Surrendering to Animal Shelters

Working with animal shelters should be viewed as a last resort for you and your pet. Not only are Chicago area shelters overflowing with hundreds of incoming animals everyday, they can also be a very stressful environment for pets accustomed to living in a permanent home.

If you want to ensure that your pet does not become one of the thousands of dogs and cats that will be killed this year in Chicago, do your homework before surrendering your pet to a shelter. Here are a few tips on how to determine if a shelter is committed to the life of each pet admitted:

  • Does the shelter call itself No Kill? If so, your pet will most likely be adopted into a new home. If not, this is a strong indicator that the shelter utilizes killing as a space management tool.
  • What is the shelter’s definition of “adoptable” and “unadoptable”?
  • Before placing an animal on the adoption floor, some shelters may categorize whether an animal is “adoptable” or “unadoptable.” These categorizations are defined differently within each institution. And while your pet may appear perfectly adoptable to you, sometimes age (too young or too old), dental issues, shyness, or coming down with a common cold will fall outside a shelter’s “adoptable” guidelines and may lead to your pet’s death. Clarifying how a shelter defines these terms will give you better insight as to whether your pet will be adopted into a new home or killed.
  • Do you have to make an appointment to surrender your pet? It is a good indication that shelters are committed to the life of every animal when they only admit by appointment. Shelters that accept “walk-ins” are most likely killing to make space for the unmanaged flow of animals into their facility.
  • Read the fine print! In surrender/relinquishment contracts, it is important to read all fine print before you sign over ownership of your pet. Often, critical information about euthanasia/killing policies can be found there.
  • If a situation arises, will the shelter call you before they kill your pet? When a shelter reserves euthanasia only for pets that are irremediably suffering or for incidences of aggression, euthanasia is a rare occurrence that is taken very seriously. As a result, these No Kill shelters will often be willing to contact you if such a situation arises. If a shelter is unwilling to inform you of a potential euthanasia, it may be an indication that the shelter commonly utilizes killing.


Special thanks to Sabrina Nizzi for dog and cat videography.

Additional thanks to Sebastian Sparenga Photography, Caitlin Lisa, Heather Haseley, Dan Kasberger, Jennifer Girard, Malia Rae Photography, Richard Chen, Oscar Mendez, and Von Buzard for event and animal photography used on this Web site.

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