On a daily basis, heartbroken people choke back tears as they say goodbye to their pets when they surrender them at our shelter. Deciding to turn a pet into an animal shelter is often a very emotional and difficult experience. It catches people off guard, even when they thought that they were prepared and had made the best decision possible.
Whatever the reason, whether it’s the pet’s behavior or some kind of lifestyle change for the person that has led them to the conclusion that they cannot keep their pet, most people report feelings of grief and guilt. For the pet, it is the loss of the life and people they know and love. The saddest part is that, in at least some cases, there are other options that the heartbroken person was not aware existed.
Given the emotional cost of giving up a pet, we try to help people make that difficult decision for all the right reasons. In a surprising number of cases, we are able to help people find a way to keep their pet as a member of their family. Sometimes the solutions are challenging, but in most cases it is far easier than you might imagine.
The two most common reasons for giving up a pet are a troubling behavior the pet is exhibiting or a lifestyle change for the person. When a pet is doing something that is not acceptable, it can be rather distressing and perplexing. However, there are often solutions to even seemingly intractable behavior problems.
One family called us last week to give up their cat because their cat was missing the litter box and doing her business in the most annoying places. A young woman called because she had given up on her out-of-control dog; she could no longer have people over and walking the dog was a chore because the dog was pulling constantly. Another caller talked about how his dog just would not stay in the back yard and kept getting out and into trouble; it seemed impossible to keeping the dog contained. Each of these callers felt that there was little hope of finding a solution, but our Animal Help Desk staff at Nevada Humane Society was able to help each of the callers resolve the problem and keep their pet.
In some cases, resolving a behavior problem can be as simple as a visit to a vet clinic. What can seem to be behavioral can actually be a symptom of a medical problem treat the medical problem and the behavior is resolved too. In other cases, some training or basic behavior modification techniques can put things back on track. There are things you can do on your own, but the help of a professional trainer can make a tremendous difference very quickly. There are also many types of tools and specialized pet supplies available that can help you control a strong dog on a walk, keep a pet in the yard, end chewing or clawing furniture, or draw a kitty back to the litter box.
Lifestyle changes, such as relocation, a new baby, pet allergies, or the loss of a job, are the most common reason for giving up a pet. While these can seem even more intractable than behavior problems, this is not necessarily so. We have helped people find pet-friendly housing, manage allergies, and find temporary care for their pets.
Since most people are not animal behavior experts or aware of every option available for their pet, Nevada Humane Society’s Animal Help Desk is an invaluable free resource available to everyone. We often hear from grateful people who have found the solution they did not dream was possible. But even if, in the end, the pet really cannot stay with their person, a shelter still may not be the best option. We can help people find the best solution for both them and their pet.
Those who seek out help and advice find that, even if they cannot keep their pet, they feel better and experience less stress and guilt over their decision. We all feel best when we know that we are making the best possible decisions for ourselves and our pets.