Top 8 reasons people surrendered their pets in 2018 – and what they could have done instead

April 17, 2019

Surrendering a beloved pet is a reluctant and distressing last resort for many people – but sadly, it still happens all too often. In 2018, RSPCA South Australia accepted a whopping 1,440 animals surrendered to our care.

While many of the reasons for these surrenders were beyond the control of owners, that’s an alarming number of furry ones to suddenly find themselves without a home.

Alternatives do exist, so check out our tips on what to do if you find yourself in one of the following situations.

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Surrender reason #1: Changes to accommodation – 16.9%

This was the top reason South Aussies surrendered their pets in 2018, representing 16.9% (244) of all animals surrendered to RSPCA SA.

Keeping a pet while renting can certainly be difficult. However – don’t give up hope! You might find that landlords and real estate agents are open to negotiate about allowing animals if you approach them directly.

Here’s what you could do:

  • Offer to sign an agreement or pay a deposit and encourage the landlord to meet your well-behaved, well-groomed, and flea-free pet.
  • Keeping a “pet-resume” could also be your key to success! Maintain a veterinary history, up-to-date vaccination certificates and a behaviour profile for your pet. This can then be handed to prospective landlords during your application process.
  • For more information and tips, head to our pets in rentals page and have a suss of our blog post about this topic.

If you’re moving overseas or interstate and can’t take your pet with you, please consider asking family and friends who already know and love them if they’re able to take over fur-parent duties.

Surrender reason #2: Changes to financial circumstances – 12.2%

With 12.2% (176) of pet surrenders resulting from changes to financial circumstances or an inability to afford current vet bills, it’s important to know that a variety of options are available.

Here’s what you could do:

  • Consider VetPay.
  • Negotiate a payment plan with your vet. They may be happy to work out a weekly or monthly payment plan so that you don’t have to pay the entire cost up front.
  • Purchase pet insurance. While insurance may not help in the current crisis, you should consider purchasing pet health insurance for future medical needs as it can help minimise vet and hospital costs.
  • Contact your local food shelter to access pet food or consider generic brand food.
  • Consider the smaller expenses in your day that you could do without. Could you substitute your daily coffee purchase, or monthly cable subscription, in favour of covering the costs of keeping your pet?

Surrender reason #3: Animal behavioural problems – 12.2%

Ranging from social problems and anxiety to displays of aggression, animal behavioural problems were another driving force behind surrenders, representing 12.2%, or 176, of all animals given to RSPCA SA in 2018.

Fortunately, behaviour modification programs can often be successful, as can making simple changes to your environment.

Here’s what you could do:

Surrender reason #4: Too many animals – 11.7%

This one may come as a surprise, but a substantial 169 animals (11.7%) were surrendered due to their owners having too many pets.

To avoid this, we strongly urge new pet owners to think carefully before deciding to bring an additional animal into their lives.

It is also vital to ensure your animals are all desexed, helping prevent unwanted pregnancies.

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Surrender reason #5: Changes of mind – 10.6%

Unfortunately, the number of animals surrendered to RSPCA SA because they were no longer wanted was significant – representing 10.6% of all surrenders, or 152 animals.

Again we strongly urge new pet owners to think carefully before deciding to bring an animal into their lives. Remember – they are living creatures who require a lot of love and care!

Alternatively, the best homes can often be found with people who already know and love your pet, so try asking family and friends before resorting to a surrender.

If you still think surrendering is the only option, here’s what you could do:

  • You may apply to surrender your pet to RSPCA South Australia using these forms. Our staff will then contact you to arrange a surrender appointment time.
  • To increase your pet’s chances of finding a new home, ensure they are desexed, groomed and vaccinated. If they are purebred, you could try contacting the original breeder.

Surrender reason #6: Deterioration in health of owner – 6.2%

We know that age, illness and disability can make caring for pets difficult – in 2018, 89 animals (6.2%) were surrendered to RSPCA SA due to their owners’ deteriorating health.

Here’s what you could do:

This is where Pet Care Support, or Companion Animal Programs (CAPS), can help.

