We have an our all-volunteer, foster-only rescue organization with a foster program that is entirely offsite. We do not have a shelter.

When an adopter wants to return their adopted animal, we would love to guarantee that we can re-home the pet for them. Realistically, it's very difficult to achieve when you don't have a physical shelter to stash them in until you can rustle up a foster home.

Do any of you have policies you are willing to share or good insights into best practices for this?

  • August 05, 2019 at 07:13 AM

    My group (Urban Cat Coalition in Milwaukee) has a very similar set up and definitely has to scramble to place the tougher cats or returned cats as well. The number is low (we had 4 returned cats in 2018) and working with with adopters has helped keep a lot cats in homes when the person was considering surrender. In most cases, we can text/email/talk on the phone and suggest options people are willing in try. In a couple tough cases, we've sent a (very experienced!) volunteer to the person's home to meet with them and work with them and the cat.

    We do have a couple fosters who are set up with the legitimate cat kennels/condos that we bought from a shelter and can take some of the more difficult cats and keep them separate from others. One foster has room for 8 cats in condos (she holds most of our barn cats before they find homes). That has been extremely helpful in a lot of emergency situations (where someone needs to surrender RIGHT NOW, injured feral cats, etc).

    Side note: We also require that fosters start any semi-feral cats (who need socialization) in a large dog kennel and slowly work up to more space over time. We have some great protocol from Cat Town in Oakland on socializing cats that our fosters use.

    • August 05, 2019 at 07:18 AM

      Also, recently when a couple of our cats turned up at a local shelter as surrenders, and we were pretty far past our actual capacity, we made a plan with that shelter for them to keep our cats. We agreed that if our cat got marked un-adoptable by that shelter, or if they really thought the cats would show really badly in the shelter, then we would happily take them back. The two cats actually got adopted together again in less than a month after their surrender!

  • June 16, 2019 at 07:22 AM

    Do you explore why adopters want to return pet and offer help or suggestions on how to try to remedy situation. Assuming adopter wanted pet, they might (should) be open to suggestions. Hopefully this will result in a permanent solution, or at the least give you more time to try to find a foster situation. Also a good reason to try to inform adopter of possible issues before adoption (kittens are active, cats need time to adjust an quiet time/space for a while) , cat may be known to like or not to like other cats, dogs. Good luck.

    Our community has a large number of seniors (people) and we are frequently getting surrenders or returns from people or their families as the seniors can no longer care for animals. We have established a Senior for Seniors program where we place senior cats in forever foster homes with responsible senior people who want a cat but cannot afford adoption fee or vet bills. This is an expense for the rescue, but we do ask for contribution from surenderor, do fundraisers and apply for grants to help and it is a wonderful solution for pet and forster.

  • June 12, 2019 at 04:51 AM

    Thanks for all the answers so far. This is primarily cat specific, by the way. We do take them back, of course. We have language in our contract about contacting us and returning the animal to us, and it's thankfully NOT a situation that happens often. We have all of the things y'all have suggested in place already--social media, specialist foster, partnerships with boarding facilities and vets and other rescues/shelters. The problem arises when the pet is truly a difficult one where you really need to find a very special family that will take some time to find. Or when they end up not very adoptable. Right now we have several "office cats" who are there mostly because they have some kind of quirk or aren't confident. Some hide. Some are a little feral still, but not aggressive. It varies. We're working on socializing the ones that need that, but some have been sent back a few times from foster families. I don't need anyone to troubleshoot the specific office cat issues here, but it's clear that with the tough cases we don't have any good answers. Thank you all!

  • June 11, 2019 at 11:26 AM

    Can any or all of the organizations people take one foster animal?

  • June 11, 2019 at 08:21 AM

    Agreed...you must take them back because your obligation is to the animal. I'm surprised by how many times I hear of animals being dumped or picked up by animal control and not reclaimed. I'm sure your adoption policies are comprehensive and at my age and with my rescue experience I shouldn't be surprised by the things people will do.

    If the return requirement language isn't already in your adoption contract, add it now. The ongoing communication is a good idea. Not everyone has the resources, I know. Maybe do occasional social media posts asking people to comment with relevant pics of adopted pet and follow up with people who don't participate? Maybe do periodic posts with generic information about rehoming resources or encouraging people to contact you if having problems? Maybe have volunteers or foster homes that specialize in urgent situations? Maybe partner with a boarding facility that will help with short-term emergency placement? I'm also surprised by the number of people who surrender pets that are not familiar with Dogs on Deployment and similar. Maybe be sure shelters you work with offer this option to people on intake if applicable?

  • June 10, 2019 at 01:00 PM

    Rest assured you are not the only one. This has happened to us over the years, including getting returns of animals picked up by animal control and those found as strays believe it or not. It never gets easy, especially since it is a surprise. Our policy is we take the animal back no matter how full we are at the time. We had the experience years ago when we asked the adopter to hang on to the dog until we found a foster, that he dumped the dog at the park. So we just take the animals back right away. However, over the years we have developed an ongoing communication system in which we maintain friendly updated communication via email, text, or calls with adopters and this allows us to get an idea ahead of time if we might have to take the animal back in. It also allows us to create a more secure relationship in which the adopter may be willing to work with the animal if it is a challenging pet and to help us in the search for a more suitable home.