Last week at my local dog park a sweet little Chihuahua was found in the bath rooms. She was sitting on the counter, where she must have been placed, patiently waiting for the owner who did not return. This little girl had obviously been well cared for and, presumably at one time, loved.
What would prompt someone to do such a seemingly callous thing to a pet who surely doesn’t deserve it?
These days, all too often the problem is that the owners lose their homes and are unable, or unwilling, to include the family pet in their future plans. “Moving” is perhaps the most commonly-used excuse for pet abandonment. Sadly, there will always be heartless folk who leave their critters behind for no good reason. The Chihuahua was lucky, one of the park workers immediately offered to give her a home. (The alternative was a date with the dog catcher). So for those of you who care enough, here are a few things you can do to be prepared for the worst.
Plan ahead. If you know you are in danger of losing your home then start looking for an alternative immediately. You may still be able to buy a home by finding an owner willing to finance you. Ironically, because of the serious market conditions, there are more landlords right now who are willing to rent with pets. And the high pet deposits that landlords used to ask can now often be negotiated. Just don’t wait ’til the last minute; start now to check the classifieds or contact a real estate agent and tell them your exact needs and situation. You can also go to apartments.com to search for pet-friendly rentals.
Be responsible. Landlords are more likely to be willing to rent to you if they feel assured that you are a responsible pet owner. So create a review of your pet’s health and welfare. Include a summary of vaccinations, proof of sterilization and licensing (if required), certificates of achievement for training, personal recommendations of your pet’s good behavior from friends, veterinarians, trainers, etc. You should also be willing to sign a pet policy agreement and then make sure that you keep your four-pawed (or feathered or reptilian) family member under control at all times.
“Sell your pet”. If a landlord is still hesitant, why not offer to bring your pet to meet him at the home? The idea being, of course, that when the landlord meets Fluffy or Snake or whoever, he won’t be able to resist the little darling. (Obviously, this plan is based upon the premise that you indeed are a responsible pet owner and that Fluffy really is a little darling). Point out that a barking dog could be an asset to keeping the home secure. Try and think of other reasons why your pet would be a plus in the neighborhood.
Get it in writing. Assuming you now have a new rental home, be sure you have a written authorization to keep your pet on the property from the landlord, home owners’ association and any other interested parities.
Make contacts. Get in touch with shelters, breeders, veterinarians and any other organizations who may be able to give advice, or even assistance, in relocating with your pet.
Contact family and friends. Ask everyone within your circle of family and friends if they would be willing to “foster” Fido ’til you can get back on your feet. If they can’t help, perhaps they know someone who can. I actually have agreements with friends that if they find themselves in the position of losing their homes, they and their critters can move in with me. Conversely, if I were to find myself homeless, me and my 9 dogs and cat can move in with my friends. Don’t think I don’t know how lucky I am to have such wonderful people in my life!
Find temporary placement for your pet. Don’t be shy about asking shelters or boarding kennels if they can take in your pet on a temporary basis for a low fee. A woman I know was able to negotiate an inexpensive deal with the doggy camp she had used on an occasional basis to house her two dogs for an extended period of time while she was dealing with a housing crisis. You might also advertise for a temporary home and offer a small fee to care for Fluffy and Snake until you are able to take them back.
Find a permanent home. If the worst does happen and you have to re-home your pet permanently, start by asking all your contacts. Place advertisements in local papers and on local web sites. Make up flyers and post them at vets’ offices and any other places that will allow them. Be very, very careful to screen potential “parents” and never advertise your pet as “Free”. Remember, there are lots of uncaring and unscrupulous people out there, which is another reason why we have so many abandoned and abused animals in need.
Find a shelter. You’ve exhausted every avenue and have been unable to find a home for Snake and Fluffy, temporary or permanent. The last option is a shelter. Be sure you take them to a no-kill shelter. It is not an option to simply leave your pet behind or drop them off in the woods or, as in the chihuahua’s case, in a public restroom. That is absolutely cruel and irresponsible and, in many states, downright illegal. So go to No Paws Left Behind and Petfinder to search for rescue organizations in your area.
Prepare a pet package for your pet in his new home. In anticipation of successfully re-homing Fluffy and Snake, be sure the new parents are well-informed with the same summary you prepared for the prospective landlord but also include the pets’ normal routine. And, very importantly, consider how you can make your pet’s transition to a new home as stress-free as possible. Snake may seem tough but even he is going to be unsettled by change. So put together some familiar things – pet bed, favorites toys, favorite treats and such.
As of this posting there were 1.3 million foreclosures in the last quarter. That’s huge, and likely to get worse. Any one of us may become victims, along with our pets, and lose our homes. Please don’t assume it won’t happen to you. Be prepared!
“A house is not a home without a pet.” ~ Anonymous
Hans Rudi Vollmer
My Passion: Dogs