Human/Animal Bond

I'm Moving and can't Take my Pet

Pets are not disposable, but they shouldn't be an unwanted anchor either

Revised: November 24, 2014
Published: November 24, 2014

The little terrier mix leapt out of the car, dragging a bright red leash, and ran up my porch steps like lightening. She flew into my lap to give kisses to a total stranger. Her owners were getting a divorce and each spouse was moving to a place that did not accept pets. They asked at my clinic if the veterinarians knew if anyone wanted a dog, and indeed they did. I shared my home and heart with that funny little girl for well over a decade.

Ginger's family didn't want to surrender her to the shelter because they thought she'd be euthanized there.

"We’re moving and can’t take our pet" is one of the most common reasons pets end up at one. The euthanasia rate at most shelters is too high. Do the math and you can see how large numbers of people moving to a place that doesn't accept pets adds to euthanasia statistics.

A myriad of reasons are behind the concept, but typically it's that landlords won't accept pets. Some landlords don't want to deal with tenant complaints about barking, or deal with chewed molding, cat pee, carpeting chewed by bunnies, or bird mess in every nook and cranny. Landlords have a valid point. As my father used to point out, those who make the gold make the rules. Many condominium and townhome complexes, in which residents are typically owners and not renters, won't allow dogs because of the barking potential.

If the crux of difficulty in moving with a pet is finding a place to rent that you can afford and will accept pets, ask your veterinarian for ideas. Contact your local shelter, as many have a list of local places that rent to pet owners. Try resources such as My New Place  or People with Pets.

Nonetheless, there are times when people really can't take their pet. If they have examined all the options, pursued all the leads, and feel it's impossible, then they shouldn't take their pet. It is not other people's job to judge their decisions, hard as that might be for animal lovers who only see the situation from the pet's point of view. If pet owners turn over every stone and find no workable resolution, they should not have to feel guilt slopped onto them from other people. Rehoming may be the best option, but not when it's undertaken lightly or with little effort to find appropriate housing or an adopter.

Pets are not disposable, but they shouldn't be an unwanted anchor either.

Some people end up moving far away. Sometimes people move to places where pet ownership is uncommon and there are no veterinary clinics. Military personnel cannot deploy to a war zone with their pet, although there are some organizations in which volunteers foster their pets, such as Dogs on Deployment or Pets for Patriots.   Moving from the U.S. to the UK is far easier today than it used to be, as restrictions have eased significantly. Some airlines won't accept flat-faced breeds in cargo during hot weather, and an adult English bulldog in a crate isn't going to fit under your seat. Taking a pet can be an expensive and complex facet of a life change that is already expensive and complex.

If your pet is old and chronically ill, fearful or easily stressed by changes, moving is difficult for him; this is particularly common with cats. A 19-year-old ill pet getting adopted from a shelter is not much more likely than seeing my obsession with chocolate fade. In some of these cases, rehoming may not be the best option, and euthanasia might be a kindness. If your pet is old, sick, reacts poorly to any changes, and doesn't want to do anything besides lounge around his own home dreaming of his glory days, he's likely not a good candidate to move anywhere except a place where he is already comfortable and loved, like Grandma's.

If you chose to rehome your pet, do not use "free to a good home" ads in this day and age or give the pet to people you don't know. That's how some pets end up in the hands of animal abusers, or used in dog fighting; people with bad intentions don't want to spend money on the animals they pass along. Even though Ginger was free, her family found me through a veterinary clinic, not a poster stapled to a telephone pole (that was before Craigslist and Facebook. Well before, actually, but let's not digress).

In a perfect world, we would always take our pets when we move, spend what's needed for their health, provide them with training and toys, give them plenty of regular exercise, keep them out of harm's way, brush their teeth every day, and love them deeply until they pass peacefully from this earth in our arms. But as we all know, the world is not only not perfect, it's also filled with far more grey than black and white absolutes. We are not here to judge, but to help find workable solutions.


September 23, 2023

I am in a similar position, my dogs are 6 years old, they have only known me and my family and aren't socialized. We are immigrating and just can't afford to take them with. They are my fur babies and I love them so much. When the time came to decide what to do, I realized that I would go mad wondering whether they were happy, loved and cared for should we even be able to re home them. So we decided to put them down, that way they leave this world knowing only love. This is a extremely difficult decision and even the thought makes me sad they have been there for me but I know this is what must be done. They will most likely fret if we rehomed them and I don't want them thinking we abandoned them.

December 2, 2020

I have a 5 year dog and 3 year old cat. I have to move to another state and unfortunately I can’t take them with me.  I’d never, ever EVER will consider to put them down because they cannot come with  me. The least I can do for them and all the love and contention they provided me for years is to send them to a good home  place with a loving individual or family that will accept them as I would do if I didn’t have to move. Please don’t put down your pets because you have to leave

August 29, 2019

my bf wants to move out of state with his friend and the friend’s bf. the bf of the friend, like me, would want to bring his cat as a support animal. we’d all be leaving our home and two of us won’t be able to handle it without our furry friends. the problem: the apartments there only allow two pets and i have two pets, a cat and dog. i want to bring both but that would be unfair. i can’t leave them behind but can’t take both and it’s tearing me up inside. i also don’t want to lose my bf. idk what to do. we’re going on a trip to new york in november and i’m leaving both pets behind with my mom, so it could be a trial run, but if both show signs of separation anxiety, i just might have to tell my bf to move without me. either way, i end up heart broken.

