Why do people give up their pets when they move?

Why do pet owners give up their pets due to moving?

My husband and I recently moved across the country with our 70-pound Lab mix and two cats.

Our pets were a huge burden for us during the move, and I will never judge someone who chooses (or is forced) to re-home her pets due to moving. There are way too many factors out of the pet owner’s control.

In this post, I’ll go over:

1. The challenges of finding affordable and nice pet friendly housing.

2. What we can do to help pet owners keep their pets when they move.

Some examples of hurdles we faced during our move:

Time crunch.

We moved 2,000 miles from Fargo, N.D., to southern California. My husband Josh had the luxury of taking a trip in advance to do apartment searching, but some people don’t have that option.

Either way, there is only so much time available to find the right apartment. For example, my brother recently moved to a different state on about 10 day’s notice. Finding affordable housing in his new area was extremely limited in general, let alone for people with pets (he doesn’t have pets).

But what do you do? You need a job and a place to live.

Dog breed and size discrimination.

Why people re-home their pets due to moving

We never did find an apartment that does not discriminate against certain dog breeds, so here I am renting from an apartment that discriminates and I feel guilty.

I’m not sure what we would have done if Ace happened to look like one of the targeted breeds (to most people he looks like a black Lab).

It was hard enough finding an apartment that would allow us to have a dog over 55 pounds.

Liability insurance.

Our apartment requires us to carry $100,000 in liability insurance. This is yet another expense when you’re on a budget, and yet another barrier if you own certain dog breeds.

The insurance company we are using will not offer coverage to people who own certain breeds. I feel terrible admitting to this, but I had so much to do in preparation for our move that I did not take the time to find a different insurance company.

High pet deposits and monthly ‘pet rent.’

Ever notice how the pet friendly apartments are either really expensive or really cheap? Every time I move with my pets I have to choose between paying more than I can afford or paying a lot less and living in a really run-down place. I’ve done both.

Thankfully we can afford an apartment on the higher end of our budget, but this is not an option for everyone. What do you do if you can’t afford any of the pet friendly apartments?

And then of course there are the extra expenses for pet owners who rent such as the pet security deposit and the monthly “pet rent.” And since my dog is more than 55 pounds, we are blessed with a higher pet rent.

One- or two-pet limits.

Nearly every apartment has a limit on the number of pets you can have – usually one or two pets. We have three.

Again, if you’re on a budget and a time crunch, what do you do?

Cat declawing required.

Some landlords will ask for proof that the cats are declawed. Sometimes front and back declawed.

Frankly, I don’t have the money to get my cats declawed, even if I wanted to. If you have cats and a limited budget but need a place to live, what do you do? Risk eviction? Then what?

Finding pet friendly hotel rooms.

It took us three days to drive across the country, so we had to stay in two “pet friendly” hotels that charged a $15 pet fee. But “pet friendly” generally means dog friendly and not cat friendly.

I was about to lose my mind when I got to our first hotel only to be told “absolutely no cats allowed.” I never even mentioned I had cats, and I still had to sign a form saying I was not a cat owner.

Thankfully, I knew to expect this in advance and brought my cats into the hotel by hiding them in duffle bags. I carried their litter box in a duffle bag, too. This was extremely stressful for me after 14 hours of driving.

Figuring out how to fit the pets in the moving truck.

I understand why people have no choice but to re-home their animals prior to a move. Sometimes moving with animals is nearly impossible.

Josh and I had a moving budget, and hiring a moving company was simply out of the question. So then we had to figure out how to fit two humans, two cats, a litter box and a 70-pound dog in the cab of a moving truck for three full days. And we don’t even have any kids!

We briefly debated putting the cats in a large wire kennel with their litter box in the back of the truck, but we knew it would be too hot for them.

Ultimately, we decided Josh would drive the truck and I would drive my car with three passengers – a mutt and two cats. We were able to make it work, but some people would not have this option. And thankfully my pets are excellent travelers!

So what can we do to make moving easier for pet owners?

1. We need to be understanding.

Those of us who volunteer for rescue groups or animal shelters need to be compassionate to the pet owners. People don’t want to surrender their pets. They simply have no other options or they believe they have no other options.

I’ve heard plenty of high-and-mighty rescue volunteers say things like, “Well, didn’t they know they would be moving? Couldn’t they plan ahead?”

It breaks my heart thinking of it now. It makes me want to cry for these pet owners because on a small level I can imagine what they might be going through. How awful would it be to surrender your pet to a rescue volunteer who greets you with such hatred and judgement?

