Surrendering A Pet

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SPCA Wake's Helpline provides free guidance for whatever pet needs or concerns you may have. Whether you need help managing your cat's or dog's behavior or need information on affordable spay/neuter services, veterinary care, or anything else -- we're here for you!


In Wake County, nearly all lost, stray, or owner-surrendered animals go to the Wake County Animal Center, the government-run and government-funded county department responsible for providing animal care and control services for our community. Nearly every county in North Carolina has its own municipal shelter, and these county shelters are generally the only organizations that can accommodate very urgent or highly time-sensitive surrender needs. Unfortunately, North Carolina suffers from severe pet overpopulation, leading to highly crowded shelters and a lack of resources to place every pet. Because county shelters operate with limited spacing and are required to make space for incoming animals, owner-surrendered pets may be at a significant risk of euthanasia. Whenever possible, these risks should be considered before making the choice to surrender.

We understand life will sometimes throw curveballs. The unexpected happens and pets may need to be rehomed. We know this is a very tough situation, but the key to remember is you are your pet's best advocate. There are a variety of alternative rehoming options out there, and we hope you will try these before surrendering to a county shelter. Read below for more information on the options available to you.

If you have exhausted all other options and still need to inquire about surrendering your pet, please visit our Pet Helpline to request more information. Click Here and select Rehome or Surrender an Animal from the dropdown menu provided. Please note: A helpline form is required for all intake requests. 


Let us try to help you keep your pet.

The SPCA of Wake County celebrates the human-animal bond and has made a commitment to help pets stay in their homes and out of the shelter system. We know rehoming can be incredibly stressful for pets and people alike, and our aim is to help you make every effort to keep your beloved pet whenever possible. Many of the reasons pets are often surrendered - such as pet allergies, breed restrictions, lack of pet-friendly housing, or behavioral considerations - can be successfully managed with the right resources. For this reason, we have compiled a resource packet that goes in-depth into your options for specific and common scenarios. Read packet here.

Is it a behavior problem? The SPCA of Wake County offers a library of resources for managing specific behavioral challenges for both cats and dogs, including over 30 articles with specific techniques and guides you can use to improve or overcome a pet's undesirable behavior. If your pet was adopted from SPCA Wake, you are also eligible to access force-free training at a reduced rate from participating trainers. Click here to read more about your options.



Remember you are your pet's best advocate. There are several options out there, but don't wait until the last minute to find your pet a home. Here are some options we recommend trying to rehome your pet and avoid the shelter altogether. You can find even more tips and information in our Pet Retention/DIY Rehoming Packet, which can be found here.

Websites for Rehoming

Many people look for adoptable pets on websites such as, Craigslist, and Facebook groups, and these can be great tools for sharing your pet with as many people as possible. By rehoming directly to a new family, you're able to bypass the shelters and rescues entirely, allowing you to take the process into your hands and avoid risks of euthanasia and declining health & behavior.

Screen Potential Adopters

It's incredibly important to screen potential adopters for your pet. There are many great homes looking for pets on these websites, and to find them it's important to ensure they have good intentions and will be a good fit. Not everyone is honest about their intentions when they inquire about your pet - some individuals will disguise themselves as well-intentioned adopters as they seek free or easily acquired pets to sell for laboratory research or cruel purposes. Even honest and well-intentioned people may not be a good fit for your pet, and a failed match may result in the pet being surrendered to a high-risk shelter. In order to avoid these outcomes, we suggest you do the following at minimum:

Do not give your pet away for free. Charge at least a small rehoming fee, somewhere around $35-$50. This is considered best practice as most people with dishonest or cruel intentions are not willing to pay for a pet.

Spay or Neuter your pet before adoption. This will make your pet more attractive to adopters, help prevent pet overpopulation, and keep your pet from being used for breeding. The Saving Lives Spay/Neuter Animal Clinic has minimal-cost spay/neuter options, located next to the SPCA Pet Adoption Center.

Ask lots of questions. Here's what you'll want to know:

  • Do they have experience caring for this type of pet? Otherwise, are they well-researched and understanding of the responsibility involved?
  • What kind of life will your pet have with its new owners? Will it have daily exercise, appropriate food, regular vet care? How much time will it spend in a crate or in the yard alone? Will they view it as a member of the family or just a dog/cat?
  • What will they do if it gets sick, or tears up their house, or doesn't get along with their other pets?
  • Do they have experience or a plan for your pet's breed or specific needs?
  • How do they plan to train it? What are their views on discipline?
  • If they have cats, dogs, or children, will they get along with your pet and vice versa?
  • Consider asking for their current veterinarian's contact information as a reference.
  • Ask open-ended questions and really listen to the answers. Be non-judgmental and you will get more honest answers.
  • Be sure to discuss a backup plan in case they realize shortly after adopting that the pet is not the right fit. Would they attempt to rehome, surrender to a shelter, or just let the pet loose outside? If possible, consider offering to take the pet back into your care in this circumstance. Remember, you know your pet better than anyone and are in the absolute best position to advocate for them and find safe and appropriate placement for them.

Consider your personal safety when arranging to meet strangers who express interest in your pet. Use common sense. Some animal shelters and police stations have safe meet-up spots that you can use.


Take Advantage of Social Media

Facebook/Instagram/Twitter have become excellent resources for rehoming pets. Here are a variety of ways you can use them to your advantage.

Use your own Facebook or Instagram accounts to share your pet's story with friends, family, and co-workers. Take cute photos and post them with attention-grabbing descriptions. Be honest about any issues and accurate with what you say, but make sure to highlight their best qualities! Be sure to specifically ask friends to share your post. This will really maximize how many potential adopters will see your pet.

Ask friends, family, neighbors, and coworkers if they or anyone they know would interested in adopting your pet, or even fostering temporarily while you find a more permanent solution.

Create eye-catching flyers to promote your pet to potential adopters and ask if you can post them in vet’s offices, pet stores, or other high-traffic community areas.

Write posts in Facebook groups for pet rehoming in your area. These can sometimes be called “rehoming networks” and may be helpful for finding short-term foster as well.

Using great pictures can make a huge difference for catching the eyes of interested adopters! You can read about the basics for taking good pictures of your pet, and view some before-and-after examples of pet photography. HeartsSpeak has some free resources for photographing pets and writing pet bios.