My first instinct is to get blazing mad and call people irresponsible. It's difficult not to. Some people desert their dogs for the most selfish of reasons and I have a hard time keeping my emotions in check. For example, a local rescue recently picked up a senior dog from a (kill) shelter who had been dropped off by his owners because they were retiring and wanted to travel, and they decided that boarding him would be too expensive. Just an FYI -- if you drop your senior dog off at a kill shelter to go traveling, this makes you an asshole.
But, my co-worker isn't an asshole. So I did some thinking and proposed that instead of contacting rescues, she post an ad on Kijiji. Let me explain why:
- Shelters are, for the most part, at capacity. Only certain dogs (young, healthy, good behaviour) will qualify for adoption at shelters. The old dogs with health and behavioural issues are the first ones to be euthanized. This is where rescues come in.
- Rescues are also at capacity most times, trying to save dogs from kill shelters. This is why many rescues will take in very few owner surrenders, if they accept any at all. Owner surrender dogs have many more opportunities to be saved than dogs sitting in kill shelters.
- Rescue people -- we're a judgemental lot (see above). I knew my co-worker would be judged for surrendering the dog and I didn't want her to have to go through that or made to feel worse about it. At the end of the day if someone needs/wants to re-home their dog, they're going to do it regardless of how bad you make them feel. I suppose we should thank our lucky stars that at least some people bring their dog to a shelter/rescue instead of dumping them off on the side of the road, like many continue to do in this day and age. (And I always ask, WHY did they not bring the dog to a shelter? Were they trying to avoid judgement?)
So, Kijiji it was.
I suggested to L that she take a look at some online adoption applications and I even sent her a link for one that I like in particular. It's easy to get overwhelmed when you're in a strange situation like this and I wanted her to be prepared for when inquiries started rolling in. This way she would know what kinds of questions to ask the potential home and get a feel for whether it would be the right match for Binkie.
I was also going to advise her to ask for a re-homing fee but she beat me to the punch. If there is one thing you can do for your dog when/if you re-home them, it's to ask for a re-homing fee, even a minimal one. The goal here isn't to make money but to ensure that the people who want your dog have the best intentions and aren't just emailing you because, hey, FREE dog. I don't care if you got your first dog for free or you gave away a dog once for free and they lived happily ever after -- don't take that chance. Far too many bad things have resulted from dogs being giving away for free through classifieds. And, if your dog isn't spayed or neutered he or she can be a gold mine for a puppy mill. If you think it doesn't happen in your area, think again.
If you decide to post your dog on Kijiji, make sure to write an honest but flattering profile. Re-read the profile. If you were looking for a pet, would you want to adopt this dog? Pretend that it's a dating site and put your dog's best paw forward, so to speak. Include some nice photos with good lighting, preferably taken outside. And don't forget about the re-homing fee!
After you've weeded through the emails and narrowed down one or two good matches, meet with these folks in person and see how they interact with your dog. Whether you meet with them at your home or theirs is up to you, but when I'm meeting potential adopters for my fosters I prefer to have the meet and greet at their home. People are usually more relaxed in their home environment and it gives you the chance to see where your dog will be living.
If you want to go above and beyond, you can even ask the potential adopter's permission to do a vet reference check if they have/had other pets. Many rescues do this and believe it or not, I know of some cases where contacting the vet prevented less than stellar adoptions from going through thanks to the vet's honesty.
At the end of the day, L found a wonderful home for Binkie who gets to spend all day with her new person since she brings her to work every day. L has received updates and photos, and even though she is struggling with the guilt over re-homing her, she can see that Binkie is happy. I'm incredibly proud of L for making sure that Binkie ended up in a happy home and for doing the work herself instead of placing the burden on a shelter or rescue. As an added bonus, L's own dog is adjusting wonderfully to being an only dog and is happier than ever.
So if you're one of those people who needs to re-home their pet: please do the responsible thing and try to find the best home possible yourself. Don't dump your dog off at a shelter (especially a kill shelter). Contrary to popular belief, SPCAs and Humane Societies weren't created to take in unwanted pets - they were created to help neglected and abused animals. Of course this gets harder and harder to do when shelters are overrun by people's unwanted pets, so please don't add to that problem, or ask a rescue to do the work you should be doing. You're the one who knows your pet and you have a responsibility to make sure they end up in a safe and loving place.