2. Offer the pet owners some options.

We may not be able to prevent all pet owners from surrendering their pets, but maybe we can offer help to some.

A great example of a rescue group that works to help families keep their pets is Downtown Dog Rescue located in Los Angeles. Tegan Whalan maintains the blog Some Thoughts About Dogs, and she had a great post about DDR that I hope you’ll read because it shows the human side of animal rescue work.

“An overlooked part of dog rescue is to prevent dogs ever being in the position of needing rescue,” Whalan wrote. “That is, preventing animals from entering shelters to begin with.”

Her post included an example where a family brought their cat to a shelter to surrender it because they could not afford the required $100 pet deposit to bring their cat into their new apartment. The woman at the shelter was compassionate and provided options and a solution – DDR would pay the $100 pet deposit so the family could keep their cat. What a great story!

3. Help them find pet friendly housing.

Prior to our move, I emailed a local humane society asking for suggestions on apartments that would allow dogs of any breed. I would love to adopt a second dog, I said in my email, and I don’t want to be limited on my options based on breed restrictions.

The humane society never got back to me. I received no response at all. This is a huge failure. How many other pet owners is this shelter ignoring? If you’re in the business of finding homes for dogs, one of your first tasks should be helping pet owners keep their pets in order to keep animals out of the shelter in the first place.

It would be worthwhile for every shelter and rescue group to keep a detailed list of pet friendly housing divided into categories that include:

4. A ‘responsible pet owner’ is not defined by a person’s level of income.

This should not need an explanation. Pets ask for very little, and they do not care how much money we make as long as they receive the most basic care.

How many of us have said something like, “I would live out of my car before giving up my dog”?

Then why are we so judgmental of others who are facing real-life hardships?

Why do people re-home their pets when they move?

5. Express our concerns to landlords and insurance companies.

Remember how I said I’m renting from a company that discriminates against certain types of dogs? I can politely and professionally voice my concerns to the management of the company and ask for change.

This is especially effective when those of us with non-targeted breeds are the ones to speak up. We aren’t trying to protect our own dogs, but we are showing that breed discrimination in general is wrong and ineffective and that we do not support it.

We can also approach insurance companies in the same way, and we can make a point to give our money to companies that do not discriminate.

What advice do the rest of you have about moving with pets and the challenges people face? Do you have any real-life examples?

35 thoughts on “Why do people give up their pets when they move?”

  1. I sometimes think I simply can’t move a long distance-for a lot of reasons but among those reasons are my animals. The dog LOVES road trips, but as a single person those road trips are tricky. Do I leave him alone in the car while I run to the bathroom? Do I ALWAYS have to eat in the car, rather than in a sit-down restaurant? And the cats (2) hate CAR rides. HATE. They start screaming and crying (we’re going to die…. we’re going to die…. can you not see that this thing is MOVING????) while we’re still in the driveway. Either they would need tranquilizers or I would.

    1. Lindsay Stordahl

      Yes, I had trouble with leaving my pets in the car as well. My husband and I were driving separate vehicles, so we weren’t always together. I hated running in to buy food. I was so worried about the pets in the hot car.

  2. This is often an issue for military personnel when they transfer or deploy. I’m not affiliated with the organization,, but “Dogs on Deployment” is a great resource for service members who for whatever reason cannot be accompanied by their pets. A wonderful alternative to shelters or Craigslist!

  3. It broke my heart to have to give up two of my cat Friends when we were moving to another province, off our farm, for health reasons. Thankfully, we were lucky to find another farm to take them In a similar area and have another friend nearby be a secondary rescuer in case.

  4. I remember moving from Fargo, ND to NW British Columbia with my cat, Ophelia. She was a cat accustomed to car rides because she had to travel back and forth to Bismarck several times a year. BUT this was waaaaay too much for her. She howled and hissed and when it came time to sneak her into the hotel…well, I don’t think the sneaking was successful because the screaming was a bit LOUD. She made it it. I survived, but I don’t think she ever truly forgave me for stuffing her in the duffle bag. Now, we are planning on moving from BC to Elliott Lake, Ontario next summer. This time, it will be with four dogs and one very independent feline. I hope we can purchase a home before we move, because finding someone to rent to our pack, well there is always hope, right? I agree that rescues need to find ways to work with people to support pet ownership.mI left a local rescue because people were getting too judgmental. A little support and suspension of judgment can go a long way.

