Updated: May 31, 2021
Long Story Short - we RARELY do them.
We get hundreds of requests a month. Most days there are 2 requests in our email when we first sit down in the morning. We simply can't reply to them all or it's all we would do. Some are infuriating. Some make us cry. We wish we could help every dog and every owner but it just is not possible.
We are not here to make it easier for owners to abandon animal they can, could and should be taking responsibility for.
We are here to try and help in cases of true need.
If we take an owner surrender, a shelter animal dies. Think about it. Really think about it.
We have a limited number of foster homes and a limited budget of donations - and millions of shelter animals die every year. We prefer to pull from shelters as those animals have NOBODY - where your animal should have you fighting for it.
Also, we have to be on the other side of a surrender. Owners walk away and we are left with a terrified animal - we have to watch that animal panic, look for you as the former owner and their whole world, and fall into a depression as they realize they have been abandoned. Some animals take it better than others. It’s never easy on our volunteers or fosters and we have to protect their mental health as well.
Cost is an issue. When an animal comes out of the shelter they usually come with some basic vetting done and some basic temperament testing done. They usually come out with vaccines at least started, frequently spayed/neutered, dewormed, HW tested etc. and with limited donation only funding this helps our bottom line - thank you taxpayers. Rarely in an owner surrender is the animal UTD on its vetting and fixed. Rarely has an owner truly worked with a reputable trainer and worked with a vet on behavior. MPR then has to cover the cost of vet visits, vaccines, spay neuter, and we have to drive to those appts. It's easier and more cost effective to simply take a shelter animal, especially one that is already fixed. Animals with basic vetting done are more easily able to be integrated into a household and it makes it easier on our foster homes as well.
Clear ownership. In an owner surrender, we have no way of knowing who truly owns the animal. It could be a roommate's animal or an ex boyfriend/girlfriend's animal. The ONLY way for us to have any legal backing on ownership is to shelter pull. Even THEN it's not always clear and clean.
Example 1: We dealt with one shelter pull where the daughter and owner went out of town for six months and left the dog with her Grandma. Grandma surrendered the dog to the shelter and when the daughter came back six months later, she called us screaming threatening attorneys and lawsuits to get her dog back. Had we taken that dog directly as an owner surrender from Grandma it would have become a civil matter in court - she could have sued us and there isn't enough previously decided litigation to know how a court would rule. At that point the dog had been adopted for six months, was best friends with a 4 year old in the new home and MPR had significant vet bills into the dog. It would have been heartbreaking for everyone to be forced to return the dog to someone who essentially abandoned it for six months because Grandma lied. Because this was a shelter pull not an owner surrender, we had the county shelter backing us up saying that there was really nothing that could be done. (No, that shelter should NEVER have unprofessionally given out our information to that prior owner and no, it wasn't cool and borderline abusive our founder had to listen to that prior owner scream at her - mental health in rescue is important and this was a clear case of why.)
Example 2: A MPR volunteer found a stray starving abused infected worm filled dog at her door. We reported it to the shelter per their exact instructions as we always do. 22 days later the owner surfaced and police were called - we were forced to return this dog to it's breeder/abuser and we were out the $700 dollars to begin vetting this dog. The county owes us an apology for this entire situation and two years later WE HAVE NOT FORGOTTEN. We will never forget. To the police, this dog was property of the prior owner and it didn't matter we had reported it to the shelter as they instruct. Our founder still deals with the PTSD of the way the Wyoming police officer treated "some rescue person" as he called her. Had we immediately taken this dog to the shelter and pulled it back out in 4 days after the stray hold, there was nothing the old owner could have done. It's unfortunate that dogs have to go to puppy jail for the stray hold but it is the ONLY way to clear ownership on a dog legally. This pup remains one of a few we couldn't save and it haunts us. This pup taught us why owner surrenders/strays are not the best way to run a rescue. This pup taught us a lot of things - including how to live with never receiving an apology morally due and our founder completely changed her opinion of the police and the Kent County Health Department who are also responsible for her PTSD from this entire horrific situation. All of this would have been avoided had the dog simply been surrendered to the shelter vs. reported as stray to the shelter as they instruct. TAKE STRAY DOGS TO THE SHELTER PERIOD.
Responsibility. There are very very few legitimate reasons to surrender an animal. Examples could be an owner takes a fall and is physically unable to care for an animal, military deployment, moving out of the country (not moving in the same city find housing that will take a pet), owner death. 90 percent of the owner surrender requests we get the animal isn't spayed/neutered or children in the home are not being taught to respect the pet. Usually owners have not worked with a legitimate positive reinforcement trainer or discussed meds with their vet.
If you do feel you need to surrender your animal, making sure that animal is medically clear is absolutely Step 1. Is the animal UTD on vaccines, neutered/spayed, and have you spoken to a qualified vet about any behavioral issues and medications that may help? We can count on one hand where a truly responsible owner needed to surrender a pet.
(If you are unable to afford vetting, please contact us and we will do our best to advise - please consider vet expenses prior to adopting an animal. Please also understand if we go through your facebook feed and see you get your nails done, buy lotto tickets, drink alcohol, go out to dinner, smoke, that it's really hard for us to politely listen to you tell us you can't afford vet care.)
For example - if an animal is being owner surrendered for urinating in the house, has the animal been cleared for a bladder infection, bladder stones, and is the animal fixed? If the animal is being surrendered for behavioral problems, is the animal getting enough exercise - could a dog walking service help? Could food puzzle toys and games help mentally stimulate a dog which can be just as important as physical exercise!
Step 2 is consulting a qualified trainer.
Surrendered animals must come with a consultation with Kristie Swan, BAA CPDT-KA, KPA-CPT at A Dog’s Life GR at the expense of the current owner.
Sessions are usually $75+ travel expenses.
Training can often help stop the reason for the surrender - which will keep animals in their homes with the current owner.
People lie. Sometimes on purpose. Sometimes not on purpose. Sorry not sorry for the bluntness and we realize it’s harsh but - facts are facts - and we have seen it ALL. Once we had someone tell us their dog was neutered - when we got there, definitely NOT neutered. We need a third party assessment to ensure truth and ensure we are getting accurate information.
We need an honest assessment of what we are considering taking on. If the dog is honestly aggressive and a safety risk, we should be considering behavior euthanasia not surrender. If the dog is honestly NOT aggressive, we want to rule out environmental factors or abuse.
A trainer can assist with advice on what kind of home a dog will succeed in. Does a dog need to be the only pet? Does a dog need a home with no kids, no cats, a fenced in yard, etc. This assessment can also help us determine a proper foster home for the animal.
If after a consult with a trainer we determine that it’s in the dog’s best interest to be put into a different home, we can consider proceeding with the owner surrender. Even then, it’s not a guarantee we are able to take on a surrender as we are limited by if we have an open foster home, if we have the budget to take on an additional animal, etc.
On a case by case basis, if we do take a rare owner surrender, the current owner is expected to pay for medical expenses to get the animal up to date on vaccines, fixed etc. and owner surrenders are charged a $150/fee which covers an assessment at our vet of an animal’s health.