There is no shame in realising you can’t afford to keep your dog, and looking for a safe and ethical way to give them the life you aren’t able to right now.
Price rises, income drops, medical bills and job losses feel like they’re rife at the moment. No one brings a pet into their home expecting not to be able to finance them, but it’s the harsh reality of our times that costs are going up at a radical rate.
If you find yourself unable to afford your pet, it hits you on a number of levels. You are desperately sad, panicked by your options and often embarrassed too. But you shouldn’t be.
Admitting the issue to yourself and acting on it means you are a good pet owner, not a bad one. Even if you end up having to let your pet go.
You have options, if it doesn’t feel like it right now. And we’ll explore some of those together, and I’ll help you to find the least painful and most realistic of the bunch.
Budgeting and Funding
The first thing you need to do is assure yourself that you cannot afford your pet. Have you made all the cuts in your family budget you are willing to sacrifice?
Here are some things that can be removed from the average family budget straight off the bat in a time of emergency:
- Netflix and other streaming services
- Eating and drinking out, or ordering takeout
- Subscriptions to online publications or magazines
- Switching from brand to own-brand foods
You could consider downgrading your vehicle or even moving to a cheaper area, but there is no shame if you’re not willing or able to do these things.
If you have trawled your budget and you just can’t find anything you’re able to drop in terms of outgoings, look at why your dog is costing you more than you can afford. Are you able to drop their food bill by buying in bulk, or take on a plan for veterinarian bills?
Once you’ve scoured your budget and scorched the spreadsheets, and come to the conclusion you definitely can’t afford to keep your dog, it is sadly time to decide how you’re going to go about rehoming them.
Approach Friends and Family
Over the years I have taken in a number of animals for friends, as well as friends of friends. I don’t run a rehoming center, I’m just known for having a lot of animals. And perhaps being a bit of a softy when it comes to pets.
If your dog is friendly, there is always a hope that someone you know, or a distant connected acquaintance, might be happy to give them a home.
Potty training, house manners and recall are all secondary to fundamental temperament for experienced pet owners. If your dog gets on with humans big and small, and is happy to casually greet other animals it meets at the dog park, then you stand a good chance that someone will be happy to welcome them in.
Increase your odds of this situation working out by being open with information about your dog. If your pride will let you, share the scenario on your social media pages to spread the word. Put out feelers, and see what comes back.
The most important thing with this approach is to not pressure anybody, because you’ll just end up with the dog back on your front porch again in a few weeks time, leaving bad feeling and more stress in their wake.
There are loads of websites set up for buying and selling dogs. I do not recommend using these to give a dog away, because some people have upsetting reasons for looking for free animals. You want to price your dog high enough to put off dodgy opportunists, but low enough to be reasonable.
For example, an older dog is worth considerably less than the same breed of puppy. Especially if they’ve had medical issues or are not well trained.
When rehoming to a stranger ask lots of questions, and walk away from anyone who isn’t open and honest in their responses. They should also want plenty of information from you in turn. Check whether they have animal experience, a secure yard and reassure yourself that they are definitely able to finance their continuing care.
Practically speaking, dropping off your dog at an animal shelter is often the easiest option. However, I do recommend finding the right sort of shelter for your pup.
Ask them about their rehoming rate, and if possible go for a no-kill shelter so that you don’t have that possibility hanging over you.
There are breed specific shelters, and those that deal with a range of pets of various species. Finding a shelter that has the most experience with a dog of your type gives them the best chance of finding a suitable new home.
Communicating with your Veterinarian
One off costs feeling impossible to be paid often come directly from veterinary requirements. Payment plans and charitable funding are available in some regions to pay these unexpected fees, or at least go towards them.
If you are struggling with private rehomes or the local shelters are full or a bad fit, then it can help to chat to your veterinarian too. They aren’t obliged to help with situations like this, but most of them will. And if they aren’t able to assist, they will often know someone that can.
Weight Up The Options
Often in life we are faced with situations that don’t have an outcome we’d want. And we have to take a deep breath, and pick the best of a bad lot.
For many of us, the ideal outcome is that someone you know will take on your beloved pet. However, this can have repercussions down the road in terms of deferred responsibility, or just the pain of seeing your old best friend in new hands.
Private or shelter rehoming has a level of emotional removal. Provided you are confident that your dog will remain happy and healthy, it can be a way to let them go with very little guilt too.
Remember that there are charities and organizations that will help you with this process.
The Labrador Site Founder
Pippa Mattinson is the best selling author of The Happy Puppy Handbook, the Labrador Handbook, Choosing The Perfect Puppy, and Total Recall.
She is also the founder of the Gundog Trust and the Dogsnet Online Training Program
Pippa's online training courses were launched in 2019 and you can find the latest course dates on the Dogsnet website