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The experts point out that though there’s guilt and relief on the human side when a pet is returned to a shelter or a rescue group or is rehomed, there are times when it’s best for the animal, too.
“If it’s not a good match for the person, then it’s probably not for the pet, either,” the ASPCA’s Weiss says.
In the case of purebred animals, breeders usually ask prospective buyers a lot of questions and give them plenty of information so the breeders know they are placing their dogs or cats in homes that are good fits.
“A responsible breeder will always take back one of its puppies or adult dogs if the owner is for any reason unable to keep it,” states the American Kennel Club (AKC). “So if you are faced with the dilemma of having to rehome your dog, always contact your breeder first.”
The AKC also has its own network of breed-specific rescues, which can help with finding a home that’s better suited to a dog.
Joan Miller, a longtime cat breeder and outreach and education chair for The Cat Fanciers’ Association, says returning a cat to a breeder can sometimes be more complex because of the risk of infectious illness that a cat coming back to the cattery might pose to the other kittens and adult cats. Still, she says she thinks a contract is important for spelling out the procedure if a cat has to be returned. In many cases, if the breeder can’t take the animal back, he or she will try to find a new home for it.
(As a reminder, not every breeder adheres to these practices, so buyers should beware.)
Many shelters and rescues also have contracts saying they’ll take an animal back if there’s a problem. For example, the Best Friends Animal Society in Utah makes a lifetime promise to take their animals back at any time.
Like a growing number of organizations, Best Friends allows a potential adopter to take an animal home or to a hotel (if he or she has traveled to the Utah sanctuary) to spend more quality time together and get a better idea of whether a match is a good one. The group also recommends fostering before adopting. Both allow you to get to know a dog or cat better and experience what the pet is like outside a shelter environment. But the unexpected can happen.
Best Friends adoption manager Kristi Littrell had one situation where a nice couple adopted a terrier, but the dog had something in her past that made her scared of the husband. He felt horrible, and the dog was always terrified. The couple worked with Littrell and ended up bringing the dog back and taking home a different terrier.
“We don’t just adopt them out and leave them,” Littrell says.“We do our best to find that lifetime match, but stuff happens. People lose their homes, their own health crashes or, for one reason or another, the animal has to come back to us, and that’s OK...The animals are resilient. It’s amazing what some of these guys have gone through, and they still like people.”
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