    1. Ontario tends to learn in the favour of the tenant. You don’t even have to disclose that you have a pet. Once you moved in they cannot discriminate or evict based on you having pets. I just did a big stressful moved with my 130lb dog.

  5. I think animal rescue workers see so much of the ugly and the awful that it’s hard to remember that good, responsible people need to rehome their pets sometimes, too. Another thing not everyone considers is that sometimes we have every reason to thank our lucky stars someone gave up their pet. For example, my friend’s next door neighbor. They should not have pets. At all. They are irresponsible and let their unsterilized cats outside 24/7. I have homed 2 cats from them that they didn’t want. The first cat was friendly, lived on their porch, but he always seemed to have a cold and they would not take him to the vet. I was told that I could have him, but when I came to get him they changed their mind because he was “so good with their baby.” They didn’t have the will or funds to take their cat to the vet. Re-homeing him would have been a responsible decision, but they didn’t. Well, not until about a month later when I got a call saying that the cat’s leg was broken and I could have him now. Nice.

    The there’s my neighbor. He has an “outdoor cat” (really just a stray that he feeds and calls his). The cat is covered in filthy mats all the time, has ear mites, and a limp from an old injury. I thought the cat was just a stray at first and I took him to the vet to shave off the mats and got drops for his ears. The next day the “owner” came to my door, cursed me out for stealing his cat, said it didn’t matter that he had mats, and took the cat back. If this guy re-homed his cat I bet people would say, “What’s wrong with him? Couldn’t he have found a way to keep him?” But nothing would be better for that cat than getting away from my psycho neighbor.

  6. Excellent and needed post with power from your real-life example.

    I get so sick of the line, normally after judging someone for surrendering their pets in a relocation situation, “I would live in a car if I had to!”. Sorry, but ‘you’ probably wouldn’t. Indeed, if you have a car, you are probably in a position of relative affluence.

    I have never even thought about using motels with cats… What a problem!

    Recently, I had a rescue phone call from what seemed to be a case worker of a disadvantaged couple who had been evicted from a house, and were in a motel, and couldn’t take their dog. Luckily, they were able to pay for a boarding kennel, and I recommended one in the area, and then my saint-of-a-fiance transported the dog to the boarding kennel (as they didn’t have a car). The couple were distraught with even this outcome but were also very grateful that a workable solution was found. This could’ve been an unfortunate rehoming situation in a different set of circumstances.

  7. I’ve been living in my current apartment for about two years longer than I wanted because I can’t find a place that will rent to me and my two large dogs. I’m ashamed to admit this, but my current landlord doesn’t even know I have two dogs; she thinks I have one. I wouldn’t have gotten this place had she known. Here in Los Angeles, it seems almost every “pet friendly” place is actually only friendly to dogs under 20-30 pounds who are not bully breeds. Unfortunately, my dogs do not fit into that category.
    I understand that it’s every landlords right to decide if they want animals on their property or not. What frustrates me is that people assume dogs like mine will be destructive and a nuisance to those around them, when in reality my dogs have NEVER damaged property and are generally very quiet, friendly, and lazy. They’re great apartment dogs! (In fact, it’s the small dogs in my neighborhood that are the yappy ones!) Still, I never get past the first phone call with a potential landlord.
    I have this awful recurring nightmare about suddenly losing my apartment and not knowing what to do with my pets. Were that to happen, the chances of me finding a place that I could afford and that isn’t in a terrible neighborhood would be pretty slim. Yes, it was my choice to have these dogs and I don’t regret it for an instant, but I can understand how people end up giving up their beloved pets. As a single woman I just can’t imagine willingly living in my car or on the streets. I feel for people who are faced with the awful choice of losing their pets or not having a roof over their head.
    I read an article recently about making a “pet resume” for your dogs. Sort of a “Hi! My name is Fido, I’m a pit bull, and here are all the things that make me an awesome tenant!” advertisement. You can even offer pet references. I’m going to give it a try.

    1. I love the idea of a pet resume! We will probably become landlords in the next few years and this post has made me determined to allow pets.

      1. Thank you! Forget BSL. Every dog is a individual just like we are. Also consider no size restrictions as the smaller ones are usually the ones who do the most damage if damage is done! Lastly, when you interview the people also interview the dog! ❤️

  8. This is such an important topic. Moving is stressful enough. Worrying about our pets adds even more stress to an already stressful situation. It would be great if more shelters had lists of pet friendly housing readily available. I wonder why more don’t do this… And yes, the judging certainly gets out of hand sometimes doesn’t it?

