Safely Rehoming Your Pet

Please note, the following applies equally to any animal.  NO living creature should ever be given away for free, or without a great deal of care and investigation of the adopter’s motives.

Cartoon courtesy of Animal Welfare Cartoons NRT

There can be many reasons why you may feel you need to re-home your pet, but please do first give serious consideration to whether you could keep him.  Maybe changing some aspect of the way you care for him might make it possible for him to remain in your home.  The only way to be 100% sure how well he will be looked after is to keep him yourself.  We are very happy to offer advice and assistance to any piggie owner who wants to keep the piggie but is experiencing difficulties.

If you are genuinely unable to give the animal the care and attention that he deserves, and have exhausted the possibilities amongst your friends, family, neighbours, co-workers and local rescues/shelters, then you may be considering posting him on a site like Kijiji or Craigslist.  However, before you place the ad, please consider the following.

All you want for your pet is that the person who takes him should know how to look after him properly, will love and respect him, and will be able to cater to all his needs.  You don’t want to make any money from the transaction, you just want him to go to a good home.  

So, what is wrong with offering your pet for free (and this applies to all pets, not just guinea pigs)?  

To start with, in general terms, it devalues the animal.  Unfortunately, many people equate "free" with "having no value" and will act accordingly, getting the pet on a whim and discarding it when the novelty wears off, or it becomes inconvenient, or it's just not cute any more.  

Remember, a free pet is a disposable pet.

This would be bad enough, but there are other, more immediate dangers.

Free pets attract people who do not have the best intentions.  

They don’t care about the animal, they just want it to make a profit for themselves.  They can be very convincing, and will even go as far as bringing their children along to pose as a loving family.  Asking an adoption fee will deter these people, because it means that their profit is reduced.  Worse yet, some want it for other purposes altogether.

So, if your pet should fall into the hands of such people, what would happen?  Here are some of the possible outcomes for the animal:-

fed to a snake or other reptile - some unscrupulous owners are just looking for a free lunch for their pet
used to "live train" fighting dogs - the animal is literally ripped to pieces 
sold on at flea markets or auctions to anyone prepared to pay the asking price - there is one GTA area flea market where live guinea pigs are sold for $5 each as FOOD FOR PEOPLE
sold to a Class-B dealer, who then sells it on to a research establishment
sold for breeding stock, which invariably means being kept in deplorable conditions with little or no human contact 
used for the latest Internet craze of "crush videos", in which the animal is tortured to a lingering and agonizing death, for the amusement of sick individuals
abused, tortured and killed for “kicks” - reportedly, one of the men accused of the recent “thrill kill” of Tim Bosma had an animal incinerator on his property, although he had no animals.  Why do you think he needed that?

If you have to re-home your pet, how do you protect him from these dangers and ensure that he gets a good home?

Firstly, ask for an adoption fee.  If you feel bad accepting money for your pet, then donate it to an animal charity or rescue.  Or ask the adopter to go to the pet store and spend the money on food and equipment for their new pet, and to show you the receipt as proof.
Secondly, screen the responses.  Ask them to give you details about themselves (name, address, telephone number, e-mail), of their previous experience with pets and also of their vet, if they have one.  Call the vet to check that they are good pet owners.  Just the fact that you have asked for this information will deter a lot of the undesirable people.  
If you have agreed to re-home your pet with someone after checking them out, ask to see their driver's licence to verify that they're who they claim to be.  Deliver the animal to them, so that you can make sure the conditions are suitable.

Genuine adopters with the animal's best interests in mind will not mind any of this.  If they object, then they probably have something to hide.

Finally, there is one group of especially unpleasant people that we have yet to discuss.  Believe it or not, some people will actually pose as a rescue group, offering to take your pet and find it a good home.  Fortunately, this particular scam is easy to foil.  

If someone contacts you claiming to be a rescue, ask for the following information:-

details of their adoption protocols
samples of their paperwork  
a reference from their rescue vet (and make sure you follow it up) 
website address, if they have one
details of how they find new homes for the animals they take in - if they are listed on Petfinder or Petango, chances are they are legitimate, as they will already have been checked out quite thoroughly
an appointment for yourself to visit and inspect their operation - if this is not possible, make sure that if you do surrender the animal to them, you take it to their premises so that you can see the conditions under which it will be living.  

No bona fide rescue would ever mind being asked these questions or supplying this information, in fact they would be pleased that you love your pet enough to take these precautions.

Most people who respond to your ad will probably be genuine animal lovers, but it's the unscrupulous few you need to worry about.  These few simple safeguards will not take much time or effort, but may make the difference between life and death for your pet.  

Please care enough to take care!