SPCA of Texas Adopts New Program to Ease Owner Heartache of Turning In Animals

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Christine Schenk’s daughter was walking their two dogs when she found Max living as a stray in their neighborhood. As fluffy and lovable as Max is, he still doesn’t have a permanent home. With two other dogs and a cat, there simply isn’t enough space for the five-year-old Great Pyrenees in Schenk’s small house.

Not content with surrendering him to the shelter again, Schenk is trying out a new program from the SPCA of Texas called "Rehome." The program is structured to offer a middle ground between existing routes of adoption. Until recently, owners had to either surrender their pet to a shelter or find a new owner on their own.

Maura Davies, SPCA’s Vice-President of Communications, says that Rehome keeps the pets in a home until the adoption is complete. “It takes about three weeks for pets in a shelter to find homes,” Davies says. “Even the best shelters can sometimes be difficult for pets, health-wise, behavior-wise or overall well-being.”

Owners meet prospective adopters through Rehome to make sure that their animal is going to a good home, and the pet stays with its original owner up until the day of adoption. It’s similar to posting a pet adoption online, but going through the SPCA’s Rehome project offers a few advantages to the process.

Through the SPCA, the applications are vetted to protect potential owners from puppy mills. Also, every dog or cat must be spayed or neutered. Before posting the pet’s listing, the animal must also have its vaccinations up to date. The SPCA offers a $50 package that covers all of the above at a discounted rate.

The application also addresses how the animal interacts with children, pets and whether or not the animal is housebroken. Adopters and owners arrange to rendezvous with each other to see how the animal behaves before agreeing to the adoption. The SPCA speaks with each owner but doesn’t necessarily have to meet with each pet. 

Aside from cats and dogs, people can also list other animals such as rabbits and other small mammals. The SPCA is also working to add horses to the list of accepted animals.  

There are around 20 active listings currently, and the program began in mid-August. Owners are allowed to charge their own fees for the adoption but the SPCA watches for excessive listings or prices to help adopters avoid puppy mills and other similarly nefarious operations. “On the adopter side, you know that the pet you’re looking to adopt has already been in a home, is spayed or neutered and is up-to-date on vaccinations,” Davies says. “On Craigslist, you don’t know what you’re getting into.”

Applications cite reasons such as changes in health, living conditions and poor finances as reasons for owners to create a listing for their pets. One owner said that she had to list her mother’s newly adopted dog on Rehome because of its aggression toward other dogs, a point that was downplayed during the initial adoption through a shelter.

Davies says that the SPCA’s shelters are designed to operate at capacity, but the program could potentially take some pressure off of their facilities if more people begin to use it. “This is a somewhat innovative program, we’re not sure exactly what kind of numbers we will see,” Davies says. “We’re looking forward to seeing exactly how much space a program like this could free up.”

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