    I’m so glad you and all the pets arrived safely. Looks like everyone is settling in nicely.

  9. When someone asked me for help finding a temporary foster for her 2 small dogs as she was living in a car with them I tried my best. It was Dec in Md and bitterly cold. I gave her some really cushy doggie coats, thick doggy beds, comforters for herself and the pups, and dogfood. I tried to give her hope saying this could happen to anyone and that she was brave and things would look up. She was close to giving the dogs up for adoption as she felt defeated and wanted to do her best for them. I was getting closer to a foster when she found a job and was able to rent a room allowing 2 dogs. Both dogs were rescues and she took wonderful care of them. The 9 year old knew all kinds of tricks. Sometimes kindness can go a long way to help somebody have hope and not give up.

    1. Lindsay Stordahl

      I really appreciate your willingness to share this story. Perfect example of how we can’t truly be compassionate to animals unless we are also compassionate to people.

  10. Re: point 2, rescues and humane societies maintaining lists of pet-friendly housing:
    Yes, it would be magnificent if every rescue kept such lists, but that’s a fairly big investment of resources on the part of the rescue, particularly given that there are many other such tangential tasks they could potentially be spending time on (e.g. lists of low-cost spay/neuter resources; healthcare tips for animals; lists of local dog parks; local no-kill rescues; etc.).

    There are already some online rental listings sites that include pet-friendliness, and rental listings frequently state whether or not pets are allowed; if they do not state this, an enquiry to the landlord or rental agency will soon clarify things. Yes, it’s annoying and time-consuming, but the whole process of moving is annoying and time-consuming! I visited fifteen different apartments in the search for my current apartment, and emailed or phoned about many more. It took a lot of time, but it was worth it to find somewhere that filled my criteria.

    1. Lindsay Stordahl

      I guess I don’t see any excuse why a humane society or rescue wouldn’t be able to provide that information. Sure, it takes time, but a couple of volunteers would be able to take on that project. If the organization’s goal is to keep animals in their homes, then this is one of the most basic steps.

      1. There are many resources that rescues and humane societies could provide (examples in my previous post) and not all rescues or humane socs have the volunteer power to maintain this kind of resource. They may also either not have considered having housing/rental information on their website or would prefer to focus volunteer energy on maintaining other resources.

  11. I am a shelter operations manager and we are really pushing on keeping the pets in the home to start with. I have offered a free vet visit and discounts with a local partner vet, food and flea meds, and training advise. We are fortunate enough to have two trainer that volunteer for us.
    I like the idea of compiling a list of pet friendly rentals. I plan to use our face book page to ask for ideas and also to see if we have any realtors as volunteers or on our page. That would be a great resource and save a bunch of time.
    We also keep a list of pit bull friendly insurance companies on our board.
    Thanks for the great ideas!

    1. Lindsay Stordahl

      Thank YOU for all your hard work. Great idea about keeping a list of pitbull friendly insurance companies handy.

  12. Its tough to move with pets but it can be done and I could never give up my pets…..its not home without them. They are a part of my family. Its not like a vacation or road trip where you return….they would be gone forever….wouldn’t happen.

  13. My mom and stepdad are moving from Missouri to Oregon. My mom is flying ahead, while my stepdad drives. They were worried about what to do with their dog Solo and I am very concerned about her flying. She is a special needs dog and I don’t think she should fly. At first, my stepdad was thinking about getting a moving truck. I was going to help with the driving since I’d like to visit family in Oregon and since my stepfather’s health won’t make it easy or safe to drive that far. But if we did a moving truck, where would Solo go? Because they really want to take Solo, they’ve decided to minimize the amount of stuff their are moving and get a cheap SUV or minivan instead. This way Solo can sit comfortably in the back seat while my stepdad and I take turns driving.

    I just found out my husband and I need to move too. He got a job in Iowa so we are moving from Kansas to Iowa next month. Driving with our dogs won’t be a big deal. But I’m worried about finding a pet friendly place to live. While there are numerous pet friendly apartments and such, I always worry about living next to a dog-hater who is going to call the management every time my dog barks or something.

  14. It’s been a wail since your move, but I find your post really useful! This is such an important topic. Moving is stressful enough. Worrying about our pets adds even more stress to an already stressful situation. Julia’s suggestion about making a “pet resume” for our dogs is a very good idea!

