Adopting Out a Critter

I have a friend who rescued a pit bull puppy from being dropped at the pound (they do not adopt out the breed, so he would have been put to sleep), and it inspired me to talk a little bit about how to adopt out your pet, puppies, kittens, etc.

What Should You Do First?

Unless breeding is a serious endeavor for you, you will usually be expected to neuter or spay your cat, dog, or rabbit before rehoming it.  Smaller or more exotic animals would have different expectations.  Kittens and puppies can be fixed very young (talk to your local vet) and will experience fewer complications and pain.  Think about it - if you're already having to find a new home for this animal, do you really want it breeding and making more that need homes?  In my not-so-humble opinion, breeding is always better left to those who do so responsibly and for the purpose of bettering a breed or type of animal - and they won't be adopting them, they'll be buying breeding stock with verifiable pedigrees.  There are enough mutts in the world, lovable though they may be!

Depending on the age of the animal, you will be expected to have it up to date on its vaccinations and medical procedures.  It should be in excellent health, tested for typical diseases, and protected against them.  Check with your vet about the appropriate time to vaccinate young animals - if given shots TOO early their maternal antibodies will fight it off and leave them immuno-compromised and not yet fit for a new home.  Young animals should also be appropriately socialized (with people, other animals, the vacuum cleaner, etc.) and old enough to be separated - weaning is not usually long enough and they will still be learning their social skills for another several weeks.  If your animal needs any special grooming, it should be also taken care of so it doesn't go home with a new owner with matts, skin problems, or hairballs!

It's worth it to wait until the animal is healthy before finding it a new home, or if this is the reason for rehoming, to be completely clear with the pet's needs before negotiating the exchange.  It doesn't help anyone or the animal to surprise someone with a sick or uncared for pet, and it may wind up in a home you didn't approve if they can't handle it.

It's not necessary to include leftover pet food or favorite toys, but it's a good idea if you can.  These things can help a critter adjust better to its new home, in addition to making life a little easier for the new owner.

How Do You Advertise, and Who Can Help?

You can advertise everywhere, but it is completely up to you to make sure the people who respond are the best fit for your pet.  Here are some suggestions to try:
  • Craigslist or other online organizations
  • Your local newspaper classifieds
  • Signs at grocery stores and gas stations with permission
  • Neighborhood or group newsletters
  • Bulletin boards
  • Social networking sites, like Facebook
I also really recommend working with your local no-kill shelters.  Kill shelters are usually too pressed to move their own animals to be able to help, but no-kills almost always can do something, whether it's spreading the news about your critter by word of mouth or actively helping you advertise.  If they have events or adoption days you may even ask to include your pet in exchange for helping request donations or volunteering.  Most no-kills are frequently full, but if you can't find your pet a new home and want them to help make sure it's a good one, it's worth asking about.  Check Petfinder or ask around for nearby breed-specific shelters, too.

How Do You Pick the Right Home?

How many precautions you take and how seriously you question potential adopters is entirely up to you, but it is definitely your responsibility and there's no real way to get around it.  Once the animal is out of your hands you don't have any say over what happens to it, so it's worth it to make sure the person you give it to is going to take good care of it.

What's the worst that could happen?  Let us count the ways.  Some people adopt animals thinking they'll enjoy them, but quickly grow bored.  When they decide to rehome it, how could you know they'll put as much care into picking a responsible new owner?  I usually insist that people only adopt an animal from me if they intend to keep it forever - until the day it dies.  Not everyone views pets as commitments.  I also insist that if they ever decide to get rid of it, for ANY reason, whether it be the next day or ten years from now, that they contact me and attempt to return it first.  Many pets become very attached to their owners and it can be hard for them to adjust after living with them for a long time - a problem which is especially heartbreaking when some folks try to get rid of geriatric pets when their care becomes expensive.  Be sure the adopter knows and understands your request if you want them to be a permanent home.

There are also those on the other end of the spectrum who bite off more than they can chew.  These are people who take in pets they cannot actually afford to care for, don't have time to give enough attention to, or just simply cannot handle.  They don't have to be hoarders for this to apply.  For avoiding issues like this I have a few requirements:
  1. I ask that I be provided with copies of records of prompt vet care if anything wasn't done by me (immediate fixing, heartworm test/pills, vaccinations, whatever was not yet done).  Have a verified means of contacting them in case you need to check up on it a month or so later.  This is usually only done for the first little while - it would not be acceptable to "check up on" a new owner a year later - though you can totally visit if they welcome you to!
  2. I also ask what kind of a home they are providing.  For animals that have certain needs, like acreage, a yard, extra steps, extra exercise, anything like that, it's a good idea to make sure before adopting out that all things are in place.  No pet should go to the new home until all the facilities are there and waiting.  You can ask to do a "home check," if it is something very important or if you suspect they may have too many animals or not enough space.
  3. I ask about their other pets.  Some species are incompatible, and some critters just do not get along with others.  It's a good idea if they have other animals to request vet records to prove their care is done on time, to see the pets to make sure they are in good health and well-fed, and to introduce the animals carefully and see if they get along.  Likewise, it's an excellent idea to have the prospective owner meet the pet before they make a decision!  This is when things like "too hyperactive" or "too big" come up, and it's better that be mentioned before they go home!
  4. I double check that the new pet would not exceed any legal or spatial limits.  Even if all the critters are well cared for, a situation can quickly become practically or legally out of hand and you don't want your pet to be the straw that broke the camel's back!
There's also those interested in fighting animals, those who don't mind abusing or neglecting them, and even those who hate a particular breed enough to pretend to want it in order to have it put down.  When it comes to horses, there are "kill buyers" that will adopt a horse only to turn around and either send it to slaughter, or sell it at a higher price claiming if it isn't adopted it will go to slaughter.  Kind but gullible people then "rescue" your animal, paying the con artist a profit!  Don't let your animal go to a stranger.  Even if a person doesn't fight animals personally, they too may see an opportunity to make a buck selling or breeding the animal to sell to those who fight or abuse.  These people can be obvious or they can seem perfectly nice - there is no way to tell without doing a little research.

