Sunday, May 20, 2012

I need to surrender my pet because...

Here at the rescue, we have been inundated with surrender requests lately.  As much as we’d love to save every animal out there from an unpleasant fate, we just can’t physically or financially take them all on.  Perhaps you are thinking of surrendering your bunny, guinea pig, or other pet.  Did you know that some of the most common reasons for dumping a pet can easily be overcome?  Here are some of those reasons, and some solutions.  Some solutions are simple, and others will take a little more work.  We hope that this will help some pets keep their homes – after all, pets should be a commitment for life.
I’m moving, and my new place doesn’t allow pets.
Yes, I rent.  Like many people, home ownership is not feasible for me right now.  Yes, I have pets.  I have 2 bunnies and 2 guinea pigs of my own, as well as various fosters that pass through here.  When I was searching for a new place, the first question I asked was, “Are my pets allowed?”  I know firsthand that finding pet-friendly rentals takes a LOT of work.  I also know that I would never give up any of my pets, so I committed myself to taking time to do the research.  

If you have pets and are looking to rent a new place, give yourself some time.  Start looking before it becomes an emergency.  When asking if pets are allowed, be specific.  You’d be surprised at how many places will allow dogs but not rabbits.  Or will only allow cats.  Or will not allow certain breeds of dogs.  Find out EXACTLY what kinds of pets are allowed.

Expect to pay a pet deposit.  Don’t be surprised if it’s non-refundable.  You took on the responsibility of a pet – consider this one of your expenses.

I have found that many places don’t want to allow rabbits because “they smell” and are “farm animals”.  Explain to them that your rabbits are spayed/neutered (they are, right?) and that they are litter box trained.  Many landlords don’t realize this, and will allow rabbits if you explain that rabbits are a lot cleaner than they realize.  However – if your landlord decides to allow your rabbits (or other pets) – be sure to get it in writing so they can’t come back later and say the pets are not allowed!

The Humane Society of the United States has a very good page detailing tips on renting with pets:

There are many ways to search for pet-friendly rentals online. has a pet-friendly search:

I have recently developed allergies.
Unless your allergies are life-threatening (which DOES happen and we have taken in animals from families who needed to surrender for this reason), most rescuers see this as a rather ridiculous excuse.  A couple of us here at the rescue have bad allergies to hay!  There are ways to manage allergies.   As far as rabbits go, many people are surprised to hear that rarely are people allergic to the actual rabbit.  In most cases, the allergy is to the hay.  Of course, hay and rabbits are a bundled package – you can’t get rid of the hay.  Here’s what you CAN do:

Try different varieties of hay.  Personally, I find I am HORRIBLY allergic to 1st cut timothy (I think it’s the seed heads and pollen).  I break out in hives if I touch it, my eyes swell, and I get severely congested.  I use 2nd or 3rd cut timothy for my critters.  Shop around for less dusty hays.  I have found Sweet Meadow and Kleen Mama to be less dusty than Oxbow (which is an excellent hay, I’m just more allergic to it).  Try different varieties of hay.  Timothy is the most commonly fed, but you can feed other varieties such as orchard grass or brome.

Never keep hay in your bedroom – keep an “allergy-free” zone to give your body a break.  Living in a condo, I keep my hay in a plastic Rubbermaid bin.  Just make sure the hay is in a cool, dry place and gets a chance to “breathe”.  Moldy hay is deadly hay.  You can buy dust masks and gloves to handle hay.  You might look ridiculous, but it helps!  Buy HEPA filters and place them in allergen-prone rooms.  Make sure your vacuum cleaner has good filters.  Mine does, and it was a $60 Bissell, so it doesn’t need to break the bank.

