When Is It Time to Surrender Your Dog?

Samson, the giant Great Dane-Newfoundland crossbreed said to be Britain’s
biggest dog, needs surgery on his injured foot, but his owners are on fixed
incomes. Does this make them unfit to keep Samson?
photo via the Daily mail

You want only the best for your best friend—always. But what happens when the best thing for your dog is parting ways with you? The choice to surrender a dog isn’t an easy one and should never be taken lightly. Often it’s heart-wrenching. But in certain circumstances, it’s the right call.

Let’s take a close look at the most common reasons people surrender their dogs, how to surrender your dog humanely if you decide it’s your only choice, and ways to avoid giving up your dog if at all possible.

Why Do People Give Up Their Dogs?

Problem pet behavior, moving, and health problems (for owners and dogs) are among the top reasons people give up their pets (both dogs and cats), according to a 2015 survey by the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA).

Among the surrenders related to the pet, 35 percent were due to aggression, 29 percent to destructive behavior, and 26 percent to health problems. The highest percentage of family-related surrenders were attributable to health problems and allergies in owners, while housing-related surrenders were attributed to landlord issues or not having room for a pet.

Knowing your limits as a pet owner can give your dog his best chance for a happy life. Giving up a dog does not make a person an unfit pet owner. Responsibly surrendering an animal can be the best option for the dog. Most shelters no longer view giving up a pet as a reason to deny future adoptions, as was once the case.

How to Responsibly Surrender Your Dog

If surrendering your dog is the best option for your situation, these suggestions can help you rehome him responsibly. If you adopted your dog from a shelter or purchased him from a breeder, your signed contract may require that you return him there should you need to relinquish ownership. If so, abide by this agreement.

Some owners prefer to personally rehome their dog. Rehoming a dog takes planning, patience, and effort. Finding the ideal family can take weeks to months of hard work. Spaying or neutering prior to rehoming can make your pet more adoptable—and it slows the cycle of unwanted litters.

Thoroughly interview any potential adopter to determine the best match. Consider asking for a vet reference. Keep in mind: The veterinarian can’t release information about the home in question without consent from the owner.

While the numbers of ‘Free to a Good Home’ horror stories are inflated, some nefarious opportunists do take advantage of people rehoming pets. A small rehoming fee may discourage an adopter with negative motives. The fee may also demonstrate an interested person’s ability to provide long-term care for an animal. If someone balks at a small fee, they may not be prepared for the cost of caring for a dog. If charging a family to take in your beloved pet doesn’t sit well with you, consider donating the rehoming fee to the local animal shelter.

Your veterinarian’s office may offer rehoming resources for clients. Other clients often reach out to the vet and office staff when they’re looking for a new pet, so they may have leads on potential homes. And veterinarian offices may also have resources to help you keep your pet.

Ensure the facility is legitimate before surrendering your dog to a rescue or shelter. Research the location and ask to see the operation prior to dropping off your dog. Look for cleanliness and observe the condition of the animals in their care. The shelter may require an intake evaluation and interview with you, as well. Be upfront about your pet’s medical or behavioral concerns and your reasons for surrender. This helps staff get to know your dog and find the best home possible.

Be honest about your dog’s bite history, especially. Keeping aggressive behaviors or a bite history a secret is dangerous. If you rehome your dog yourself and he bites someone, you may be held liable. Many shelters will not accept an animal with a bite history; if they do it may be only for the purpose of euthanasia. Finding a suitable home for a dog who bites requires a savvy, experienced professional. A rescue with a strong track record in rehabilitating aggressive dogs may be willing to accept a dog with a bite history, but there are no guarantees.

How to Avoid Surrendering Your Dog

Many local shelters, rescue groups, and veterinarian offices provide resources as an alternative to surrendering a pet. Because the cost of caring for an animal in a shelter can be more expensive than giving assistance directly to families in need, many animal shelters provide limited food and supplies in an effort to keep pets in their homes. In addition, low-cost vaccine and spay/neuter clinics can lessen the burden when it comes to preventative care for pets.

In the case of natural disasters, a house fire, or other emergencies, assistance—including temporary boarding or food and supplies—may be available through the Red Cross or other disaster response agencies. Military members can reach out to Dogs on Deployment for temporary foster homes if they are deployed. If you struggle to find a landlord who accepts animals, shelters and vet’s offices may maintain a list of dog-friendly housing options.

