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Putting a pet up for adoption

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Putting a pet up for adoption can be a very painful experience. Death, divorce, financial crisis, onset of illness or allergy, a new apartment that doesn’t allow pets -- all these are reasons why even the most loving owners sometimes have to say goodbye. But there are more and less responsible ways of giving up a pet. Laurie Bleier, the director of the Brooklyn Animal Foster Network, a grassroots no-kill foster and adoption service that currently has close to 500 families in its roster, offers these tips to ensure that the animal will find a safe, happy home—even if it’s not yours.

Dos and don’ts for the pet adoption process:

  • Don’t assume that a dog can be placed in a no-kill shelter; most no-kill facilities are so full that they can't accept pets, but instead save their precious resources for abandoned animals or those already on the euthanasia list.
  • Do place posters in the offices of local veterinarians, the humane society or animal shelter if they will allow it. Place a local ad on CraigsList.com. Local placement means a smoother transition for the pet. Plus, it makes visiting easier.
  • Don’t place an ad in the paper for a free dog or cat. Undesirable responses might come from fighting dog trainers, who train dogs to be killers by using live animals as targets.
  • Do screen potential adopters very carefully. Find out if they've had pets before and why they want a new pet. Ask for identification, references and an address.
  • Do check all references before allowing anyone to see the pet. The best reference is one from a veterinarian. It's very easy for a person to list their friends, who may not be honest, as references.
  • Do conduct a home visit if at all possible. Get a sense of where and how the animal will live. If there are other animals, take note of how they are treated.
  • Don't be shy about requesting a follow-up visit. Or three.
  • Don't hesitate to say "no" to someone who doesn't feel right for any reason at all. If no is difficult to say, tell them that other interested people are coming later and that the final decision is still pending.
  • Do draw up a brief contract. It is legally binding (although enforcing it may be a problem). Shelters, rescue groups, or breeder organizations can offer guidelines.

What to include in the contract

The adopter should agree to:

  • Spay or neuter the animal if this has not already been done.
  • Provide proper veterinary care - yearly exams, vaccinations, and visits for suspected health problems
  • Make the pet a member of the family. That means a companion FOR LIFE.

While it’s always hard to part with a pet, taking the time to find the right home can make it just a little easier.

Credit: Reviewed by Amy I. Attas, V.M.D.
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