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From Joy to Heartbreak

From Joy to Heartbreak

  • "From Joy to Heartbreak" originally appeared in the June 2024 "Animal" issue of COMO Magazine
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If you need to rehome your pet, here’s some compassionate advice.

Few emotions rival the unbridled joy of bringing home a new pet, from watching their adorable personalities blossom every day, to the funny things they do that just seem to somehow match the cute name you’ve given them. A new puppy, kitten, hamster, ferret, or similar four-legged new family member — maybe even a bearded dragon or an axolotl — can bring a new sense of purpose and companionship.

On the other hand, there can be emotional turmoil if you must face the difficult decision to rehome your pet due to financial concerns, behavioral issues, moving somewhere that does not allow pets, or any number of circumstances where harsh realities overwhelm that joy. 

Fortunately, Columbia has a bevy of pet rescues and shelters where pet parents faced with the rehoming question can find understanding. 

Each rescue offers resources for pet owners to help them avoid rehoming their pet(s). For example, a woman took her dog to the Central Missouri Humane Society (CMHS), saying that her dog needed grooming, but she could not afford that cost. 

“Anything we can do to keep a pet with the owner, we do that,” said Michelle Casey, associate director of CHMS. Instead of taking the dog into the shelter, the staff asked the woman to wait, performed the needed grooming, and returned the pup to its owner. Casey said the owner was relieved and touched by that act of compassion. 

CMHS is the only open admission shelter in Columbia, which means that it takes in any animal, no matter the breed, species, age, or temperament. Like other rescues, CMHS offers behavioral training and is willing to work with owners to help them keep their pets. There’s even a resource to help mitigate one of the biggest reasons for a person relinquishing their pet: They can’t find pet-friendly housing. The CMHS website offers resources and tips for the issue. 

CMHS also offers the “Animal Safety Net Program,” which is designed for survivors of domestic abuse. 

“We have found there are quite a few people who stay with their abusers because they don’t want to leave their pet behind,” Casey explained. CMHS takes survivors’ pets into a foster program. After the survivors are safe and established, they are reunited with the pet. And for those struggling to meet a pet’s needs due to finances, CMHS offers a pet food bank that is accessible with online registration. 

Another reason a pet owner might feel the need to rehome their pet is starting a family. 

“We see that owners have a dog — get it early on as a couple — and once the couple starts having babies, things go awry,” said Karen Kammrich, owner of Midwest Australian Shepherd Rescue (MASR). She added, “The Midwest is overrun with dogs.” 

Kammrich explained that MASR alone gets four to six rehoming requests every day. She encourages potential pet parents to spend time learning about a breed’s specific needs before getting a dog.

“The bottom line is, I feel like I am emptying the ocean one teaspoon at a time. And it’s not going to end. Right now with rescues and shelters and pounds, we are all in a critical phase,” she added. She offers some advice on safely rehoming a pet when that decision is being considered. 

Have the individual interested in adopting your pet sign paperwork. Arrange for it to go somewhere else if the pet doesn’t work out at that new home. 

Require veterinarian references; call the vet and ask if the pet owner keeps their pets up to date on vaccines and exams. 

Ask the new potential owners how they feel about taking on that specific animal or breed. 

“Make sure the gut feeling is there that these people are going to take care of your dog or feel right for your dog,” Kimmrich said. 

As the 2024 Pet Sitter of the year for Pet Sitters International, Bobbi Wilson, owner of Peace Love Paws Pet Sitters and Pets Need People, has a passion for educating pet parents. Wilson’s website has a podcast and blog with topics ranging from how to safely transport your pet to preparing what to do with your pets if there are natural disasters. 

For Wilson, it’s all about good pet care and education. Some important questions to consider before adopting an animal: Will you be able to provide training for your dog? Can you afford their food and veterinary care? She also mentioned the situation where an older person gets a dog, puppy, or other pet that will likely outlive the owner. Considering such circumstances before bringing a new pet into a home can avoid the rehoming dilemma. 

Meanwhile, rescue groups say that the demand for foster homes for pets is at an all-time high. Columbia Second Chance, Boone County Animal Care, and CMHS are all in dire need for foster placements. 

“It is a hugely rewarding experience and I encourage you to give it a shot. I would venture to say that if you’re an animal person, you’re gonna love it.” said Giulia Hall, executive director of Columbia Second Chance (CSC). Giulia noted that many people want to foster but are hesitant because they would want to keep every pet. That could be true, but every dog or cat is not perfect for your home, she said, adding that helping rehomed pets find their perfect home is extremely rewarding. 

If a pet owner needs to rehome a pet, Second Chance strongly encourages that the owner be the foster parent until a new home can be found. CSC provides everything the pet needs while it is in a foster home. 

If someone who adopts from CSC is having some trouble with their pet’s behavior, the organization offers a visit from a trainer to help the owner keep their animal. If someone relinquishes a pet to CSC, a training session is provided and sometimes the owners end up keeping their pets because there was a solution to their issue. CMC’s website offers resources for lower cost veterinary care, training, a list of charities that provide medical financial assistance for pets, and a list of housing that accept certain dog breeds.

Boone County Animal Care (BCAC) is a foster-based rescue focusing on emergency cat rescues, like saving cats from euthanizing shelters. BCAC does not accept owner surrenders, but it tries to offer solutions for people who are considering rehoming. 

One reason an owner might want to relinquish their cat is due to behavioral issues. Jennifer Romesburg, founder and president of BCAC, explained that cats communicate by peeing and defecating in places they shouldn’t because they are telling you there is a problem. There could be a simple solution to behavioral issues in cats. Taking the cat to the vet to rule out a behavioral or medical is the first step. 

The number of pet owners who do not spay or neuter their pets could be adding to the influx of animals in shelters. 

“Almost every single reason for rehoming can all be fixed by spaying and neutering your pets before six months of age,” Romesburg said, adding that spaying, neutering, and vaccinating reduces many health and disease risks. 

And human disease — everyone remembers 2020 — is another factor for why rescues are so packed now. 

“We are definitely still seeing a surge in people rehoming pets since COVID-19, in addition to the state of the economy,” said Melody Whitworth, founding director of Unchained Melodies Dog Rescue. In an email, Whitworth said, “COVID dogs were not socialized or trained properly. Once things opened up, people went back to work, started traveling, and families are busier than ever. The dogs suffer from anxiety. They are not properly exercised physically or mentally, and people are giving up on a dog that was there for them in the worst of times — and they should now be there for their pet.” 

She explained that the number one reason for a dog to be banished to a chain or a pen is lack of training. Unchained Melodies offers training and socializing classes to prevent dogs from entering a shelter. 

Each local rescue organization echoes the advice that when you get a pet, have a plan for rehoming in case something happens to you as the owner. 

“It is also very important to confirm that they have discussed this plan with the intended beneficiary,” said Klaudia Rejmer, founder of Lil Paws, Big Hearts Chihuahua Rescue in an email. She also encouraged people who are in a transitional period of their life such as graduating, thinking about having kids, moving, or facing a different challenge to wait to get a pet, as the situation could lead to rehoming. 


Central Missouri Humane Society

Pet Food Assistance: 
Pet Behavior Resources: 
Veterinary Services: 

Midwest Aussie Rescue


Columbia Second Chance


Lil’ Paws, Big Hearts

Get Involved: 
Email: [email protected]  

Unchained Melodies Dog Rescue

Foster with UMDR: 
Ways to Help: 

Peace Love Paws


Boone County Animal Care

Foster a cat with BCAC: 
Email: [email protected] 

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