Here is a good article written by an allergy sufferer:

Here are some allergy tips from the Colorado House Rabbit Society:

I’m busy right now, and I feel bad that I’m not spending enough time with my pet.
Odds are, your pet will make it through this busy period in your life without being terribly affected.   Hopefully, things will slow down eventually, and you can spend more time with your pet.  Sure, Fluffy might be peeved that all you had time to do in the morning is refill food and water and give a quick pat on the head, but as long as you can keep up basic care needs during the busy times, she’ll be okay.  It’s a lot more traumatic to tear an animal away from the home and people they’ve always known and put it into a rescue situation.  If you’re going through a busy time, make sure your pet has a big enough area to live in (i.e. a big exercise pen for a bunny or a large C&C cage for guinea pigs).  Do you have a less busy friend or family member who could help out with your pets until your life calms down a bit?  Please consider these options before uprooting your pet from his or her home.  

There is an unexpected illness in the family.
Family illness is a terrible thing to go through, and takes up time and financial resources.  We do understand that it may not be feasible to keep your pet through this difficult time.  However, here is something to consider.  Animals are well-documented stress relievers.  One of our volunteers is currently going through this exact situation.  She is dealing with illness in the family, and still manages to juggle work, her own pets, and multiple fosters.  She recently took a disabled bunny to foster, and says that he has helped her find peace through all the stress.  Sitting quietly with him and cleaning him takes her mind off of the worries of the day.

For more on the stress-relieving properties of pets, check out this article:

 I have a new baby.

“I just got a new pet.  I have to get rid of the baby,” said no one NEVER!  Really, we know a lot of people who have a pet (even multiple pets) who have babies and keep their pets.  Sure, having a baby is a big deal.  We realize you are tired and stressed – but should your pets be ripped out of their home?  They are family members too.  Is there a friend or family member who can help out with pet care during the first couple of months if it really is too much?  Many of our volunteers and foster homes have young children.  It IS possible.

This is geared more toward dogs and cats, but here is an article on preparing pets for the arrival of a new baby:

My bunny is aggressive and smells bad!
Sounds like it’s time to get Bunny fixed!  Spaying or neutering your bunny will get rid of the strong odor associated with intact rabbits, and will help with negative behaviors such as spraying or aggression.  PLEASE give your bunny a chance – it’s not your bunny’s fault he or she is being driven mad by hormones!  We can help.  We can help you find a vet to spay/neuter your bunny.  We can give you advice on behavioral issues.  Please don’t contribute to the population of unwanted rabbits for problems that are easily fixable.  

So there you have it.  Common excuses for surrendering pets and their solutions!  We do realize that there are circumstances in which it is impossible for someone to keep their pet.  Oftentimes in the most severe cases, the pet owner has done everything possible to keep their pet, and contacted us when there was no option left.  We respect that, and do what we can to help.  It’s the emails that say, “I bought a bunny for my kids for Easter and they’re tired of it.  Please come get it” that make us rescuers want to scream.  A pet is a family member – a commitment for the life of the pet.  Guinea pigs typically live 5-7 years.  Rabbits can live 10-12 years – or more!  Before bringing any pet into your life, please consider the pet’s needs as well as your situation, and make the best decision for both of you.

If you truly have a serious reason to re-home your pet...
We will do our best to help.  If we are full and cannot take in your pet, here are a few other options:
  1. For bunnies, try listing in the adoption forums of 
  2. For guinea pigs, try listing in the adoption forums of the Guinea Pig Cages site. 
  3. Other animal adoption forums:  a Google search for your breed of pet and "adoption forums" should turn up something. 
  4. IF you list on Craig's List, be careful.  Do NOT list as "free to a good home".  Your pet may end up as snake food or some other horrifying fate.  If you do go this route, ask for a re-homing fee (enough to discourage someone looking for cheap snake food).  Interview the potential home.  It is your responsibility to make sure your pet goes to a good home.
  5. Contact your local shelter, but be aware that many shelters do euthanize.  This is why we try to pull from shelters rather than taking private surrenders.
  6. Do NOT dump your pet in the wild.  It is a death sentence.