Saturday, July 14, 2012

The Right Way to Surrender a Dog

Surrendering a dog is an ugly business, not just for the person or family giving them up, but also for the rescue trying to facilitate helping that dog find a foster and new forever home.  It occurred to Christie and I to post an article about this, because we think that those who are surrendering could benefit from understanding more about how to do it "the right way".

This is in no way to suggest we condone, IN ANY WAY, owner surrender, but sometimes there are exceptional cases.  Sometimes good people find themselves in bad situations. In addition, wishing no one would surrender their dog will never make it happen.  We have found that many who have contacted us for surrender do it in an unorganized manner and with little to no thought about the logistics of how the process works.  If better educated, they can make the process go more smoothly and the dog can find a new home faster.

Nine times out of ten, this is what we are on the receiving end of:  email: "Hi, I have a Great Pyrenees that I need to re-home ASAP.  Please contact me."  What ensues afterwards is a week's worth of emails back and forth, trying to ascertain the pertinent information about the dog, followed by another week of trying to educate the surrendering family about how the process works and what to expect.  This becomes more lengthy and frustrating than it needs to be; here are some tips for those seeking to surrender their dogs:
  1. Be ready to say goodbye.  By the time you reach out to rescue, have your mind made up.  Let them have said "goodbye" to the kids and friends, and be ready to get them into rescue.  Have your recent health history documents ready for transfer.  Don't say you 'don't know where they are' or you are 'unsure of their vaccination history'. Be thoughtful: rescues function on donations and volunteers.  You are getting rid of your dog; take the time to get them up to date on a vet visit and vaccines and have those documents on hand to give to the rescue.
  2. Your rescue will want to move fast.  There are a lot of dogs who need saving, and taking weeks on end to work on re-homing your dog takes up valuable time that can be spent saving more lives.  Be available to transport your dog to where he or she needs to go.  A rescue is taking your dog, doing a lot of work, and spending money: do not be unprepared to put some effort forth to help facilitate the transfer.  "Can't you just come pick him up?".  Yeah, sure... but, really?  Meet a rescue, at least, half-way.
  3. Provide information right away.  If you contact someone via email, ensure it is a thorough email which details all information about the dog. This part is really important.  Name, age, weight, sex, temperament, interactions with children/cats/other dogs, where you live, who did you get him/her from and when, how long you can keep him (how much time do we have to re-home?), can you "foster" him/her until we find a forever home (or do they need to move out into foster ASAP), and lastly and most importantly, why you are surrendering.
  4. Be honest.  Be honest about you, your dog, and especially why you are giving them away.  Without your total and complete honesty, the dog may not find it's most suitable new home.  Think about the next family:  you told the rescue it's fine with cats, but he's not.. and he bites the next family's pet.  You're afraid if you say "they are not good with kids" that the rescue won't take them.  So what?  They likely will anyway, but now they will be placed in a home with no children.  When you answer the question about why you are giving them away, consider the dog, not your reputation.  This is important in understanding the next suitable home.  If you are getting rid of your dog because you just don't like him anymore, just say it.  If it's a serious behavioral issue, it is irresponsible not disclose it.  Don't worry about what "we're" going to think, because it doesn't matter.  What matters is saving the dog and getting them into a new home.
  5. Don't expect control over the situation. You decided to surrender, so do it fast and do it right and do it honestly.  People surrender and often request to personally select their foster or their next forever home.  If that is your level of desired involvement, don't ask a rescue for help re-homing, rather do it yourself (unless you adopted from a Rescue, because re-homing yourself is in violation of your contract). You could be a great, amazing, caring person.. but bottom line, you made the wrong choice when you adopted your dog: leave the next choice for a home to the experts.
  6. Have some money put aside for this surrender.  It is courteous and right (and required by most rescues) that when you surrender, you make a donation to the rescue who is taking them.  It shows you have integrity. This will help the charitable, volunteer-run group pay for dog food and other expenses in the short term.  Hand over all toys, remaining food, and any other items you purchased for this dog previously.
  7. If you think you should surrender your dog, you probably should.  We get emails from people who are unsure and share many nervous, emotional emails about the process.  If you are looking for advice on how to *keep* your dog, contact us.  Advice on behavior, etc. is always freely given: we want you to keep your dog.  However, the right dog owner for that dog will *never* have surrender cross their mind.  I truly believe if it even comes into your thought process, then it's probably a good sign that you need to surrender them.  
  8. Last and definitely not least, if you adopted your dog from a rescue YOU MUST SURRENDER YOUR THEM BACK TO THE RESCUE YOU ADOPTED THEM FROM.  All rescues have a contract that you signed, where you legally committed to doing this.  Do not surrender to a shelter or other rescue, and do not re-home them yourselves.  In the instance you decide it is no longer going to be your dog, it becomes the "property" (bad word) of the rescue who originally provided him or her to you.  Be a person of your word.
Be thoughtful, considerate, and loving during this process.   You owe it to this dog to give him or her every bit of you in those last days or weeks. You promised to keep him or her and love them forever, and you are now breaking your promise.  No matter how well and perfectly this re-homing is made for a dog, it takes an emotional toll.  They loved you, believed in you, and gave you their heart.  Now, they are out and they don't know what they did. They will miss you, and they will never understand.  Take care of their health, communicate with the rescue appropriately and honestly, and be willing to sacrifice some gas money to get them where they need to go.  You will feel much better about your role in the surrender if you take all the appropriate steps.

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