How to responsibly rehome your pet

Sometimes, life gets in the way of our well-intentioned plans. We get sick, have to move, or are no longer in a position to give our pet the best life possible.  

No matter the reason you’re considering giving up your pet, there are things you can try before making the difficult decision to rehome.

Have you considered whether you need to rehome your pet straight away? Sometimes looking at short-term options like boarding kennels or friends and family can give you the time you need to get you back on your feet.

If you are struggling with your pets’ behaviour, experiencing financial hardship or having trouble taking care of your pet, you can access a range of tips and advice here.

If you’ve already explored these options and are confident in the decision to rehome your pet, it is important that this is done the right way to ensure they go to a loving and safe environment.

Here’s our basic how-to.

1. Make sure they’re desexed, microchipped and registered

How to responsibly rehome your pet

RSPCA NSW encourages all owners to desex their pets at a young age to keep them well behaved and healthy, and to prevent unwanted litters. This is especially crucial for cats, as Australia is currently experiencing a cat overpopulation problem due to low rates of desexing.

You’ll also need to ensure your pet is microchipped. In NSW, all cats and dogs (other than those exempt) must be microchipped by 12 weeks of age or before being sold or given away. Failure to have your cat or dog microchipped carries a penalty notice of $180 or up to $880 in court.

Furthermore, new amendments to the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act 1979 require your pet’s microchip number to be displayed in any kind of advertisement for their rehoming, including social media. (See the following section for more information about sharing your pet’s details on social media.)

If you’re concerned about the cost of desexing or microchipping your pet, RSPCA NSW runs a Community Animal Welfare Scheme (CAWS) that subsidises the cost of these services for people in targeted areas of the state. Find out more about the scheme, and when it is coming to your area.

2. Ask around

The first step to rehoming your pet is asking around your immediate network. Here are some examples of where you can start:

Family and friends

Do you have family or friends who would be willing to take on your pet? Parents, siblings or cousins? Best friends, old friends or work friends?

Rehoming with family or friends means you have a prior understanding of their values and lifestyle. This will mean that everyone will be a little more comfortable with the change. Your pet may even have met them already.

Depending on the circumstances, it may also mean you can check in on your pet from time to time.

Sometimes your local veterinary clinic, pet supplies retailer or community centre will have a rehoming board or similar that you could use to see if there is anyone interested in taking care of your pet.

Social media

If your family and friends aren’t in a position to take on the responsibility for your pet, try a call out on social media.

Be sure to start by taking an irresistibly cute pic of your furry friend. Make sure to brush them, or get them professionally groomed if needed, so they’re looking their best. Then, write a quick description of the type of animal they are, including things like their age, breed, personality, likes, dislikes and preferences. According to new laws, you must also include the pet’s microchip number in the post too.

And again, reiterate that you’re looking to rehome your pet, not sell them for a fee.

It’s important to stress that using social media should be for the purpose of generating interest to rehome your pet only. RSPCA NSW does not condone the selling of animals on sites like Gumtree or Facebook Marketplace. We urge you to think about screening interested parties who get in touch with you, as outlined below.  You can also view RSPCA Australia’s Guidelines for the Online Advertising of Pets here. These guidelines have been designed for organisations and businesses that sell animals, but many of the same principles still apply.

How to responsibly rehome your pet

Place you got the pet from

Responsible breeders and rescue organisations will likely have a clause in their paperwork that encourages you to bring your pet back in the event you can no longer take care of it. They will then rehome the animal themselves.  

Do a bit of digging to find out what their policy is or call the organisation or breeder to talk through your situation.

Rescue groups

There are a bunch of breed and species-specific rescue groups that may be able to rehome your pet with a suitable owner who has prior knowledge of pets just like yours.

You can find a list of them here.

Home Ever After

Many people worry about what will happen to their pets should they no longer be in a position to care for them themselves. If you’re considering surrender because you’re worried about your ability to take care of your pet due to declining health, have a look at Home Ever After.

Home Ever After (HEA) is an RSPCA NSW program for pets whose owners become permanently incapacitated or pass away. Once owners sign up, a staff member goes to their home, meets their pets and learns everything there is to know about the animal’s preferences and quirks.

Then, in the event the owner is no longer able to care for the pet, RSPCA NSW will rehome them appropriately. Find out more info here.

3. Make sure your pet’s new home is right for them

How to responsibly rehome your pet

Rehoming your pet isn’t as easy as finding a family and sending them on their merry way. As a diligent owner, it’s your responsibility to go through a few basic requirements to ensure the potential family are the right fit.

Here are the steps we recommend taking before any verbal agreements are made:

Have a chat

We recommend having an open and honest conversation with the potential new family to get an idea of their lifestyle. Have they owned a pet before? What are their work hours like? Can they go for regular walks? Do they go on holiday often? What is their ‘pet parenting’ style?

In return, give them as much information about your pet as possible and answer any questions they have.

If you’re happy with how the phone interview went, arrange a meet and greet.

Specific care needs

If your pet is keen on digging under fences or jumping the gate, these points are critical in setting them up for success in their new home. Bring these habits to the potential owners’ attention and make recommendations about the type of backyard and fencing that they may need.

Meet and greet

Take your pet over to their potential new home or a park to meet the interested owners in person. This will give your pet the chance to meet their potential new family and see whether it is a great fit. The meet up will allow you to get a good understanding of how your pet is reacting to the new people and environment.

Be honest about the type of pet they are. Have there been issues with their behaviour? Do they scratch the couch? Are they frightened of loud noises or events, like thunderstorms or power tools? All of these behaviours can be common, but it’s important that the potential new owners really understand your pet and accept them for who they are. After all, the new owners will need to accommodate your pets needs (both good and bad) and you don’t want them knocking on your door a few months down the track demanding you take your pet back. Or worse, you don’t want them offloading your pet to someone else.

Don’t forget, if you’re meeting up with someone you don’t know, bring a friend along. Safety comes first!

If they’re not the right fit, that’s okay. There will be another family who will be.

4. Get them packed up and prepared for the move

This will likely be a confusing time for your pet, so do your best to ensure they feel calm and reward them with treats and pats.

Here’s our basic checklist of things to do:

Write a pet CV

Write a brief outline of your pet’s personality so there won’t be any surprises for the new owners.

Include other important details, like the number of their current veterinarian, how much food you currently give them and what brand, as well as the name of their medication – anything crucial to the day-to-day life of your animal.

Get their stuff together

Bundle up all your pet’s belongings to hand over to the new owner. This includes toys, bed, water and food bowls, litter, and any medication.

It’s also a good idea to provide the new owner with some of your pet’s regular food, so there won’t be any stomach upsets from eating something they’re not used to. 

Organise their papers

When you adopted or purchased your pet, you would have received a certificate of ownership. Gather this, along with any veterinary history, registration details or other documents that may be useful to the new owners down the track.

5. File the paperwork

How to responsibly rehome your pet

Hands have been shaken and pets’ tails are wagging. Now’s the time to dot the I’s and cross the T’s.

When you pass on ownership of a pet to another person, you need to update the animal’s microchip details and council registration.

If the paperwork isn’t completed properly, you’ll still be considered the legal owner and responsibility for the animal will continue to fall on you. So, it’s important to get this done as soon as possible.

If none of these rehome steps suit your needs and you have exhausted all your options finding an appropriate carer – then you can find out more about surrendering your animal to RSPCA NSW here.