If pet health concerns or financial challenges arise, reach out to your veterinarian to discuss payment plan options. Vet’s offices may have funds for low-income families who need assistance with their pet’s medical bills. Some providers cover the full cost of care, while others provide treatment at a lower rate for families in need. If no funds are in place, CareCredit may offer financing solutions that allow for monthly payments within your budget.

Combat behavioral challenges with dog obedience training or extra exercise. Shelters may offer low-cost obedience classes or training consults. Contact the veterinarian to ensure that your dog’s behavioral issues are not caused by underlying medical concerns—this includes changes in behavior, aggression, or destructive behaviors. Spaying or neutering may help ameliorate some behavioral problems.

If you worry that your dog doesn’t get enough attention, consider a doggy daycare or a lunchtime dog walker who can spend some quality time with your canine companion.

Whether you’ve reached the decision to surrender your dog, or you’re trying to figure out how to keep your dog—this is an upsetting process. Reach out to friends and family to share what’s happening. You’ll need their support through the experience and after you have said goodbye.

Oroginal Story:

Here’s an interesting story out of England. I was initially going to post this as a canine-interest “Wow, look at the size of this dog!” story (he’s over seven feet long) until I read the comments below the story from readers in the Daily Mail. There seems to be a lot of debate about whether Samson’s owners, Ray and Julie Woods—pensioners who say they don’t have the money to pay for surgery on the dog’s injured foot—should give up the animal that they have taken care of and loved since they adopted him seven years ago. In 2008, the couple went public with a similar plea to raise funds for surgery on Samson’s leg, and the required funds came pouring in.

What do you think? Does the Woods’s inability to pay large veterinary fees make them unfit to take care of Samson, a dog whose size would make him very difficult to place in another home? Or does their obvious affection for and daily care of the large dog make them good owners who just happen to be on a fixed income? What do you think?

19 thoughts on “When Is It Time to Surrender Your Dog?”

  1. I will surrender my dog to blue cross…bcoz we r travelling now cant maintain it…its black dalmition…now 11 months old. Put all injections and de worming tablets…

      1. Quit with the judgement. Maybe she’s traveling for work???? You don’t know their situation. Did you only come here to troll????

      2. What a ridiculous and uninformed blanket statement. How is it that you’re an expert on someone else’s experience without knowing any details? Shameful and lacking in empathy or the ability to think past your own bias.

  2. I have a 14 year old female chow chow and German Shepherd mix. Lately for the past three months she’s been getting seizures now they getting worse she’s get five six a day even seven I can’t afford no medicine I can’t afford to help her .I’m honestly think of surrendering her and I’m also disable myself. Can someone give me some suggestions on if anyone can come pick her up she is a sweetheart but I just don’t want to see her suffer.

    1. She’s 14 with progressively worse seizures – it may be time to humanely euthanize as opposed to rehoming. It’s excruciatingly painful to say goodbye, but given her health concerns- I’d consider the emotional toll rehoming for her final year or so would inflict as slightly worse than having her owner with her for her passing. I’m so sorry you’re going through this. Hugs for whichever path you take.

  3. Hello so. I have a terrier an older dog so his name is Eddie , my husband passed away on November 2020of heart issues which left me with Eddie whom does not listen to me has snapped at me and my grandchildren, I have to sell my home and cannot take him with me is up to date with his shots can some help me please thank you

  4. I have a 9 year Terrier his name is Rex I’ve loved him all his life had him since he was a puppy great dog and a really good friend . We recently got a new dog who is two now and they get along but lately when eating they’ve been getting into fights and I can have that he’s a great one on one dog and I need assistance on what to do cause I don’t want to put him down and I don’t wanna surrender him cause he’ll thinking I’m abandoning him…….. it’s tough situation?! Can anyone help!?

