Rehoming a Saint Bernard is not an easy task. We know that all too well at Colorado Saint Bernard Rescue. But, your Saint deserves your very best effort to find an appropriate home for them
First, some information about your options:
Shelters and humane societies were created to care for stray and abused animals. They weren’t meant to be a drop-off for people who don’t want their pets anymore. Shelters, on average, take in 100 new animals or more each day. The reality is that there aren’t enough good homes for all of them. The best shelters don’t do much better than a 50% adoption rate. This means that your Saint has a 50/50 shot at finding a home, or being put down.
By law, stray pets must be kept several days for their owners to reclaim them. They may not be destroyed until that period is up. Dogs given up by their owners aren’t protected by these laws. They may be destroyed at any time. So the shelter is faced with the harsh reality of running out of room, and having to put down the dogs that aren’t on stray hold.
Being purebred won’t help your dog’s chances of adoption either – almost half of the dogs in many shelters are purebreds. And Saints are big, sloppy, drooly animals that require owners able to care for them properly. Vet bills are expensive. The dog’s size is intimidating. These factors all work against a Saint finding a good home. This also means that the dog may be put down after the stray hold is up, and they have spent 10 miserable days in a kennel with strangers.
Sending dog to a shelter in hopes that they’ll find a good home is wishful thinking. More than likely, they’ll be put down due to lack of available space and the difficulty of finding them an appropriate home.
True “No Kill” shelters, though growing, are still few and far between. Obviously, no one wants to see their pet killed so the demand for No Kill shelter services is high. No Kill shelters with open enrollment are important. This means they don’t turn away dogs in need. For a list of these shelters, please go to the NoKillNetwork and see if there is one near you. But if you can find a way to keep your dog, you will be doing much greater good than just finding someone else to take care of the animal you made a commitment.
Breed-specific rescues like Colorado Saint Bernard Rescue are small, self-funded, non-profit organizations run out of volunteers’ homes. Fosters are kept in private foster homes until a permanent home is found. This results in a shortage of available space for new intakes. Colorado Saint Bernard Rescue prioritizes dogs by risk: Those in high-kill rate shelters are given first available slots. Dogs are evaluated for adoptability, and length of anticipated stay in Rescue. Often-times, this means turning away dogs that are less adoptable because of lack of space. It is an upleasant reality. Colorado Saint Bernard Rescue is happy to counsel you about finding a home for your Saint, and to provide referral services for you. We are more than happy to provide you with our process overview and forms so that you can do a thorough job of placing your Saint in an appropriate home. If we have space, we will take your Saint into the program, but harsh reality means that we don’t always have space. Senior dogs will most likely die while in Rescue while waiting to be adopted. Senior dogs are not desirable to adopters, so if you have a senior dog with health issues, do you want them to die with strangers or be surrounded by the people they have loved all of their life and go with dignity.
There’s the reality of where your Saint can go from here. Let’s talk options for you:
Step 1. Soul Searching
Do you really have to give up your Saint? There’s a big difference between being forced to give up your dog and wanting to “get rid of it”. Search your heart for the real reason why your dog can’t live with you anymore. Be honest with yourself.
Your answer will probably fall into one of two categories: People Problems or Dog Problems.
The Most Common People Problems:
“We’re moving – we can’t find a landlord who’ll let us keep our dog.”
Many landlords don’t allow children either but you’d never give up one of your kids if you couldn’t find the right apartment. Affordable rental homes that allow pets are out there if you work to find them. Most people give up too easily. See the end of this article for suggestions that might help you find an apartment and still keep your dog.
- Most people give up too quickly in their search for rental property that accepts pets. Don’t be too quick to jump on the first apartment you see. There’ll probably be a better one available soon.
- Widen your search. Most people only look as far as the classified ads. Many landlords list their property through real estate agents or rental associations rather than the classifieds. Take advantage of rental services that help tenants find apartments. Ask friends, relatives and co-workers to keep an eye open for you. Many apartments are rented via word of mouth before they’re ever advertised in the papers. Check out http://www.apartments.com!
- A home that allows pets might be in a different neighborhood than you’d prefer. It might be a few more miles from work. It might not be as luxurious as you’d like. It might cost a few dollars more. Are you willing to compromise if it means being able to keep your dog?
- “No Pets” doesn’t always mean “no pets, period.” Many landlords automatically rule out pets because they don’t want the hassle. Many of these landlords are pet owners themselves. Just because the ad says “no pets” doesn’t mean you shouldn’t go see the apartment anyway. During the interview, ask the landlord “Are pets absolutely out of the question?” If he answers, “well….”, you have a chance! Hint:You’ll have better luck asking this question in person than over the telephone – it’s harder for people to say no to your face.To encourage a landlord to let you keep your dog:
- Bring your well-groomed, well-behaved dog to the rental interview. Show the landlord that your dog is well-cared-for and that you’re a responsible owner. Bring along an obedience class diploma or Canine Good Citizen certificate if your dog has one.
- Offer an additional security deposit or rental amount to be able to have a dog.
- Bring references from your previous landlords and neighbors. Invite the landlord to see your present home to show him that the dog has not damaged the property nor been a nuisance to the neighbors.
