Not to long ago I covered different reasons given why pets were given up. Now I would like to look at a few things people can do to increase the chance a pet will stay in the home. This is a general overview. What needs to be done will vary critter to critter.
Do not do anything on impulse. Think and research. Can you safely manage the animal you want? What is need for environment and enrichment? Can you meet daily needs for the next 2 – 70+ years? Are you able and willing to appropriately meet dietary requirements? Are you going to be a good fit for the animal and vice versa? Is a new pet going to mesh well with current pets? Will you be raising the pet or expecting a home health aide, nanny, or your children to do the work? Will you bring in help to meet the critter’s needs? What will happen if you move, start a family, bring an ailing relative in to your house?
Next, know state and local laws, HOA covenants and lease restrictions. For example, hedgehogs are not legal in all Virginia counties. You need a permit to own a ferret in Washington, DC. Pit Bulls, as of last check, are banned in PG Co, MD. I consulted with a dog owner who adopted a dog 100lbs over the 50lbs weight limit for his rental. He admittedly knew the weight restrictions before adopting yet was shocked when he was told by management to move or get rid of the dog. The dog also had serious behavioral issues. After the dog went after several people in the community, someone complained to management.
Be proactive. Confusion, boredom, lack of training, lack of resources (too few litter boxes, toys, etc.), can lead to undesired behaviors. Working to reduce the chance of something starting goes a long way to keeping a pet in the house. Even with proactive owners, things will crop up. Proactive owners address concerns fast. Waiting can worsen things to the point where some owners decide or are forced to give up a pet (think animal control complaints, legal issues, insurance).
No matter how much we prepare for things, life can throw us a curve ball. When my husband was in a serious accident, we had two young kids and he needed a lot of home care. I sucked it up and did two things: I hired a poop scoop service and did grocery delivery for a few weeks. Just having two tasks taken care of for a few weeks helped. When I was dealing with cancer not that long ago my husband and kids took over a lot of the critter care. It is OK to ask for help or hire it.
Other life changes include moves. In 1997 we moved from Massachusetts to Virginia with two dogs, four cat, some rabbits and a couple guinea pigs. It took two cars and planning, but we did it. We had a great real estate agent who hooked us up with a vet for boarding. The moment you know a move is a possibility you need to begin planning for your pets. Rarely do people have to move at the drop of a hat. Even evictions take time. As pet owners we need to do all we can to ensure our pets can move with us.
Being prepared and proactive can go a long way towards keeping a pet in the home. However, even with all the work we do, sometimes keeping the pet is not in the best interest of the pet or humans. For more on this, read the link in the first paragraph.
This was originally published in a shorter version in Inside NoVA.