  15. I’m so happy that I found that post! I was so worried about my puppies and what to do now, because we are moving! But you come up with really great suggestions! Both the writer and the other readers! Thank you so much ! I appreciate your help!

  16. Thank you for the article.

    It struck me hard to read your article about the discrepancy in rentals allowing large dogs – I find it so infuriating that the lack of choices (at least where I am at) leaves one deciding between a cockroach infested complex with the local elements roaming about or a “clean” complex that will leave you with little to no money to put toward debt and medical care, etc. There are also all the individual rentals that charge outrageous rent for tiny, often rundown houses. We have searched high and low for several years and continue to live on the fringe of unaffordable so that we may keep our large dog while protecting our son’s health from crappy housing (he experienced a serious medical issue as a toddler). To me, this large dog rent situation is reflective of the over all middle-income squeeze; somehow, owning a large dog is readily available option to cheap/crappy housing (and/or likely not managed well) or a paid-privileged of high rent.

    Our situation over the years has grown increasing complicated with trying to manage all the variations introduced by rising rent, our own health issues, work changes, financial limitations and debt, and the list goes on. We have applied to move into a middle income place that will decrease our rent $300 a month, yet is acceptable quality. Of course, being middle income, it doesn’t allow large dogs, so we are planning to put our baby, 12 years old and beloved, to sleep. He likely has a year or two left with the probability that his health will decline during this time, so we are justifying our decision in many ways, but the guilt I feel is intense. This was a very difficult decision for us, but we see our dog’s medical issues coming as he ages, we are grappling with our own, and there is simply no money otherwise.

    So thank you for the article. I tried to google about putting dogs to sleep due to moving, but there was nothing. I am trying to read others’ experiences in order to alleviate the grief, anger, shame and guilt I’m experiencing. I know I will be judged harshly by some, but I am also hoping compassionate people will also come out of the internet woodwork.

  17. Sandy Weinstein

    this issues makes me so mad. i get so mad when people give up their dog, whom they profess to love and adore. then they say they are moving and cant take the dog, or moving to a place that does not allow dogs, look for another place then. it is different if you are in the military and go overseas or have to move overseas, however some people do take their dogs with them when they ahve to go overseas. most military personal do not give up their dog, they find someone to care for them til the return, (and hopefully they will return). i hate it when someone says their dog is getting old and they dont want to pay for the vet bills, or the dog has health issues and they dont want to pay. do you get rid of elderly people b/c they get old and cost more money? sorry but i get really mad when i hear i am moving to an apt and cant take the dog or the dog is getting old….you knew when you adopted or got this animal, things would happen, that is life. you deal with it. you dont give up or give in. i also against putting a dog to sleep because you cant keep him, he is old, or put it in your will if you die, your dog gets put to sleep. do you put a human to sleep b/c they are old, you cant afford them or move to a place where they cant live or if you die first, do you want someone to put your parents to sleep? sorry but i get pissed when i hear any of this crap and i mean crap. i am living on a very tight budget b/c i had to take early retirement many yrs ago to care for my mother. my dogs come first. i dont buy things i dont need, i sacrafice for my 3 gals b/c they are my family. get the one family!!!!!

    1. I am getting ready to move from a four bedroom house to a two bedroom apartment. I have 2 dogs and 2 cats. I have looked at many many apartments in my price range and the majority have a 2 pet minimum. We HAVE to move the owner of the house we rent is selling it. So what do you think we should do? Live on the street with our four pets and our 13 year old or make some tough choices to provide a roof over the head of our human. My husband recently retired from the Navy and I’m an Army Veteran we were fortunate to be able to bring our pets with us when we PCS’ed even to Japan. Now that my husband has retired and we have our eldest in college and we have to relocate we have to do what is best for everyone and this includes our pets. We have decided to keep the cats, the maltipoo is getting certified as an emotional support animal for our daughter her college allows that so he will move in with her and our jack russell we want to keep but have to face that we may not be able too. Some apartments and even rental houses will let you apply for a third pet and if approved you can have the pet but it’s not a guarantee and it’s case by case. I feel that you are judging people who have to consider this way too harshly especially when you are in no position to take the animal in that you can’t stand to see be surrendered. Do you really think that I’d consider giving up my dog that I’ve had since she was a puppy if I had a choice? Maybe focus your judgement on apartments and insurance companies who consider more than two pets a liability. Right now my options are extremely limited and in my mind taking her to a shelter is the last option but one that I have to consider.

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