Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Are you thinking of surrendering your pet to a shelter?

If you are considering surrendering your pet to a shelter, you understand that this can be a stressful and heartbreaking decision. Your pet is a member of your family and while you may feel that this is the best decision for your pet, please consider what shelter surrendering really is. 

A shelter is NOT a hotel for animals while they wait for a new home. 

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Educate Yourself! There are several different types of Animal Shelters and Animal Rescue Groups. Every organization, while they will generally fall into one of these categories, will vary based on their own individual policies and procedures. Arm yourself with information before surrendering your pet... it truly could save their life if you must surrender them to a shelter or rescue organization.

Open Admission Shelter:An open admission shelter is usually a government run facility that accepts all animals regardless of their situation. Generally, these are the organizations which stray animals, animals impounded by animal control entities and all owner surrenders are taken to. While some of these shelters will claim to save all adoptable animals.. many of these open admission shelters tweak their numbers and what they deem 'adoptable'. The average shelter in the united states has between a 50% - 60% save rate. This means that by taking your pet to a shelter, you are only giving them a 50% chance at a new life... many shelters have a lower percentage.

A true 'No Kill' Shelter, according to the No Kill Advocacy Center is an open admission shelter that implements programs of the No Kill Equation to reach an overall save rate of 90% or higher. This includes all animals that are euthanized due to medical or behavioral reasons.

Before surrendering your pet to any shelter that claims to be No Kill, please explore both their true adoption percentages (if a shelter is claiming to save all adoptable animals but kills more than 50% of all animals entering that shelter... they are NOT a No Kill Shelter) as well as your personal options.

Limited Admission Shelter:
Limited admission shelters are often those shelters that call themselves 'No Kill'. However, due to their limited space or funding, these shelters are often only accepting animals on a very small scale, when they have the space or the resources to accommodate new animals. No Kill limited admission shelters often only take animals pulled from other open admission shelters and do no accept owner surrenders, or have a long waiting list of owner surrenders. No Kill Shelters are able to guarantee your pet at a chance for life (unless deemed medically or behaviorally un-adoptable) because they are able to turn away animals that they feel they cannot place into a new home.

Rescue Group:
Rescue Groups are typically all volunteer based organizations which rely on a network of Foster homes. These foster homes take in the animals from the Rescue Group's adoption program and care for them as if they are their own until the animal finds a forever home. Rescue Groups rely heavily on their fosters therefore are usually unable to take in more animals until another foster shows up. It is harder to surrender an animal to a rescue group, however many rescue groups are willing to post your pet on their website or bring them into their program if you, the former owner, are willing to care for the pet until a new home is found.

--Before surrendering your pet, please think about why you are considering surrendering him/her:

Are you moving?
This is probably the most common excuse for surrendering an animal. However, you don't necessarily have to give up your pet simply because you are moving! Finding pet friendly homes is actually a pretty simple process. First, try and type in 'Pet Friendly Apartments in...(your city here)'. If you are unable to find a pet friendly place to live, check with local Realtor or apartment locating companies. Most apartment locating companies are completely free and can be a great help! Keep in mind that most landlords will accept well-behaved pets and responsible owners even if it is not stated on their website or advertisements. 

Most allergies are controllable. Please consult with your doctor before assuming that they are unable to be worked around. Most allergy medications can do wonders to keep your furry friends safe at home with you!

Expensive Veterinary Care?
If you are unable to afford veterinary care for your pet, consider a low-cost clinic. Most cities have low-cost clinics available. (In Austin we have Emancipet and Animal Trustees of Austin).  If your city does not have a low-cost option, try talking with your Veterinarian or other Veterinarians in the area about setting up a payment plan. 

Military Deployment?
If you are about to deploy with the military, contact National Organizations with have nationwide networks of pet foster programs to support our troops! Some boarding facilities will also offer significant discounts or free services for military pet owners needing long term boarding. 
Feral Cats?
Feral (wild) cats that are surrendered to the shelter are usually not adoptable due to their temperament. Even tame, easy going cats can act out in a shelter environment from the fear of being in such a small space with unfamiliar faces. If you have a colony of feral cats living in your area, we suggest contacting your local Humane Society to see if they have a Trap/Neuter/Release program and working together to Spay/Neuter the cats in your colony to reduce their number.

Try to find a Home for Your Pet!
If you MUST give up your pet please consider re-homing your pet yourself. With no guarantee of being saved in a shelter, offering your pet a chance with a friend or adopter that you find yourself is not only a great option for your own peace of mind and your pet's safety.. but it offers our area shelters the chance to save another life that may not have that option.

Make sure your pet's vaccinations are up to date. Use the resources available to you. Some examples can be posting flyers, utilizing online tools such as or, posting ads in your local newspapers. Be sure to screen potential adopters and ensure that your pet is going to a great home. Your pet is your responsibility and you owe him/her the chance at a great second life!

Rescue Organizations
Although many rescue organizations are filled to capacity, you can contact them about rehoming your pet. Rescue Groups can vary from group to group on things such as the number of animals they take into their program, however if you are willing to 'foster' your pet until he/she finds a home, most rescue organizations are happy to promote him/her on their website or at adoption events.

If all else fails and you must surrender an animal, please be sure that your pet's vaccinations are up to date and that you bring your pet's full medical history to help offset costs that the shelter might otherwise inherit. Not only is this the right thing to do for your pet, but by providing this information, you are offering any potential adopters more insight into the background of your pet, making him/her a little more likely to be adopted.