Responsible Rehoming

On May 27, 2015, in North Charleston, SC, a 15-month-old Staffordshire terrier mix named Caitlyn was found with black electrical tape wound tightly around her muzzle, her tongue caught between her teeth. When doctors removed the tape, her muzzle swelled to double its normal size. She may need surgery, and she could lose her life.

"This is the most malicious case of animal abuse I have seen in my entire career," wrote the Charleston Animal Society's Director.

Caitlyn's previous owners contacted the authorities with information on the man who'd bought their dog 2 days earlier. According to the couple, the dog was a rambunctious puppy who was destructive in their home. They couldn't give Caitlyn the time and training she needed and were afraid they might be evicted. They sold her for $10 on Memorial Day. They say it's one of the biggest mistakes they've ever made.

If you are unable to keep your pet, you can take steps to prevent this type of tragedy and ensure that your pet finds the loving forever home it deserves.

First, consider whether you could keep your pet if you had a little help. Frederick County Animal Control & Pet Adoption Center (FCAC) has resources such as a pet food bank, useful advice for solving behavioral issues, and information on programs that can assist with veterinary costs.

If you must rehome your pet, decide whether to contact a rescue group, search for a loving forever home on your own, or bring your pet to FCAC. If you choose to contact a rescue group, make certain that it is reputable and not a cover for illegal animal trading. (see "Rescue Me," Kennel Connection, vol. 1, issue 1)

If you decide to try to find your pet a forever home yourself, first do what you can to prepare your pet for adoption. Have it spayed or neutered, update its vaccines, obtain a copy of your pet's veterinary records, bathe your pet or have it groomed, and take several flattering pictures.

Advertise your pet through your network of family, friends, trusted neighbors and coworkers, and your veterinary clinic. Provide a photo and a detailed description, including any health or behavioral issues. Also, state your adoption fee. A fee may discourage abusers from considering your pet; and, as long as it's a reasonable fee, it won't deter legitimate adopters. Never give your pet away "free to a good home."

Screen applicants with a telephone interview. Questions could include: Why are you interested in my pet? Can you have pets where you live? Where will the pet sleep and how long will it be left alone during the day? Who is your veterinarian? Can I visit your home? Can you provide references? If you're satisfied with the applicant's answers, arrange a meet and greet in a neutral public place. The applicant should bring along all family members, including other pets. Observe how the potential adopters interact with your pet. Trust your instincts. If you are not completely sure that you've found the right match for your pet, keep looking. If your situation is such that you can't keep looking, it's time to get in touch with FCAC or a rescue organization.

If you find the right match for your pet, have the adopter sign an adoption agreement that includes his/her contact information, the adoption fee, transfer of ownership, and a stipulation that if the adopter can no longer keep the pet, you will be notified. Provide the new owner with the pet's veterinary records, toys/beds, medications, and food.

Above all, remember to take advantage of the resources available to you through FCAC. If you need help, just ask.