Marsha Beers
July 22, 2019

I think that when an animal at a shelter gets a home and the person that had to give them up and loved them so very much should be notified as to the fact that a good home with good people has been found instead of saying they can't do that. It is the least they could do for that so desperate soul that had to give up their little fur baby to begin with. Think of how it would help them to move on knowing that. I just adopted a tiny dog with pajamas and a harness and he was loved it was plain to see.  They spent 9 yrs with him and he was given up on his birthday none the less. Can you imagine the pain? I can't...I am so glad I went to the shelter that day to say hello to the animals and take a treat and just visit.  I am getting elderly and can't start with a puppy and was not looking that day but when this little fella and I made eye contact, well that was it. All 6 lbs. of him! I only wish his person from his past could just Know it is Ok.  He is happy so they could have that peace. I say Thank you for your love you had for him and taking him to find a loving home and not doing anything to him.  He is Happy and we are just thrilled to be his new person's...It has brought us Joy. You are always in my thought and heart and you have given me such joy and I only hope you are reading this! It is alright for you to move on..I got this! Hugs for your pain out there. Just know he is happy!

October 13, 2018

I too am moving from a situation that has been great for my 2 pit bulls, 5 fenced acres to run in with only coyotes and cows on the other side of the fence to entertain them.  1 is about 10 and has some health issues and doesn't socialize well with other dogs and the other is fun energetic but occasionally has a neurotic streak where he attacks the other one.  Have asked numerous friends about re-homing to try to keep them together but to no avail.  I have thought having them put down but felt guilty about "not trying hard enough".  Dropping them off at the pound is a death sentence anyway.  No way feels right.  Euthanizing seems to be the only sure option.  And Amber yes we are god to our pets and we don't live in a perfect world.  Sometimes the hard decision may be the best.

Pamela L. Roberts
September 5, 2018

I don't agree with the first two ladies we are not monsters we would rather our dogs put to sleep rather than wondering if someone was treated them good or abusing them and so on I have two pit bulls one is 13 + 1 is 10 who's going to adopt pit bulls anyway but these two are old and feeble I would rather them go to sleep and rest for eternity than 2 have someone take them and use them for bait dogs and Unthinkable things so if I'm a monster then so be it

March 3, 2018

Horrific beyond words. I'm moving as we speak, and my dogs and I would live in a tent before I'd abandon them.

Paula Almeida
February 14, 2018

I also agree with Martha. I would not leave my pets with anyone unless it's a close friend or family member. Someone I would be in touch with on a regular basis. Shelters are out of the question and the same goes for strangers. I am facing the same problem but with cats and am also thinking that the most humane thing to do for them is to put them to sleep. Also my cats have been contaminated with FIP and are no longer adoptable.

October 28, 2017

I have a 3yr old male Maltese terrier I've been homeless for 6mo living in downtown LA and Gordon has been with me and has come to my rescue many times my family has allowed me to come back home as long as I am willing to change my life for the better but I can not have the dog I have had this dog since birth his mamma was our first fur baby and on her 1st birthday she ran off with the neighbor hood dog but he was a fine looking street dog but never the less she was our baby can you help me with some suggestions pls I was asked to call the humane society but there is no guarentee that he will be adopted

January 18, 2017

We are facing this scenario also. With 3 yrs left until my husband retires and after only being at his new duty station about 1 yr we have just been told we have to move overseas. We have 2 elderly pit bulls,13 and 11. One that just had knee surgery 8 months ago and it was only semi successful and she is in mild to moderate pain at times and paces constantly umcomfortable, and she can be dog aggressive. Even now if we could afford the costs to move them there, about $3000 a piece, there is no where to rent that will take them. A family member may take the one that is dog friendly. We will be euthanizing the other one rather than rehoming. She would not adjust well to a  new family and would be a threat to other pets. That puts her in a shelter to be euthanized or being picked up by a not so good person for use as a bait dog or to be neglected. It is much kinder to put her down with us surrounding her than for her to suffer just to live a few more yrs in pain.

January 6, 2017

That is an absolutely terrible and selfish thing to do. Their lives have to end just because you're moving?! Are you kidding me? You're not God. You don't get to decide when it's their time. I understand that you don't want them to end up in bad homes, but if you really cared about them you would work to find them good, loving homes, instead of just killing them because that's too difficult for you to do so. I don't want my dogs to live with uncertainty so I'd rather they just be dead is completely absurd and ridiculous. You said it yourself, you're not even sure if there will be any uncertainty, just in the off chance that there is you're gonna kill them. This isn't love, whatever it is you're simply too selfish to give these dogs another chance at a good life with a kind family. I'm not sure maybe you just can't stand the idea of them being someone else's dogs and loving that family. I am so shocked and angry at this post. I cannot believe that someone who works in animal rescue would be so cruel and just deprive an animal of the rest of their years. I know that many animals have to be put down for various reasons, but putting multiple dogs down because you want to live in Florida and providing them new homes is just too much for you or whatever is so wrong. No matter how difficult this is for you, this isn't a "mercy killing", you're just killing those poor animals who trusted you.

Arlene Noonan
July 26, 2016

I agree with Martha.

Martha McLendon
May 11, 2016

I am moving from AR to FL.  I work in animal rescue and have 8 dogs of my own.  I cannot take all of them.  I believe that putting down the ones I cannot take is the safest way for them.  I know what happens in shelters and would never leave them at a shelter.  I have had them from 4 to 14 years.  They are not "socialized" in terms of what most rescues expect.  I am afraid of adoptions (even if it were likely I could find good adopters) because, like myself lives change and I do not want them to live in uncertainty.  I will hold them and my face will be the last they see so they will feel safe in my arms.  This is horribly difficult for me.  They have lived good, safe, loved lives.  Thanks.


VIN News Service commentaries are opinion pieces presenting insights, personal experiences and/or perspectives on topical issues by members of the veterinary community. To submit a commentary for consideration, email

Information and opinions expressed in letters to the editor are those of the author and are independent of the VIN News Service. Letters may be edited for style. We do not verify their content for accuracy.