How Cruel It Really Is to Get Rid Of a Dog

Getting rid of a dog isn’t inherently cruel so long as they are given to a good home. Some dogs will have a more difficult time with the rehoming process than others, and may suffer from depression, anxiety, trauma, or behavioral problems.

The topic of rehoming a dog is hotly debated, especially among animal rescue advocates. One side thinks that you shouldn’t get a dog unless you are in it for the long-haul and that getting rid of a dog is cruel.

The other side thinks that shaming people for having to give up a dog is the true cruelty and that rehoming should be encouraged instead.

Personally, I fall somewhere in the middle of this argument. Giving up a dog is a difficult decision for most people, and oftentimes there is no other choice.

However, we can’t ignore the real consequences that rehoming has on dogs. Dogs who are rehomed, especially as adults, are prone to depression and anxiety. The rehoming process is typically very stressful and sometimes even traumatic for them.

In this article, I’ll discuss whether or not rehoming a dog is cruel, alternatives to getting rid of your dog, and how to rehome your dog in the best way possible.


There are Two Sides to the Debate

As with any debate, there are two very different sides. In this case it seems that one doesn’t take into account the human’s feelings, while the other doesn’t think about the dog’s feelings.

Many people will shame owners who have to give up their furry friend, no matter the reason. You see this often on social media when a shelter or rescue is trying to rehome a pup who was given to them.

People will talk in the comments section about how cruel the previous owner was without knowing or caring about the full story.

To the other extreme, there are those who think of dogs as objects. They may buy a puppy, then get tired of the work required or find the puppy less cute once the puppy is all grown up.

These people then get rid of the dog (and unfortunately, all too often, adopt another pet shortly after).

I think that much of the conflict comes from people against rehoming assuming that someone who rehomes their dog is always a part of the second group that doesn’t care about their dog at all.

Of course, life is more complicated than that. Often, a person rehoming a dog is in a difficult position and has little to no other option.

In the end, I don’t personally find rehoming cruel if it is necessary. I do think that alternatives should be explored, such as training for a dog with behavioral problems.

I also think that it’s your responsibility to ensure your dog goes to a good home. You should never give your dog to a complete stranger or dump them on the street. If you don’t know someone who will take your dog, look into rescues and shelters in your area.


Rehoming a Dog Appropriately isn’t Cruel

There is, of course, a difference between cruelly abandoning a dog and humanely rehoming them.

It’s cruel to dump a dog on the street or to give them to someone who is abusive or irresponsible.

When rehoming your dog, be as patient as possible so that you can find the best home for them. Don’t give them to the first person who is willing, no questions asked.

This is how dogs end up in the wrong hands, often by mistake. You just don’t know the person’s intentions without properly vetting them.

I recommend looking within your circle first. If someone you know well can take your dog, that’s the best solution. Even better if your pup knows and loves them already, too!

If you don’t know someone directly who can take your dog, have your friends and family ask people they are close to. They may know of people who are looking for a new member of the family.

Otherwise, a foster or rescue group is likely your best option. They can foster your dog until they find them a permanent home.

The difference between giving your dog to a stranger and a rescue or foster is that they have experience vetting dog owners.

Professionals will be more likely to notice red flags. They’ll also likely have an application process and adoption fee that deters people with bad intentions.

Finding a rescue or foster for your dog may prove difficult. There are a lot of needy animals out there, and many rescues are full.

If you’ve called around to many of them with no luck and are running out of time, that’s when you should bring your dog to a shelter. Find a small, no-kill shelter if possible to give your pup the best chance at success.

I present shelters as a last option on this list because they typically present a worse experience for dogs. The environment can be chaotic and stressful, and your pup won’t get as much one-on-one attention as they would in a home setting.

Dogs are also at risk of euthanasia in shelters, so it’s best avoided if possible—but not to the extreme of leaving your dog to fend for themselves or giving them to someone who won’t care for them properly.


Dumping a Dog is Illegal

Dumping a dog on the street or abandoning them is cruel. It is also illegal, and you will face fines or jail time if caught.

The penalties depend on the state. For example, for dumping a dog in California you would face up to $1000 in fines, 6 months of jail time, or both.

Leaving a dog to fend for themselves or leaving them to die without resources are abusive acts, and there are always better ways to treat a dog if you no longer want them or cannot care for them.


Alternatives to Getting Rid of a Dog

There are not always alternatives to getting rid of your dog, unfortunately. However, below are some options to consider if you haven’t already.


Hire a Trainer for Behavioral Problems

If you’re thinking about getting rid of your dog due to behavioral problems, consider hiring a trainer, attending a training class, or even learning how to better train your dog on your own.

It’s crucial to ensure you and your trainer are using positive training methods.

