-friendly residence. Though renting an apartment with a dog is not always easy, try to negotiate the conditions with potential landlords and be willing to spend a little extra money on a "pet deposit" to give your landlord peace of mind. If you absolutely must move right away and cannot find a place that allows your dog, talk to friends and family who may be willing to take care of your dog for an extended period while you search for other long-term arrangements.
Watch Now: 9 Simple Ways to Love Your Pet
I Am Having a Baby
Congratulations on your happy news! However, you don't need to give up your dog because of the new baby. Growing up with a dog is a wonderful experience for children. In fact, evidence suggests that early exposure to dogs can reduce the risk of some allergies in children.
Dogs and kids can be a great combination if handled correctly. It is essential that your dog is properly trained and exposed to babies and small children in safe ways before your baby is born. Then, be certain to introduce the baby to the dog gradually and with a clear plan. Plus, it's important that you raise your children to respect dogs as well.
Make sure you include your dog in as many family events, outings, and gatherings as possible. If your dog knows their place in the family, you can have a safer, more peaceful family unit. Your dog and your kids must understand how to act appropriately around one another. If done right, growing up with a dog is one of the best gifts you can give to your child.
My Dog Has Health or Behavioral Issues That Are out of Control
Health problems and behavior issues with pets are frustrating and may require a long-term plan and the right resources to find a solution that will work for you. Here are some steps to explore:
- Find a veterinarian who understands your difficult situation and ask for a referral to a specialist or get a second opinion if you need alternative treatment options.
- Have your vet rule out health-related issues that may be causing behavior issues.
- Find a reputable, certified trainer or behaviorist who uses positive reinforcement techniques to guide you in how to approach your dog's behavior challenges. In some cases, you may need to work with your veterinarian or a veterinary behaviorist in conjunction with a trainer, using medication as well as training to get the best results. It's also helpful to educate yourself on dog training. However, if your dog has severe behavioral problems, professional help is going to be necessary.
Certain issues can be cured, or well-controlled, so you may not need to consider giving away your dog if you get the right support and can manage your pup's condition. Some health or behavior issues can't be resolved. In some severe cases, professionals may advise you that the most humane thing you can do is euthanize a pet who is suffering and cannot be helped.
I Cannot Afford My Dog Anymore
Financial struggles can happen to anyone, and understandably, affording your dog can become very difficult. Before resorting to give your dog away, try to figure out the necessary costs of dog ownership, and then make a budget that includes your pet’s expenses. You may find that you can afford your dog after all, especially if you budget for their care each month.
If you are finding expenses such as food and/or basic veterinary care to be outside of your budget in the short-term, consider contacting your local food pantry to see if they carry dog food. Many times, you can find free dog food to help you and your furry pal through a rough patch.
To lower long-term expenses, do everything you can to keep your dog healthy. A balanced diet, regular exercise, and preventive veterinary care all play major roles in keeping future costs down. Search for money-saving tips to help you pinch pennies, such as the following:
- Visit low-cost clinics for routine vaccinations. To find one, contact your local animal shelter or pet supply stores for information.
- Contact the Humane Society for leads to local pet pantries, free or low-cost spay/neuter resources, discounted vet care, fundraising sources, financial resources for medical needs, breed-specific rescue group care, and other necessities.
- Resist the urge to buy extras such as a new collar, dog bed, or bag of treats. Make your own dog supplies when you can, offer your dog carrots or apples as snacks, and make homemade treats.
- Continue giving heartworm and flea prevention as treating these issues is more expensive than prevention.
- Feed your pet a balanced dog food diet. You don't have to invest in premium food or a diet labeled as holistic/natural. Instead, just make sure to feed dog food, not human food, that is balanced to meet all of your dog's nutritional needs. You can be sure a food has met the minimum nutritional standards by looking for a statement on the label that it meets AAFCO nutrient profiles, or passed a feeding trial using AAFCO procedures.
- Sign up for pet insurance if you can budget for it. It can be a financial life saver if your pet has a serious accident or develops a chronic medical condition. This can be the difference in affording life-saving care for your pet and keeping your pet if it requires expensive medical care later in life.
I Have an Illness or Other Physical Limitation and Can No Longer Care for My Dog
It's understandable why you might feel the need to give up your dog in this situation, but there may be other options. Your dog will most likely be a comfort to you during your illness, so it will be beneficial to keep them around if you can. Even if you need to enter an assisted living facility, there may be a way to keep your dog around. Consider these suggestions:
- Turn to your family, friends, a pet sitting or boarding service that can help care for the dog if you will be temporarily unable to perform certain tasks like feeding and walking your dog. If you cannot afford boarding fees, reach out to an organization like RedRover.org that may be able to offer you an emergency assistance or an emergency boarding grant.
- Learn about outreach programs in some cities and towns where volunteers can come and care for the pets of sick owners. Contact your local animal rescue groups for suggestions.
- Research whether a nursing home or similar facility will consider helping you place your dog with family or friends or if your pet can visit or live with you. More and more care facilities understand the positive impact pets can have on residents.
2021 U.S. State Animal Protection Laws Rankings. Animal Legal Defense Fund.
Pet Statistics. American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.
Hesselmar, Bill et al. Pet-keeping in Early Life Reduces the Risk of Allergy in a Dose-dependent Fashion. PloS one vol. 13,12 e0208472. 19 Dec. 2018, doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0208472
Dogs And Babies. American Society For The Prevention Of Cruelty To Animals.
Are You Having Trouble Affording Your Pet? The Humane Society of the United States.
Deborah E. Linder, DACVN. Does An Apple A Day Keep The Vet Away? Harmful Vs Healthy Foods For Pets. Clinical Nutrition Service.
Overview of Nutrition: Small Animals. Merck Veterinary Manual.
Get help. RedRover.