What Happens when You Surrender a Pet to the SPCA
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What Happens when You Surrender a Pet to the SPCA

If you have to get rid of an unwanted pet, or a pet you cannot keep, you might be worried about what will happen to your pet if you surrender it to an animal shelter. Learn more about what usually happens when pets are surrendered to an animal shelter or SPCA. Will the animal shelter euthanize my dog if I surrender it to them? Will the animal shelter kill my unwanted cat?

Sometimes people a pet they cannot care for and find themselves in a situation where they must get rid of the pet. One of their options is to surrender the pet to the SPCA, humane society, or local animal shelter. These people may wonder what will happen to the pet.

Of course every shelter is different and there is never a guarantee, but in many cases there is a standard procedure for how an animal shelter deals with an owner relinquished pet. Note this is not the same as how they deal with a pet that is brought in as a stray.

Surrendering your Unwanted Pet

Some animal shelters, particularly no-kill shelters, require that you call ahead to check to see that they have space to accept your pet. Some no-kill shelters will turn away pets when full or of the “type” of pet is not something they deal with, or is one they just do not want at that time.

Most shelters will ask for a relinquishment fee, a fee to help cover the very basic care of your pet. This can be $10 or more. Most open admission shelters still accept pets when owners cannot afford the fee, however even a small amount of money is appreciated.

The shelter will also ask for you to provide them with your pet's health records, if you have them, some food, and any supplies you have that should go with the pet if, and when, it is adopted. They may have you fill out a form on the behavior of your pet. Some people take the time to write something up before hand, a sort of “guide” to go to a new owner, listing the pet's likes and dislikes as well as its normal daily routine, and any food allergies.

You will be required to sign the relinquishment papers, giving ownership of the pet to the animal shelter. In some cases you have up to 72 hours to change your mind.

©by author, a cat I adopted from an animal shelter when she was 3-years old.

Typically your pet is taken from you and placed in a cage. After a few days it will usually be assessed by the staff and animal health technician, or veterinarian, to determine if it should go up for adoption.

Sadly animal shelters often receive more animals every week than they can put up for adoption. If your pet is in good shape and has good manners, and is up to date on its vaccinations and medical needs (including being spayed or neutered) it has a far better chance of going up for adoption than if not.

That is not to say that if your pet is not up to date medically it has no chance, it depends on how full the shelter is and what type of pets are most likely to be adopted in your area, as related to the type of pet you surrendered.  Some shelters do work hard to find homes for less adoptable pets.

With any luck your pet will be placed for adoption, it may be wormed first, vaccinated, or caught up on any needs it requires. Once your pet is up for adoption if you decided you want back you would usually have to apply and adopt it back.

If your pet is not going to be put up for adoption it will be humanely euthanized, usually after at least 72 hours have passed in case you changed your mind. You will not be notified.

Adopting an Older Pet

For anyone looking for a pet, going to your local animal shelter is a great place to adopt a pet. These are called rescued pets.

I have personally rescued or adopted two dogs over the years from the local animal shelter. Both were around 6 years old, and were fully trained and great dogs. It is rather sad when an older dog or cat is put up for adoption because many people want a puppy.

It has been my experience that adopting an older dog is a great experience. These dogs are already trained and become a great, great pet. Plus you are helping give these animals a new home and new love.

Do not overlook adopting an older dog or cat for your own. If you cannot adopt a pet, donating to your local animal shelter is a great way to help these animals.

Further Reading

Tips for Surrendering a Cat

Tips for Surrendering a Dog

Additional resources:

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Comments (3)
Ranked #7 in Pets

yep it is so sad so many healthy animals have to be euthanized that way

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Ranked #13 in Pets

Good article. Thanks for your support of my Stick Insects article. I can not send a message because my captcha code is still not working.