[From Tufts October 2010 Issue]
It can be challenging to rehome a dog, especially one with major health or behavior problems. Here are options to consider:
Return him to the breeder, shelter or rescue group where you got him. Responsible breeders and adoption organizations contractually require this although some may allow you to rehome to someone you know whom they pre-approve. Caveats: If the place was less-than-reputable — overcrowded and in poor condition — you won’t want to return the dog there. If you got him from a pet store or puppy mill (oh, dear), returning is not an option.
Place him with a trusted friend or family member. Well-loved, well-behaved, healthy dogs usually have a circle of admirers who would jump at the chance to adopt. Caveats: Even your best friend or favorite relative may decline to take on a dog with major health or behavior problems. Be honest about them.
Advertise for an adopter. Caveats: It’s not easy to screen potential adopters — you risk placing your dog with someone who won’t provide the loving care you want despite assurances.
Relinquish him at a good shelter or rescue group. There are thousands of excellent dog adoption services around the country. Many provide medical treatment that their owners couldn’t afford for at least some of the dogs in their care. The best have behavior departments or working relationships with qualified professionals to modify difficult behaviors so dogs are more likely to succeed in their next, hopefully final, homes.
Responsible groups still have to make difficult euthanasia decisions, but your dog might be one they can help. Be sure you research these groups diligently. Visit the facility to see that it’s clean and well-run. If you can’t visit, don’t leave your dog there. If your dog isn’t adopted, he may suffer in a cage at a “no-kill” shelter for the rest of his life, or worse, at the hands of a hoarder posing as a shelter or rescue worker.
Have him euthanized. As painful as this is, it may be the kindest thing you can do, especially if your dog has significant health and/or behavior problems. You love him and can’t muster the resources to give him what he needs. It may not be realistic to ask someone else to care for him, and he could be abused or neglected in the process.
Dying peacefully in the arms of someone who loves him is better than dying neglected in a back yard. When I have a client considering this option because of difficult canine behaviors, I gently suggest that euthanasia is an appropriate choice for a loved dog if the client is unable to do the things necessary to restore him to physical health or to manage and/or modify behaviors. I don’t tell him he should make that choice but tell him I’ll support him if he does.
Any one of these decisions can be irrevocable. Be sure you’ve thought yours through carefully and exhausted all options. You don’t want this to be a decision you regret for the rest of your life and his.