In most cases, giving up a pet isn’t easy, and it is certainly heartbreaking to see how many pets get surrendered.  But it is very easy to be “judgey” about this, and in many cases being judgmental is justified – but not always.

In reality unless we know the reasons that could have resulted in the surrender, we should reserve our judgement, and maybe even have a bit of compassion.  Don’t get me wrong, we know there are many out there who should not have pets in the first place, who have no idea what it takes to look after an animal – but there are those who love their pets, but still find they are not in a position to keep them.

Circumstances change, and we can all be faced with the heartbreaking decision to possibly give our pets up for adoption. In this article, I’ll be exploring some of the situations where this may happen.


A common reason why people give up their pet for adoption is that they move into a new rental house and the new landlord won’t allow pets on the property. For some people, they have to make the decision to surrender their pet for adoption or to have someone they trust look after the pet until they can move into a property where the owner allows pets. This scenario is more common than some may realise, however, the state of Victoria has recently changed legislation to allow renters to have pets on their property, as long as they have written consent from the owners, and it is up to the owners to then request approval from VCAT to refuse consent (assistance dogs cannot be refused consent at all). Momentum is gathering in other states for the same legislation to be passed.

Financial difficulties

We recently published an article discussing how to keep costs down when caring for a pet. In it,  there are many simple and effective ways to maintain affordable pet ownership. However, sometimes things happen that are beyond our control, no matter what precautions we take.

If an owner doesn’t have pet insurance, or if they are hit with a large bill for an accident or unexpected illness, they may feel that they are no longer financially able to care for their pet.

People may also suffer from a job loss which means they simply cannot afford another mouth to feed.

In these circumstances, the sad decision has to be made to give up their pet up for adoption so that someone who has the financial means to care for the animal can do so, in the way that the pet deserves.

 Ill Health 

 If someone receives a diagnosis which renders them physically unable to care for their pet, they may be forced to give them up for adoption so that the animal can be cared for by someone who they feel has a better chance of devoting their time to caring for the dog (taking them for walks, playing with them etc).

This was the case with a personal friend who was diagnosed with a serious illness which meant that they could no longer run around with their puppy who they’d had for three years. She was lucky enough to be able to re-home the dog with her sister, and my friend is doing much better now and will soon be able to have her best friend back with her soon.  But not everyone is this fortunate to have a solution at hand which means the dog would end up be surrendered.

Even worse is if the owner of the pet passes away and there is no-one around to take on the responsibility – then there really is no alternative.

Domestic Violence

 We acquired our beloved Maltese, Harold (‘Harry’), from a good friend of ours who was going through an extremely tough situation that involved domestic violence. She adored, and still adores, Harry, but decided that ultimately, it was best for Harry to go elsewhere and she asked us to take him in. Of course, we agreed without a doubt in our minds that we wanted him to be a part of our family.

It was incredibly hard for her to make that decision, and it broke her heart (and ours), but Harry is now thriving with us and we are loving having him with us.

Another colleague also had to surrender her dogs to an animal shelter due to domestic abuse, as she ended up couch-surfing with her daughter and wasn’t able to take her dogs with her. That being said, she was able to re-home them with friends of hers, so she still gets to see the dogs regularly, which has been great for her and her daughter.

Luckily these days there are more refuges which allow pets, but they are still in the minority.

Personal Circumstances

Unfortunately for many when their personal circumstances change they don’t necessarily have a ready solution for re-homing their pet with a close, trusted friend.  Their only option is to resort to surrendering their beloved pet.

When researching this article, I spoke to a few close friends who shared some heartbreaking stories of having to give up their pets as they felt they had no other choice but to do so.

Peter has told me that when his mother has to move across the country, she will have to relinquish her beloved dog as the dog is quite advanced in age and quite simply wouldn’t survive the flight. The choice was either to risk the flight with almost no chance that the dog would survive, or try and re-home an old dog with a myriad of health problems. Mum was already lonely and now has to leave behind her best friend, which is an awful position to be in.

Another story I’ve been told by someone close to me is from my Aunt and godmother. Not too long ago, her daughter – my cousin – brought home a small, Jack Russell puppy. She quickly abandoned the thought of taking responsibility for it and my Aunty ended up being the sole carer for the dog, which realistically, she wasn’t able to continue doing.

Despite repeated warnings that she would surrender the dog to the RSPCA if my cousin didn’t step up and take responsibility for it, my cousin continued to neglect the dog, and my aunt relinquished the dog to the RSPCA. Luckily for the dog, he was young and adorable (which tends to attract more prospective owners), and was re-homed almost immediately.

As previously mentioned, having to surrender a pet for adoption is usually a hard decision to have to make, particularly emotionally. Even though it may be hard to do, often owners are doing this in the best interests of the pet.  No pet lover would want to leave their best friend, but sometimes life throws curve-balls that are unavoidable and we all deal with them as best we can.

Luckily whilst we see many dogs and cats put up for adoption, a fair proportion of those end up in loving homes, and the great work done by rescue organisations means that more and more of them have a better chance of finding homes.

Alternatives to Surrender

If you are considering giving up your pet, but are in doubt, take a look at The Surrender Portal which is an online self-help tool with advice about alternative solutions for people wanting to surrender their pets.

If you are looking to surrender your pet, click here to view the RSPCA Surrender Portal.

But  the next time you see a sad story of a pet being put up for adoption, just consider the myriad of reasons that this could have happened.  Sure it could be a case of disregard for the pet, but also possible, it could be a case of a circumstance with no alternatives.

This article researched and written by Natalie Gassin

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Liz Walden

Liz has a passion for all things cat and dog, and was one of the first in Australia to bring Pet Insurance to the market. She has headed up Petsecure marketing for the past 10 years, and is committed to promoting and supporting the amazing work done by rescue groups around Australia, and those who work to promote a better life for all animals

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