Giving Up a Pet

Giving up a pet is a difficult decision. Homeward Trails believes in encouraging pet owners to do all things possible to address issues they may be having with their pet before deciding to give their pet up. Tens of thousands of pets are given up each year to animal shelters and most are needlessly euthanized. Below is helpful information for the pet owner who is experiencing issues that, if properly addressed, may prevent them from giving their pet up. We hope that these will help and we hope that you will do all that you can to keep your pet safe!

Is Your Pet a Homeward Trails Pet?

If so, we must remind you that you are contractually obligated to return any animal you adopted from Homeward Trails to us so that may ensure that animal’s safety and well-being. We will assist you in any way possible to avoid giving your animal up, but if you must return your adopted animal, please contact the Adoption Coordinator and/or the Foster person you worked with. If you don’t recall this person’s information, please then contact: if you have a dog. Or contact if you have a cat. An HT rep will contact you to make a plan.

Expensive Medical Issues

If you have an animal that is suffering from a medical issue or an injury that you find yourself unable to afford, there are resources to help you so that are not faced with the decision of giving your animal up or premature euthanization. Please contact the following organizations for assistance. If you are unable to secure assistance from these organizations, you may contact Homeward Trails. We will consider your request and promptly inform you if we are able to help. Please note that are funds are very limited and usually designated to adopted Homeward Trails pets. However, we will consider your request and do have creative suggestions for raising needed funds.

Behavioral Issues

Often, behavioral issues in your pet can seem extreme and unmanageable. But with the help of a qualified trainer, you can often make a lot of progress quickly and avoid giving your pet up. Below are trainers with whom we work and who will provide you with initial assistance via e-mail or phone free of charge. Please note that phone or e-mail consultation is only a first step… but it can be a very helpful one. Please consider contacting one of these dedicated professionals to learn of steps you can take immediately to address your pet’s behavioral issues. You will be amazed and relieved to know that help can be just a phone call away. (note: for more difficult issues, it is usually necessary to have an in-person evaluation and ongoing training for your pet. A phone and/or e-mail consultation is not necessarily meant to replace actual training. It is a first step.)

Vivian Levén, CPDT
Certified Pet Dog Trainer
Associate Member, IAABC

KissAble Canine
Lisa Colon Tudor
Tel: 703-574-3383


Do you have a cat or dog who is not spayed or neutered? Are you struggling with difficult behaviors including: spraying; aggression towards other animals; mounting other animals or people; consistent running away; and marking? If so, you may need to spay/neuter your animal immediately to address these behaviors. Spaying/neutering your pet often prevents such behaviors and also helps keep your pet healthier. Have you taken in a pet or own a pet that has become pregnant and you don’t feel that you can care for the litter? You don’t have to give your pet away! Click here to find low-cost spay/neuter vets in the DC area. Please, do not give up your pet before you consider the impact that spay/neuter may have on negative behaviors. And please do not take your pregnant pet to an animal shelter where she will likely be euthanized. There are better options!

Rehoming a Pet

If you need to rehome your pet, the best option is for you to keep the animal in your home until another home can be found. This will reduce stress on your pet and help ensure a safe and lasting transfer. Please consider the following options when looking to rehome:

  • If your pet is a purebred, use to locate a Breed Rescue in your area who may be able to help.
  • Consider putting an ad on Craigs List ( Include a photo, good description and current contact info. Be absolutely sure you do a home visit and get a positive vet reference from anyone interested in taking your pet. Beware of people who are too eager, those not able/willing to provide references or submit to a home visit.
  • Post flyers at your vet, doggie daycare, local coffee shop.
  • Use your friends, family and colleagues to help you find a home. It is best if you know someone personally.
  • Consider creating a contract that your new pet’s owner must sign, obligating them to provide good care of your pet.
  • Be sure to stay in touch with the person who takes your animal.
  • If your pet is not a purebred, contact a local rescue group in your area (find them on and ask if they will assist you by putting your pet’s info on their website, helping you with a contract, home visit and advice on finding a good home.

Relinquishing A Pet

If you absolutely must give your pet up and are not able to keep your pet in your home while finding him/her a new home, you should contact Homeward Trails as well as other local rescue groups. Please note that we, like most rescues, are usually full and have few open slots to take in relinquished pets. We will make every effort to help you, but cannot guarantee an open slot. If you adopted your pet from Homeward Trails, we will take the animal back, as mandated by our Adoption Contract. If your pet was not adopted from Homeward Trails, we will try to secure a foster home or boarding spot for your pet. We will often require a nominal donation to help offset boarding costs if we agree to take your pet into boarding and we will require that your pet be current on vaccines and spayed/neutered. Exceptions will be made on a case-by-case basis. To relinquish a dog, contact To relinquish a cat, please contact If we agree to take your animal into our program, you will be required to sign a Relinquishment Form.

If the animal you are relinquishing is not a cat or dog, please contact these groups:


The House Rabbit Society
Maryland/ D.C./Northern Virginia Chapter

House Rabbit Sanctuary

Friends of Rabbits
P.O. Box 1112
Alexandria, Virginia 22313
tel: 703-548-6793


RESCUE ME Avian Sanctuary
Post Office Box 534
Ark, VA 23003
fax: 804-695-9475

Tiny Wings In Need
2309 Apple Tree Crescent
Virginia Beach, VA

Guinea Pigs, Gerbils, Rats, Hamsters and Ferrets

Small Angels Rescue
Guinea pigs, gerbils, hamsters, and more
Frederick, MD 21703

The Ferret Inn Shelter and Rescue

Ferrets R #1 Shelter & Rescue
Falls Church, VA

Rocky’s Ferret Rescue and Shelter
Vern Strahler, (410) 483-4919
Barbara Clay, (410) 329-6111