Run by local councils, these programs provide practical support to people who are struggling to meet all their pet’s needs.

Trained and carefully matched volunteers visit participants in their home to provide a wide range of pet care services including dog walking, grooming, bathing, administration of medication and transportation to vet appointments.

Download the toolkit to help your council get involved.

Surrender reason #7: Changes to availability or ability to care for animal – 4.4%

Sadly, circumstances can change without warning, which can cause significant stress and grief for both owners and pets. In 2018, 4.4% of animals (63) were surrendered to RSPCA SA because of changes to their owners’ availability or ability to care for their animal.

But there are ways to make circumstance changes easier.

Here’s what you could do:

Sometimes, all we need is a little support.

Accessing boarding facilities to gain short-term respite may be an option. At RSPCA South Australia, we do have limited emergency boarding facilities. Please contact us to see if you might be eligible.

Surrender reason #8: Death of owner – 3.4%

Sadly, last year, 49 animals – 3.4% of all surrenders to RSPCA SA – ended up in our shelters due to the death of their owner.

The loss of a loved one can often be just as distressing (not to mention confusing) for animals as it is for humans. If you are unable to take on your loved one’s animal after their passing, know that we are here to ease the burden.

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Other reasons for surrendering

The remaining 22.4% (322) of pets were surrendered to RSPCA SA in 2018 for miscellaneous reasons including animals failing to get along with other pets in the household; owners developing allergies to their pet; or animals simply being abandoned by their original owner.

For many surrenders, specific reasons were not given. A significant 142 animals (9.9% of all surrenders) were surrendered with the reason being a vague “owner is unable to keep”.

We know it’s a big decision to part with a beloved companion animal, and we always encourage you to seek help and explore alternatives if you can.

But – if you’ve truly exhausted all your options, surrendering your animal to a trusted animal welfare organisation will give them a second chance at a permanent home, and RSPCA South Australia is here to help.


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8 thoughts on “Top 8 reasons people surrendered their pets in 2018 – and what they could have done instead”

  1. Susan Keeling

    Does the above suggestions apply to all other States or just SA? I believe that this information should be circulated around the country and available in leaflet form and at vetinerary practices, breeders, etc.for new animal owners.
    Hopefully this would help reduce dumping of unwanted pets, ir is unbelievable that so many pet owners do not have the knowledge or common sense when it comes to what to do under those curcumstances you outlined.

    1. Hi Susan, these are statistics from South Australia only, but all RSPCA member societies across the country do include information about surrendering and alternative options on their own websites. Thank you.

  2. Olaf

    How about RSPCA lobby the government and real-estate association to make it illegal not to allow pets in rental accommodation.

  3. Brian

    I had no choice but surrender a dog once. It was like getting my heart scooped out. Never again.
    PS. There’s a typo in the last sentence.

  4. Sharon Smith

    I had no idea about the local council program. We pay huge rates each year and yet the council don’t advertise this…? Why? I never would have thought of contacting them so thank you for this information but it should be advertised more widely so people know. Often people surrender because they don’t know what other options are out there.

  5. Leo

    I recently adopted a second cat because my circumstances have changed my ability to spend as much time with my existing cat. Having a companion fixed the issue of her loneliness and boredom, she’s much happier now (and the new cat seems to love his new family! Win all around).

    When I was adopting him, they said “I see that you have previously surrendered several animals. Are you sure about taking on a new one?”

    When I explained that I used to do rescue and rehabilitation and that the surrendered animals were in varying stages of the rehab process when I became seriously unwell and unable to continue their rehab, they relaxed. It helped that the senior ranger remembered me lol

    But it was comforting to know that safeguards are in place to prevent an adopt/surrender/adopt cycle. It’s also good to know that surrender isn’t held against us if it’s legit.

    But I agree; if at all possible, try other options first. Surrender into a shelter is confusing and distressing to a lot of animals as opposed to being rehoused to a familiar person or put through training, etc.

  6. Greyhound Adoption

    It is absolutely correct! I completely agree with the author what he dictates in this article. I will surely keep these points into my mind! Thanks

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