When Adoption Fails

Nothing is more discouraging to a pet lover than a failed adoption. You fully intend to give a loving, permanent home to a pet in need, and instead you find yourself over your head with an unexpected medical or behavioral issue, or simply stuck with a pet that absolutely can’t mesh with your household. If you’re struggling to fit an adopted pet into your life, but just can’t make it work, please do not harm the pet or turn it loose to fend for itself. It may be embarrassing to call the rescue and admit things aren’t working out, but you won’t be the first nor the last person to do so.

Is the Situation Really Hopeless?

When an adoption isn’t working out, the first question to ask yourself is, “Is this really a hopeless situation?” If you know for sure that the answer is yes, call the shelter or rescue immediately and ask to return your adopted pet. Most will allow you to do so with no penalty. In fact, many rescues require that pets adopted from them be returned to the rescue if the adopter can no longer house the pet.

If you’re not sure whether or not it’s really a foregone conclusion that your adoptee must find another home, consider working to keep the pet. If you’re experiencing a behavior problem, call the rescue. Many shelters and rescues employ trainers or behaviorists who can work with you at an affordable price. Training often gives owners a whole new perspective on their pets’ issues, and can solve even many serious problems. If it’s a medical issue causing problems, see if the shelter or rescue has an in-house veterinarian who can give you a second opinion. Sometimes shelters will help with veterinary costs if a pet was adopted out with a health problem that was unintentionally not disclosed to the adopter.

Sometimes an adoption doesn’t work simply because of incompatibility; what seemed like a calm cat at the shelter turns into a maniac at home, or the energetic rescue dog becomes a couch potato once his life stabilizes, disappointing a family of joggers. When this is the case, consider giving the new pet at least 30-60 days to adjust. Rehoming is a very stressful event for pets. They will often go through what seems like a series of drastic personality changes immediately following adoption.

If You Had to Return a Pet…

When all else fails and you have to return an adoptee to the shelter or rescue from which you adopted it, you may feel guilt, grief, and anger. That’s understandable. However, you may feel a little better if you help the returned pet find a forever home. The shelter might let you take it to adoption events, or even help to advertise it online or with flyers in local pet stores.

As for your own household, give everyone in the family time to process the unfortunate experience before jumping into another adoption. When you do try again, take your time, and consider looking for an organization that will let you take a pet on a trial basis after filling out a foster home application.

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