I have some horror stories about a trainer who, in a class, encouraged owners to hit their dogs and shout “NO!” when they didn’t listen to simple commands. Of course, this is abusive and absolutely not recommended.

Do your research first, and don’t be afraid to ask what training methods a trainer uses. If they mention dominance training or abusive practices, run the other way.

Dominating a dog doesn’t work and often leads to abuse and fear. Instead, look for trainers who use positive reinforcement.


Find Pet-Friendly Housing

If you’re moving out of your home, I’m sure you’ve already tried looking for pet-friendly housing. In some areas this can be quite difficult, especially if you’re on a tight budget.

Here’s a resource from the Humane Society that may help.


Hire a Pet Sitter or Dog Walker

If you’re working full-time and just don’t have time to care for a dog, a pet sitter or dog walker can help. They’re pricey, but they are a way of keeping your dog in your home while ensuring they’re still cared for.

Dog walkers are also great if your dog requires more exercise than you can handle.


Ask for Help

This one is obvious but can also be hard to do: ask people around you for help!

If your dog needs more exercise than you can provide, ask a friend, family member, or neighbor to take them for walks or come over to play.

If you’re working long hours, ask someone to come and stay with your dog for a bit while you’re gone.

It’s also okay to ask for financial help if you know someone who can provide this.

There are also resources within your community that can help you, which I’ll discuss further below.


Resources that can Help

If no one in your circle can help, resources might still be out there for you and your pup.

The Humane Society has a resource list that covers financial assistance, domestic violence assistance, help for soldiers and veterans, resources for the homeless, aid for senior citizens, and low-cost veterinary care.

Some of these are aimed at keeping you and your pup together, while others are directed at finding your pup a good new home.


How to Rehome a Dog

1.      Choose Someone you Know

Your dog has the best chance of having a good home if you choose people who you know are good to their pets. For instance, maybe your parents or a friend can take in your dog.

It’s even better if your dog already knows them, as this makes the adjustment easier.

If no one in your circle can take in your dog, try having them ask around their circle of friends and family. The next best thing is finding someone that a person close to you knows and trusts.


2.      Allow your Dog to Meet the Family First

If your dog doesn’t already know their new family, consider allowing them to meet them before moving in.

Meeting one or two people is great, but if they can meet the entire family (including other pets) that’s best. The more familiar they are with their new family, the easier rehoming will be for your dog.

Of course, you shouldn’t worry if meeting the family before move-in isn’t possible. It’s just a bonus step to make the process easier for your pup.


3.      Try a Rescue or Shelter as a Second Option

Sometimes you just don’t know anyone who’s looking for a new pet. If this is the case, your next best option is to find a rescue group or foster for your dog.

As I discussed above, rescues are used to dealing with prospective pet parents and know what to look for. They typically have an application process and know how to spot red flags.

This makes your dog more likely to go to a good home than they would if you simply gave them to a stranger.

Unfortunately, sometimes rescue groups are overwhelmed and cannot take in more dogs. Call around to as many as you can find in your area before ruling them out.

If you can’t get your dog into a rescue, try finding a small, no-kill shelter. This gives your dog a better chance at finding a great new family than they’d have in a larger, more crowded environment.

I don’t recommend giving your dog to a stranger, especially not for free. People with bad intentions may get their hands on your pup this way.

It’s better to properly vet any new homes and charge an adoption fee to ensure it is not financially viable for anyone who has any commercial intentions with your dog.

Lastly, never dump a dog on the street. This is cruel and, as discussed above, often illegal.


4.      Pass on their Things

Allowing your dog to bring their things with them to their next home can make the transition easier for them. The scent of their bed or toys, or crawling into their old crate, will likely bring them comfort.

It also makes things easier on their new owner, who won’t have to go out and repurchase items that you don’t need anymore, anyway.


5.      Give the New Owners all the Information

Be sure to inform your dog’s new family of any:

  • Health concerns
  • Behavioral problems
  • Likes and dislikes

By saving them time in learning all of these things themselves, you’re helping them to do the best they can for the dog.

I once adopted a rehomed cat, and no one informed me he’d had fleas! I had to find out myself, and by then my two other cats were also suffering.

Information like this is absolutely crucial to pass on to the new owners of your dog.


6.      Hold off on Visits

If you can, try to hold off on visiting your dog until they adjust. It might be easier for them if you don’t visit at all.

Alternatively, you can try one visit and see how it goes. Talk with the dog’s new family to see how they handled your visit and how they coped after you left.

If you give your dog to close family members or friends who you often visit, a schedule may help your dog to adapt better. That way they know when to expect you, and aren’t always waiting around!


Writer: Katelynn Sobus

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