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.
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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 firstname.lastname@example.org.