It is not a bad thing to ask to do a background check (though you don't HAVE to!), and even to ask local pet stores and shelters if they have ever adopted an animal to them.  Many shelters will be able to give you a heads up if a person is a known animal abuser, or if they adopt a high number of pets they don't currently still have!  Ask for the name of their veterinarian and verify they are a client there - many people who abuse or misuse animals attempt to do the vetting themselves, or not at all, to prevent alerting authorities.  As far as doing a background check, the process is inexpensive, effective, and quick - with results coming back in just a day or two.  This is the same thing you'd have done if you were going for a job interview, only this time, the job is taking good care of a life.

This is the background check system I found but haven't tried yet, that searches specifically for a lot of valuable information like past animal incidents:  It also searches an animal abuse database, though I'm not sure where it pulls its information.  There are a million background checkers out there - go shop around for one you trust or ask local shelters what they use.  You will need personal information from the adopter, so be sure to get their permission.  This will also alert you if they suddenly become angry or accusatory - a background check is a very private thing to ask and some frustration would be totally reasonable, but it's also a normal thing, especially if the animal you are adopting out is not a popular one (like "aggressive" dog breeds).  Not everyone who refuses abuses animals, but you should absolutely follow your gut instinct if you get a bad feeling about someone!  It is more important to find the animal a safe new home than to keep from hurting somebody's feelings.

Should You Ask for a Rehoming Fee?

The rehoming fee so frequently asked for serves one main purpose.  The core reason for a rehoming fee is in exchange for services.  If you have spent money on vet bills, special food, toys that come with the dog, or if you have been caring for him for years, a rehoming fee is the new adopter's payment for those things being already done.  It is not a way to get your money completely back for the dog's care, but is more about ensuring the initial vetting is done before your pet leaves your care while saving the new owner money (that might otherwise keep them from getting it done quickly). 

Rehoming fees are NOT:
  • in exchange for your time caring for the animal.  That responsibility is expected to be done out of the kindness of your heart - not something the new owner would pay you to do.
  • in exchange for the breeding of the animal.  A fee for a bred animal is not called a "rehoming fee," it's a sale cost.  If you are breeding your pets and selling them, please remember to do so ethically.  That includes being clear about where they came from, their backgrounds, and any procedures you did or did not have done before they were taken home by new owners.
  • a way to make money out of an accident.  If your cat got pregnant by the local neighborhood tom and you suddenly have eight kittens on your hands, a rehoming fee is not a way to get money back for the inconvenience.  It would only be appropriate if you got them their vetting and/or fixed the animals first.
  • a way to ensure the new owner is responsible or wealthy enough to care for the animal.  This is faulty logic.  The only way to make sure the owner is responsible is to check them out yourself - a dog fighter can make thousands off of a dog they bought for $30 bucks, and you do NOT want that on your conscience.  I have also been told that if a person can afford to spend $50 on a puppy, they can surely afford to get it immediately fixed and its shots all on time.  In reality, this is $50 that could have been spent on the animal's vet bills, but was instead put in your pocket.
So what SHOULD you ask for a rehoming fee, if you have invested money in the critter?  Well, it depends.  If you've had the pet for years and years, you probably are more concerned about finding a good home and less about being compensated.  In this situation, just do what your heart tells you.  Anything over $50-75 is a little suspicious (but it will always depend on your situation, special needs dogs and cats can totally be exceptions), not to mention hard for a new owner to swing.  If you just had a litter of puppies, though, and had them all dewormed, vaccinated, fixed, and microchipped, shoot for about 10-20% of your direct expenses (don't count normal foods, toys/collars/leashes that don't go with them, or anything like that - just vet bills, special needs or surgeries, and the like).  For most critters this is around $10-50.  You are welcome to ask for more or whatever you feel is fair, but do understand for larger fees many people would prefer to go to a rescue and have their choice of any animal!

Okay, that's just about everything I can think of.  Hope it helps you out if you ever find yourself needing to rehome a furry friend!

-Miss Mouse
<:3 )~~

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