That might seem like a strange headline but this topic is a surprisingly big part of my job at the zoo. Multiple times a week, I receive calls from people asking me to take their pets, both exotic and domestic animals. Usually it is because they are no longer able to care for their pet and are hoping that we can take it and give it a home. Unfortunately, space and resources are always consideration so in the majority of cases, we are not be able to provide a home for your pet. At the end of this blog, there are some suggestions on how to find a home for your pet if you find yourself in this situation.
That’s why I wanted to share with everyone how important it is to do your research before deciding to add an animal friend to your family. By knowing what you are getting into in advance, you can make sure that you will be able to provide for your animal companion for its entire life. Domestic animals are usually the best suited as companions but exotic species can also make for good additions to the family if you know how to provide for their needs. Even with domestic animals, people are sometimes surprised by the level of commitment required to take good care of their pet and then feel bad if they cannot fulfill those requirements. The key is to be prepared before you even add the companion animal to your family. This way you do not end up trying to find a home for it if you realize that you cannot meet the needs of the animal.
Some important factors to consider:
Species we most frequently get calls about re-homing:
Keep in mind that a lot of the knowledge on how to care for exotic animals is not easily available and that professional zoo staff spend their entire career continually learning and improving care for the species they work with. You will have to do a lot of research to make sure that you have the best, most accurate, and latest knowledge if you want to keep an exotic animal as a pet. It is not impossible but it is a commitment you accept when you decide you want an exotic animal as a pet.
What to do if you already have a pet you need to re-home?
If you find yourself in this situation, remember that most zoos are not likely to be able to take your pet. You can inquire, but do not be surprised if you do not get a response or receive a no as answer simply because of the volume of these requests. Responsible zoos follow what is called a collection plan where the research has been done to plan the spaces available in the zoo. This means that most of the spaces, even when temporarily empty, have plans for what will be filling them to meet guest experience, conservation and educational goals. Unless your pet fits into those plans, a zoo will not likely be interested in taking your pet.
A more fruitful approach would be to search for specific species rescues. There are a number of privately operated rescues that help with placement of unwanted pets. For example, there are bird and reptile rescues all over the country. These are often good places to start with requesting help in placing your pet. Internet searches with terms such as “rescue Pennsylvania” will give you lots of options to explore. Searching for clubs is another angle to explore. For example, there are bird clubs in Pennsylvania such as the Chester County Bird Club that have enthusiasts that could provide you with advice in finding a home for your bird.
Keep in mind that many rescues are labors of love and so people do this on a voluntary basis. They are sometimes not able to take animals directly but instead work with networks of others that help foster or provide homes for animals in need. Red eared sliders are among the hardest to place species at this time as they are easy to breed, cheap to buy and start off small so people do not realize what they are getting into. There is a glut of sliders that need homes already in rescue which makes placement of this species particularly challenging.
Another option would be to post your animal on a service like Petfinder. This will help get people in contact with you who might be looking for a pet. Remember to always verify any potential homes for your pet and make sure new owners understand the commitment they are taking on, otherwise we just continue to perpetuate the problem!
Written by: Former EPZ General Curator Marina Haynes