Here's Why Animal Rescues Need to Accept Owner Surrenders

Updated: Feb 16, 2021

If you’re in the field of animal rescue, then you probably know that an animal is usually in trouble as soon as someone contacts your animal rescue to express interest in surrendering their pet.


Even outside of the animal rescue community, there’s still a big stigma surrounding pet owners who surrender their pets.


A lot of people genuinely believe that responsible pet owners rarely surrender their pets.


It’s not uncommon to hear pet owners say things like “I could never surrender my pet.” Most of these pet owners are telling the truth. Their pets are like family.


But if that's the case, then why do some pet owners still choose to surrender their pets to animal shelters? We're about to tell you!


Why Do Owners Surrender Their Pets?

People rarely abandon their family members so why would they willingly abandon their pets?

The truth is there are a lot of different reasons.

Here are some of the most common reasons why pet owners surrender their pets:

  1. The owner lost their job and is no longer able to care for their pet’s basic needs.

  2. The animal needs veterinary care that is too expensive for the owner to afford.

  3. The owner is facing homelessness due to a recent eviction.

  4. The owner is unable to manage the animal’s behaviour.


In all these instances it is clear as day that these animals are in trouble.


Yet many animal rescues are still choosing not to accept owner surrenders.


If your organization chooses to turn these people away, then your organization is also choosing to turn these animals away.


Can you really turn away animals in need and still call yourself an animal rescue?


Many would argue you can’t.


The primary goal of an animal rescue is to provide support to animals in need, to prevent them from being abused or neglected.

If your animal rescue is choosing to decline animals in need even in instances where you can afford to help, then are you really an animal rescue?

You’ll have to ask yourselves that.

Here’s why owner surrenders bother you so much.

Your focused on the people and not the animals. You’re probably thinking that that was a bold statement. It was, but it was also the truth.

Animal rescues are full of pet lovers who could never imagine surrendering their own pets. That makes it very difficult for your team to empathize with owners who surrender their pets.

‘Owner surrenders’ as they’re commonly referred to outrage animal rescue professionals everywhere. Even the owners know this.


Most owners who surrender their pets know there’s a social stigma surrounding it. They know they’re going to be judged for their decision.

Unfortunately, many of these owners still view surrendering their pet as their only option based on their personal situations.

Here’s why animal rescues should always accept owner surrenders.


A lot of pet owners are fearful of contacting an animal rescue to re-home their pets.


For the most part, their fears are centered around being labelled as not just bad pet owners but also as bad people.

If pet owners are unable to get past the fear of being judged then they are more likely to experiment with alternative methods of re-homing.

Pet Owners will try to re-home their pets themselves.

Re-homing an animal is a difficult process that cannot be taken lightly. Animal rescues know this first-hand.

Educating prospective adopters is a major part of the adoption process.

If a pet owner lacks the expertise needed to care for their pet, then how can they educate the prospective adopter on how to care for the animal?

The adoption process is a very structured process for a reason.

A lot of special skills and expertise goes into crafting questionnaires and interview forms.

Adoption counsellors are trained on interview tactics designed to extract the information needed to determine if an animal will be a good fit for the prospective adopter, their family and their home.


Animal rescues can use screening techniques to verify a lot of the information they receive.


Animal rescues also make it a point to educate prospective adopters on how to care for the animals they’re interested in adopting.


Most animal rescues even go as far as to provide post-adoption support to new adopters.


The likelihood of a struggling pet owner having that level of skills and expertise needed to find their pet a loving forever home is very low.


Animals may be forced to remain in situations where they’re either neglected or abused.


In instances where owners choose to keep their animals, there’s no guarantee that their situation will have improved.

If an owner tried to re-home their pet because they were unable to provide their pet with veterinary care then there is no guarantee that the animal will receive the veterinary care they so desperately need once your animal rescue turns the animal away.


If an owner tried to re-home their pet because they are unable to handle the animal’s behavioural concerns then there is no guarantee that they will be able to handle those behavioural concerns once your animal rescue turns the animal away.

There's also no guarantee that the owner will not respond to the animal's behaviour in a way that will further escalate the behaviour.

These skills are difficult to develop.

How can we expect the owners to access the resources or develop the skillsets needed to properly care for their pets if animal rescues continuously turn these struggling pet owners away?

There’s also no real guarantee that these owners will even choose to keep their pets.



Owners may choose to abandon their pets.

It’s not uncommon for owners to abandon pets outdoors.

Some of these owners will tie their dog’s leashes to poles, others will simply let the dogs off their leashes and leave them to roam free.

Sometimes owners will abandon cats, bunnies, guinea pigs, rats or mice in parks.

In each of these instances, the animals are at risk of being preyed on by larger predators.

Sometimes owners will even go as far as to leave the pets behind, alone, in their previous place of residence, expecting a landlord to find the pet and re-home them.

Sometimes landlords find pets on time, other times they don’t.

Owners may choose to surrender their pets to a kill-shelter.

Unfortunately, as we all know, not all animal shelters are no-kill shelters.


If the animal’s owner chooses to surrender their animal to a kill-shelter than it is possible for the animal to be ‘euthanized’ due to a lack of resources.

Even if the animal can make it out of an animal shelter alive, you still have to consider how much higher the animal’s chances are of contracting an infection or disease in an overcrowded shelter.

In this instance, an animal may lose their life because your animal rescue chose not to accept an owner surrender.

Here’s what to do if your animal rescue can’t accept an owner surrender.

You can help animals in these unfortunate situations by of course accepting owner surrenders.

Your animal rescue should indicate in your intake policy that your organization is willing to accept owner surrenders.

In fact, you should have an entire program designed to assist owners who choose to surrender their pets.

Your intake team should also receive training on an ongoing basis designed to teach them the importance of not judging owners who choose to surrender their pets.

Even if your animal rescue commits to accepting owner surrenders, there may still be instances where it’s difficult.

There are tons of reasons why animal rescues may be unable to accept owner surrenders.