Life Happens — The Reality of Animal Surrender
by Danielle Cookish
When Vanessa experienced a financial hardship that forced her to move, she was immediately struck with a second painful realization. She had no choice but to move to a place that didn’t allow pets. Her cat, Jameson, was adopted from a local shelter and had been her companion for three years. Vanessa did not want to find Jameson a new home, as she’d grown close to the friend who greeted her every morning and on her return from work, who always offered his cheeks for petting, and was a consistent source of joy in her life.
So many are faced with these gut-wrenching situations and given no choice but to part ways with their beloved pets. It’s painful, and it happens a lot.
The topic of surrender and rehoming has taken on a heavy stigma. It’s socially accepted that the person going through it should feel guilt and shame. The reality is most people, under the added burden of criticism and judgment, feel grief and helplessness. Moving to a place that doesn’t allow pets, financial hardship, and the passing of a pet’s primary caregiver are very common reasons for animals being surrendered to shelters. Recirculated surrender stories of a pet simply reaching old age, shedding, or an upcoming family vacation are actually very rare.
Aside from reasons out of our control, some animals are rehomed because it’s just not the right fit. Not every home will be a pet’s forever home and that’s okay. Pet ownership comes with the responsibility of doing everything in your power to do right by your animal companion and meet their needs to the best of your ability. If a pet has an opportunity to find a new home where they can experience a higher quality of life, this should be supported instead of shunned. These decisions are very difficult but are made out of love, respect, and compassion, where an owner puts the pet’s needs above their own.
Dakin’s goal is to help keep people and pets together whenever possible. We’ve developed programs and services that work to prevent pet surrender or rehoming by providing needed resources. These include behavioral support to adopters to work through issues like a cat who is soiling outside of their litter box, or training referrals to help keep the family dog from excitedly jumping on houseguests. The Pet Food Aid Program provides cat and dog food to families facing food insecurity and those going through hardships that make buying pet food difficult or impossible.We are passionate about these topics because we all share a love of animals and care deeply about their comfort and safety. Time spent working together in the best interest of the pet is more valuable than time spent placing blame or passing judgment. Our experience has reminded us that people are inherently good and will make good decisions for animals when they are treated with kindness and understanding, and when they have enough information and resources.