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How to Return Pets Back to a Shelter

| Updated September 26, 2017

According to the American Humane Association, between 7 and 20 percent of dogs and cats that are adopted from animal shelters will be returned within the first six months following adoption. If you adopted a shelter pet but the adoption is not working out well for your household, you can typically take the pet back to the shelter from you adopted it.

Returning a Shelter Pet

  1. Locate your original shelter adoption paperwork and read through it. Some shelters have specific rules and requirements regarding the return of adopted pets. If your pet was adopted with a contract that specifies what happens if you no longer want the pet, you will have to abide by that contract.
  2. Call the shelter or rescue organization from which you adopted your pet and ask specifically what you need to do to return your pet. Some shelters can take in animals immediately but others may request that you keep the animal until a space becomes available for it in the shelter.
  3. Bring your dog or cat back to the shelter during a time period when the shelter is open and accepting dropped-off pets. Make sure to bring your animal's veterinary records, and any toys or special items that you wish him to have.
  4. Fill out any necessary owner surrender paperwork that the shelter requires. In some cases, you may be charged a fee for taking your pet back into the shelter. Once you finish filling out the paperwork, you will be free to go and your pet will have been officially returned.


  • If you returned the pet to the shelter for a specific reason, such as a behavioral problem, make sure that the shelter knows why you are returning the pet. Your information may help the shelter find the animal a more suitable home the next time he is adopted out.

    Some shelters may require you to be a resident of a particular area in order to drop off pets. This is the kind of local area detail you need to ask about when you call the shelter to learn how to return your pet.