    1. Why would you get a new dog? And why would you surrender your older dog rather then the other one?

    2. I have the same problem as well. My female Siberian Husky, who is 99% blind & deaf, & my significant others dog, female mix pit, didn’t get along when they first met, but their relationship with each other eventually got better within time. They would play with each other, lick each other & be lovey dovey, but it wasn’t til recently my Husky would lash out of nowhere at her. At first it was about the ice/treats, then the food, & then now we think it’s about territory/dominance. The pitty always humps my Husky & doesn’t get aggressive, but if my Husky is laying on the bed & the pitty wants to lay down next to my significant other she gets protective or maybe she just simply doesn’t want her laying there. Either way, it’s extremely upsetting knowing how good of a pet she is when my Husky is by herself, & if I’m completely honest with myself, it hurts to even think about turning her in. Finding dog trainers who specialize in blind & deaf pets is extremely hard to find & when I do find them they’re extremely difficult to afford. I don’t want her thinking I abandoned her, but I have one other option, which is to neuter her in hoping it will calm down her aggression, or it could possibly make it worse, but if that ends up being the case, finding a new home for her is the way to go.

  5. A friend adopted a dog and then he had to send him back a week later because the dog got into the duck hutch and killed his parents ducks (his parents love their ducks). Is this an acceptable reason to quickly send a dog back to the shelter?

  6. I have a 1 year old labrador male and he plays very rough. This is not something we have tought him or put up with. We have had 3 different dog trainers with him over the past 12 months but he still continues to jump and bite, mouth you if you tell him no and bite, causing bruising and cutting skin. Positive reinforcement, training, exercise, love and attention have all been part of the daily routine.

    I love him but I am also concerned for my wife and my safety if this continues throughout his life. I don’t know if he is aggressive but my wife and I are at our wits end.

    I’m seriously considering surrendering him to a shelter as we have been trying to correct the behaviour for months now with it not getting much better if any.

  7. My husband and I adopted two rescue dogs in 2019 from a kill shelter in Manitoba. They have been together since birth, the older of the two, The male is a wonderful dog with no problems and is very obidient. His sister, on the other hand is riddled with behavioral problems. She will not go to the bathroom outside no matter what we do, even if we take her out for hours she’ll wait until we’re back in the house to relieve herself. She jumps our 6 foot fence anytime left unattended in the backyard, we then installed an electric fence to keep her in but now she just digs under it- she does not come back when called even with treats or a toy. We’ve had two close calls with her being hit by a car. While she knows all the commands she refuses to listen to either of us, we have spent thousands on training for her with little success. My question is, should we surrender both of them as a bonded pair or just The female as The male is not problematic in any way. We love her we do but neither of us can cope with her anymore. I believe she needs somewhere with a lot more space and someone with a lot more time.

  8. I have a health condition and cannot give anything to the dog as she also has behavior issues. When I was healthy it wasn’t an issue but now I have a hard time with mobility and she’s always locked. I can’t afford a walking service. That’s not fair for either of us.

  9. This is a challenging topic, especially if you have a dog or even several dogs. I recommend reading essays about animal testing before you will decide to surrender https://artscolumbia.org/free-essays/animal-testing/ because you have to think twice about the life of the pet. In another case, the health condition problem. If it is better not to torture the animal, maybe it is wiser to end his pain.

  10. I dont know what to do. My dog is my best and only friend in the world. She keeps peeing on carpets everywhere we move. I have to rent due to financial inability to own or get my own apartment. She has gotten me kicked out of 3 homes in the past 2 years. I am at my wits end and beat her today, I feel awful. Im a truly lonely person and am truly terrified of sending her to live with my mother. She will not get her daily walks, or get to explore or do the things she loves there. But she will have a nice yard to stay in, and a swimming pool to stay cool in the desert heat. Im so devastated, but I cant lose another place to live. She does ok staying in my room nonstop, but I end up trying to give her a chance after a few weeks and she messes up everytime.

    1. She is your best friend but you beat her today? Put a diaper on her when she’s in the house and walk her more. Don’t hit your dog for your own poor behavior.

  11. My boyfriend and I adopted a dog 2 years ago. I love him either everything I have and he’s considered our first child. We do everything we can. He’s a great dog. However, he gets outbursts of extreme aggression. He’ll growl, lunge, and bite at you on his own terms. He’s drawn blood from me countless times. As much as I love him, it’s becoming very very difficult to try and work with. I’m losing my patience. What do I do???

  12. She is your best friend but you beat her today? Put a diaper on her when she’s in the house and walk her more. Don’t hit your dog for your own poor behavior.

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