Relinquishing or Rehoming a Pet

Outline of paw in heart

Pets who were adopted from the Humane Society of Illinois (HSCI)

If your pet was adopted from the HSCI and you can no longer keep it for any reason, we will take it back and require that you return it.  If you have owned the pet for more than six months, relinquishment fees will apply to assist with the cost to care for the pet.

Pets that did not come from the HSCI

If a pet needs a new home, we will do our best to welcome it if there is space in the Pet Adoption Center.  Call (309) 451-1000 as soon as you have decided to find a new home for your pet. 

What to expect when asking to relinquish a pet to the HSCI:

  • Our adoption staff will ask you some general questions about the pet to determine if we can help.
  • If we are unable to help immediately but think we may be able to help at a later time, our staff will either put you on a waiting list or ask you to call back. Our ability to take pets depends on a variety of factors.  We operate with a waitlist and animals will be scheduled to come in when space is available.  We cannot accept walk-ins.
  • If we are able to take the pet in, we will ask that you bring it in on a specific day.
  • When bringing in a pet, please provide as much information as possible. If you have vet records, please bring them with you.
  • You are welcome to donate the pet’s belongings (bedding, food, medication, toys).
  • When relinquishing a pet, you give your consent to transfer ownership of the pet to the HSCI, which allows us to medically treat and adopt it out as we see fit. You also terminate your ownership of the pet. No follow-up information is provided to you about the pet once you have relinquished it.

Relinquishment fees

brown and white rabbit with brown guinea pig and brown and white guinea pigThere is a relinquishment fee of $25 for cats and small dogs, $50 for dogs 50+ pounds, $15 for rabbits and guinea pigs, and $5 for hamsters, gerbils, mice, etc.

These fees help to offset the medical and basic expenses of caring for the relinquished pet.

Found pets

If you found the pet, contact your local animal control facility. Post the pet on lost and found websites and Facebook pages, but please do not post on Craigslist.  Do take the pet to your local Animal Control so that they can try to reunite the pet with its owner.

Check out our pet care tips for more information on what to do when you find a pet.

We know the need to find a new home for your pet can be heartbreaking, but sometimes necessary.  If you cannot keep a pet in your family, please use your very best judgment in re-homing your pet so they get the life they deserve.


It’s important you’re proactive in having your pet’s information available and are prepared to share their story with prospective adopters.


Before looking for a new owner for your pet, make sure they are up-to-date on vaccinations, are in good health, well-groomed, and are spayed or neutered. This will make them more attractive to potential adopters.

Some shelters and adopters are willing to work with pets with medical issues. Be honest about what they are so the pet can receive the medical care they need and both shelters and adopters can assess whether they are, indeed, able to care for the pet.


Take good photographs that show what your pet looks like, not just up-close of that cute face, but the whole package. Showcase what they do best, whether it’s catching a Frisbee or being a couch potato.

paper and red pencilPet resumé

Write a resumé for your pet. Include basic details (age, breed, gender, habits, etc), as well as veterinary records and photos. Be sure to include your contact information. Writing a story from the pet’s perspective can also be quite effective.

Help the new owner by including information about what foods they will or won’t eat, normal feeding times, and any peculiar habits such as a preference for a particular food or water bowl. Provide as much detail as possible so the new owner can ease the pet’s transition to a familiar routine.

Paw in heartHonesty

Be truthful. If there are medical or behavior problems, be up-front with that information. Some problems can be prevented or at least addressed. It isn’t fair to the new owner to discover your dog’s dislike for cats after the adoption has taken place. Biting histories and behavior with children are especially important. If the pet has a biting history, disclose that as there are liability issues. Owners can try training and limiting uncomfortable situations for the pet. This is especially important if your pet is toward the end of their life or has problems that will require extra understanding.

Promote your pet

Make people aware that you are looking to find a loving home for your pet.

world wide web with heart Share your pet’s availability

Post your pet’s information in trustworthy places like:

  • Emails to friends and family
  • Posting flyers at your place of work, vet’s offices, churches, on Facebook, etc.
  • Placing an ad in the local newspaper with a good photo

moneyCharge a nominal fee

Charging a nominal fee is encouraged – unless placing a pet with a trusted friend or family – to discourage anyone who may want the pet for inapporpriate and potentially criminal reasons (unfortunately this is a real concern).  A free pet often attracts the wrong type of adopter – one who isn’t committed or willing to spend money on proper food or vet care, or who wants to sell the pet for research or fighting purposes.

checklist References and special requirements

We encourage checking references, so include a note that references are required.

If there are special requirements, it is best to state them in a positive tone – for example, “Children over 10” instead of “No kids under 10.”

Meet prospective adopters

We always recommend you meet the pet’s potential new family before making a decision.

PhonePhone interview

First, conduct a phone interview (feel free to reference our adoption application for questions to consider asking).

Group of people In-person meeting

If you are comfortable with what you hear, arrange a meeting. Ideally, visit their house so you can:

  • Meet other pets and household members
  • See the living conditions the pet would experience
  • Observe the condition of current pets
  • Confirm their landlord allows pets, if they are renters
  • Ask for a vet reference
  • Inquire about their knowledge, and experience with pets

If you are rehoming a dog, it is best for dogs to meet at a neutral spot so there are no territorial issues. You might want to consider a park.

HouseChoose the right home

Trust your instincts and wait for the right person to come along. When you’ve found the right home, be sure to send your pet’s food, bedding, treats, and toys to make the transition easier.

Other Options for Rehoming a Pet

In addition to a privately arranged adoption, there are more options to consider.

Original source

Did your pet come from a shelter or breeder? It is common for both to expect pets to be returned to them for any reason. In fact, this may be stated in your adoption contract. The HSCI always accepts its adopted pets back.

Other shelters

To find other shelters near you, try Keep in mind that shelters can vary drastically in their standard of care, living environments, medical treatment, and human contact with pets. We strongly encourage you to visit a shelter first without the pet. See the pets currently available and the living conditions. Ask questions and ask to see the medical records for a specific pet. They should be willing to share this information.

Rescue groups

If your pet is a purebred or a mix of a particular breed, a breed-specific rescue group may be available. This can be a good avenue to pursue since the volunteers and adopters are often more prepared to deal with medical and behavioral issues unique to the breed. To find a breed-specific rescue group, conduct an internet search using the name of the breed, your state, and the word “rescue.”

Rehoming a Dying Pet

If your pet is very ill or dying, finding a shelter or another owner will be difficult and not in their best interest. The change to living in a group environment or a new home can be extremely stressful to any pet – even more so for an ill pet. And few strangers are willing to take on these responsibilities. Your veterinarian, our staff, or a rescue group might be able to provide advice on how to manage the issue so the pet can remain at home.

Your pet’s final days should be spent in a home with people they know. We realize how hard it is to experience a pet’s death. Euthanasia is a difficult decision but can be a very humane, compassionate act. Many veterinarians will come to your house if you prefer.