How to rehome your pet

We’ve just moved and it’s been a minute since I’ve been able to sit down and write. Finally starting to feel settled and wanted to get this post out quickly. Every week, I get messages from people looking for help rehoming their pet. I’m not a rescue, but people come to me looking for help. Here’s what I tell them. 

Get them healthy

Before you start looking for a new home, get them up to date on their vaccines and medical records if possible. Having a pet with a good certificate of health will go far in helping them find a home. The easier you make it on the new family, the easier the process will be. Your pet doesn’t need to have a clean bill of health, but should have been seen by a vet in the past year and current with vaccines. A good groom/bath will be helpful too!


Above all else, share your story on your social media pages and ask friends for help. Far and away this is my number one suggestion. You’d be surprised how many people will tag friends who are looking for a pet. Sure, you may deal with criticisms on your post, but, if you’re honest about the reasons, most people will have compassion.

When you share your dog on your network, that’s a whole group of people that rescues don’t have access to. Your community of friends and family is your best ally in finding the pet a new home.

Make sure the post includes as much detail about the pet’s habits as possible. It should also have a couple of photos of your pet that you can see the pet clearly. Be as thorough and honest as possible because you want to find a good fit for your animal.

Home to Home Program

If you have some time (and live in the Chicago area), consider posting your pet on the AntiCruelty Society (ACS) Home-to-Home program. This is an electronic platform that ACS offers for free to the public. You can create an adoption listing on their website and interested adopters can contact you directly.

This program is a great way to keep your dog out of the shelter system. Instead of your dog having to wait in a kennel for an adopter, it can wait in your home with you until your pet finds another home. ACS does not screen or have any other part in the adoption beyond offering the platform. You will approve/choose the adopter yourself. You can find out all the details here

Surrendering to Rescues

Contacting local rescues (what some people refer to as “no-kill shelters“) is always an option but, fair warning, they are bombarded with owner surrender requests daily and cannot take most of the requests. Rescues are not required to take your pet, and often, they are full as it is.

Additionally, a rescue taking an animal in without meeting the pet beforehand is generally too much liability. Some rescues, like Chicago Canine Rescue, will require appointments to assess your pet and determine whether the animal is a good fit for their program. 

To find local rescues simply google, “your city + animal rescue” and a few results should pop up. Be kind in your outreach to local rescues. They’re doing the best that they can for so many animals. They are paid too little for the work they do and cannot help everyone. Be understanding and patient and if they’re not able to help, ask for suggestions of who to turn to next. 

Open-Access Shelters

Yes, these are the “kill shelters” that everyone tries to avoid when rehoming a pet. Open-access shelters are generally government-funded and cater to specific areas. Most likely, they’re called “Animal Care & Control” and serve the community in which they’re located. If you live within that area, you can bring your animal to that shelter and they are required to take the animal. 

When you surrender your pet to an open access-shelter, you must be aware that the shelter does euthanize. I volunteer at Chicago Animal Care & Control and can honestly say we love the animals. Euthanasia is not something we take lightly and we try our best to get the animals into loving homes. We are, however, at the mercy of space and funding. 

Because open-access shelters are required to take every animal that enters its threshold, we fill up quickly. Tough decisions are made daily and not all animals will make it out. While our Live Release Rate is over 90%, you need to understand the reality of the shelter system.

This is why I urge you to try to rehome the pet yourself before bringing it to the city shelter. We have animals pouring in every day, if you can rehome, you’ll absolutely be opening up a kennel space for another one. The more animals we can keep out of our city shelter, the better. 

What not to do

Let your pet “go” 

Please, under no circumstances, assume your animal has a better fate if you simply let them outside. You’re not doing them any favors as our pets are domesticated and don’t fare well as stray animals. Not only does this put your pet at risk, but you also waste resources. You’re assuming someone finds and reports the animal as a stray. Then, we have to send Animal Control Officers to investigate and that takes them away from other important tasks. 

Abandon your pet

Similarly, please do not simply leave your pet if you need to move. We have to confiscate animals all the time because people leave them behind. Like letting the go, this puts animals in a terrible situation without care. Additionally, we have to rely on someone reporting the animals and that sometimes happens too late. This is a terrible fate for any creature. 

Leave them with friends/family

There’s a difference between rehoming and leaving them with someone who isn’t aware they’re assuming responsibility. When you leave your pet with someone who can’t care for it longterm, they eventually bring the animal into a shelter. The pet is often worse off because we can’t collect as much health and behavior history from the person bringing the animal in.

If you bring in your pet, you can give us more details about it to help him find a home quicker. The more we know, the more we can help. Things you can tell staff that will help us: has the pet lived in a home with dogs/cats/kids? If so, how does the pet get along with each? What sorts of behaviors does the pet have? It the pet potty trained? Crate trained? Have they been seen by a vet recently? The more information you can give us the better!

Rehoming your pet isn’t an easy decision and it varies from animal to animal. Since working in animal rescue, I have come to understand that we have a bigger issue than people surrender their pets. We have a problem with affordable, pet-friendly housing, the rising cost of pet care, and expensive veterinary school. There’s no easy answer but I’ve learned judgment gets us nowhere.


Cami – This super playful girl is ready to party, which is perfect because there is a lot of partying coming up with the holidays! Cami has lots of energy and does well with dogs as long as they don’t mind her playfulness. She’d love a family that’s up for adventures and has done well with kids too. She’s available for adoption through Chicago Canine Rescue. 

This other sweetie has been adopted but you can find all the Chicago Canine Rescue dogs available for adoption here.


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All photos: Margaret Rajic

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