The best alternative to bringing a pet to a shelter is to rehome it on your own. Even the best animal shelters can be extremely stressful to pets. Below, we provide a how to guide on finding a new home for your pet by posting an online bio. We highly recommend you attempt rehoming on your own, if time and resources allow, before you make an appointment to surrender.
Plan to devote some time to rehoming your pet. It can take a while to find a good home.
Where to List Your Pet
Our partners at The Petco Foundation offer an online rehoming service, Adopt-A-Pet.com. On this site, you can fill out a profile about your pet, and families looking to adopt can review it. Potential adopters will fill out an application and pay a small adoption fee to Adopt-A-Pet (that will later be donated to a shelter) before a meeting will be coordinated.
If you choose to list your pet elsewhere online (Craigslist, Facebook, etc.), follow the tips below to ensure the person is responsible and the best match for your pet.
Tips on Taking Good Animal Photographs
Since photos really help people make a connection to an animal, you’ll want to use a high quality photograph. Color is always best. If you don’t have a color printer, copy places like Kinko’s can print the flyers for you.
When you take the photographs, use a background that is in contrast to the animal to highlight their best features. Keep the photo simple and clear with few background distractions, though you might want to use a person, a hand or some other means to show the scale of the pet.
Before snapping the photos, take the time to get the pet as calm and relaxed as possible so the photos don’t show an animal who looks anxious or scared. Ideally, the photo you choose to accompany your bio should have the eyes of the animal in focus.
Writing a Bio that Catches Attention
The Beginning: The first step to a good animal bio is writing a compelling first sentence—something that will make people stop and look at your pet’s profile. Do not start generic: “Max is a 5 y.o. neutered male Pittie/Lab mix w/ white markings, up-to-date on shots.” While that’s useful information that you can share once you have your readers’ attention, you must first draw potential adopters in by their hearts.
How do you do that? Say something true about him—something about who Max is, not what he is. A better start: “Max has been a special part of my life for nearly five years. When I first met Max, I was struck by how handsome he is. I suspect he’s a Pittie/Lab mix, which is why aside from his good looks, he’s a loyal and happy dog.”
The Middle: Next, say something specific about your pet. What makes your pet unlike any other pet out there? What’s their funny, quirky, silly thing that you’ve likely told others when sharing stories?
Your next few sentences: “Max is a smart dog. Yes, everyone says they have the smartest dog—but Max’s doggy IQ is off the charts! For example, Max has a number of toys that we call ‘Max’s Team.’ Each of the toys has a name, which Max quickly picks up on. If we ask Max to ‘go find George,’ he’ll run around the house hunting for his squeaky sock monkey George.”
Next it’s time to share the facts. List the positives first. Sometimes, in an effort to keep our pets safe, we focus on the “cannots” and “must haves.” A list of shortcomings and restrictions will potential adopters feeling apprehensive. Don’t write: “Max hates other dogs.” Try instead: “Max prefers to be the only dog in a home. He’s filled my life with so much love, I’ve never felt I needed anything more than Max.”
Don’t write: “No kids.” Try: “Max will do best in a family where all members are old enough to work on his ongoing training.”
The Conclusion: At the end, urge readers to take the next step. At the bottom of the blurb, remind them how much you want them to call or email you.
Near the end of the blurb is also where you can list absolute requirements for adopting a particular animal, such as “The yard must have a six foot fence” or “Max must be the only pet.” When writing about a restriction or requirement, try to sound warm and encouraging toward the reader.
The greatest problem when talking about restrictions is that, while you're trying to ward off an unqualified applicant, you might also scare away the qualified one by sounding unfriendly.
Here’s an example:
Good: “Please call. Max is longing to be the only pet in a home with a six foot fence. If you can give him that, then you can give him a wonderful life.”
Not so good: “Qualified adopters only. Must have six foot fence, pink linoleum in the kitchen, green in both baths. MUST HAVE NO OTHER PETS.”
- Appearance, size and age
- Describe their nature and what you like about them
- Describe your pet’s health status–be honest
- Talk about what training skills your pet has and what they are still working on
- Put your name, phone number and a time for people to reach you
Screening Potential Adopters
You care that the pet makes it to a good, permanent home, so now you must “screen” the people who contact you. Asking some key questions will help with this, but be sure you have a conversation with the person and not an “interview” because you will get more from the exchange.
Here are some questions to ask:
- Is this pet for you or someone else?
- Is it okay to have pets in your home/apartment/condo?
- Have you had pets before? If so, why are you interested in taking ________?
- Do you have any children?
- Are you willing to have me visit your home?
- Which veterinarian are you planning to use?
- Will the pet be supervised outside?
- Don’t hesitate to ask for references!
If you’d like help screening adopters, our friends at Rescue Well can help. Get in touch with them via their website.
Meeting the People
You can meet people at their place or have them come to your home, but the safest way is to meet in a neutral spot. Bring the pet with you. What you want is to see:
- How the person interacts with your pet.
- Did they bring additional people (kids)? Is everyone here who needs to be?
- Ask additional questions–be sure they aren’t going to sell your pet!
- If you aren’t okay with the interaction, feel pressured or have doubts, don’t proceed! Continue looking for someone else.
Completing the Rehoming
Once you have selected a new home for your pet, then you can prepare the pet and gather materials for the new owner. Meet at an agreed upon time and place to give your pet to the new owner. You are giving up ownership rights, so be sure to:
- Provide the person with all veterinary records.
- Take toys, beds, food, medications, etc. so the pet has these for comfort.
- Get the person’s contact information so you can obtain an update if you like.
- Provide the person with any behavioral information she or he will need.
- Document that you transferred ownership and materials.
If you have additional questions about rehoming your pet, please email or call our resource team at firstname.lastname@example.org or (410) 396-4695.