- Use a dog crate. Landlords are much more receptive to dogs that will be crated when their owners aren’t home.
- In difficult times, people often have to move in with relatives or friends who don’t like dogs. This doesn’t have to be an impossible situation. Use a dog crate when you’re not home or when your family doesn’t want your dog underfoot. A portable kennel run can be set up in the yard for exercise and can be sold later when you have your own place and don’t need it anymore.
- Don’t think you’re being unfair to your dog by moving into a smaller place than what he’s used to. Dogs are very adaptable, they can often adjust even faster than people. Where he lives isn’t as important to him as who he lives with. He wants to be with you and he doesn’t care where that is.
“We don’t have enough time for the dog”
As a puppy, your Saint took far more of your time than it does now. A Saint doesn’t really take that much time – its requirements for attention are often less than many other breeds. They sleep nearly 20 hours a day as adults. They require an hour of good brushing a week to keep their coat in shape and mat-free. Will getting rid of your Saint really make your life less stressful? When they look closely at their lives, people often discover that the dog isn’t cramping their style as much as they think.
The Most Common Dog Problems:
If you got your Saint as a puppy and it now has a behavior problem you can’t live with, you must accept the fact that you are at least partly responsible for the behavior problems you are seeing. You have four Options:
- You can continue to live with your Saint the way it is.
- You can get help to correct the problem.
- You can try to give your problem to someone else.
- You can have the dog destroyed.
Obviously the first option is out or you wouldn’t be reading this. You’re reading this, so the second option apparently doesn’t seem like a good one. We’re assuming you wouldn’t have taken the time to get here had you been interested in the fourth option. So that leaves Option Three.
If you were looking for a dog and could select from all kinds of dogs and puppies, would you deliberately chooose one with a behavior problem?
No, certainly not – and neither would anyone else. To make your dog desirable to other people, you’re going to have to take some action to fix its problems. Most behavior problems aren’t that hard to solve. We can help you with them if you’ll give it a try. We’ve seen all flavors of behavioral problems in Saints, and dealt with most of them succcessfully. Think hard about Option 2 before deciding it won’t work for you – because the only option you have left is Option Four: Having the dog destroyed. That’s the bottom line. If you, who know and love the dog best, won’t give it another chance, why should anyone else? Think about that.
IF YOUR DOG HAS EVER BITTEN ANYONE
If your dog is aggressive with people or has ever bitten anyone, you can’t, in good conscience, give it to anyone else. Could you live with yourself if that dog hurt another person, especially a child? Can you deal with the lawsuit that could result from it? You stand to lose your home and everything else you own. Lawsuits from dog bites are settling for millions of dollars in damages. We are unable to place dogs with bite histories. Period. We cannot expose ourselves to the risk of being shut down by a lawsuit. This means that if we take in a dog with a bite history, we have to put it down. Any bite history.
Our society today has zero tolerance for a dog with a bite history, no matter how minor. A dog that has bitten – whether or not it was his fault – is considered by law to be a dangerous dog. In some states, it’s illegal to sell or give away a biting dog. No insurance company will cover a family with a biting dog. And to be perfectly honest, no responsible person in his right mind would want to adopt a biting dog.
No matter how much you love your dog, if it has ever bitten anyone outside of defending itself or its family, you only have one responsible choice – take it to your veterinarian and have it humanely put to sleep. Don’t leave it with a shelter to die confused and alone with strangers. It’s not fair to the dog.
As hard as it is to face, putting a potentially dangerous, biting dog to sleep is the only safe and responsible thing to do. It’s the right thing to do.
Step 2. Call your Saint’s breeder.
Before you do anything else, call the person you got your Saint from and ask for help. Even if several years have passed, responsible breeders care about the puppies they sold and will want to help you find a new home. They may even take the Saint back. At the very least, they deserve to know what you intend to do with the Saint and what will happen to it. If you can’t remember the breeder’s name, look on your Saint’s registration papers. If you got your Saint from an animal shelter or rescue service, read the adoption contract you signed when you adopted him. You may be required by the contract to return the Saint to that shelter. If you got your Saint from a pet store, you are faced with an uncomfortable reality: Most pet stores don’t care, and won’t be interested in helping you.
Step 3. Evaluate your Saint’s adoption potential.
To successfully find a new home, you need to be realistic about your Saint’s adoption potential. Let’s be honest: most people don’t want “used” Saints, especially if they have health or behavior problems. Your Saint will have the best chance if it’s less than 4 years old, is healthy, friendly to strangers, obeys commands and adapts quickly to new situations. Look at your Saint as if you were meeting it for the first time. What kind of impression would it make? Would you want to adopt it?
Saints are a demanding breed. They are big, drooly, shed, and snore. Most people know that they’re big and goofy and cute and loving; a lot are surprised at the less appealing characteristics. This makes it difficult to find homes.
What kind of home do you want for your Saint? Is it an active Saint, one that will require a playmate? Is your Saint used to long walks, to hikes, to trips in the car? Does your Saint do well around children? Strangers? Cats? Other dogs? These are all things that we have to consider when placing Saints. They are all factors that can determine a successful placement. They are all things that should be given careful consideration.
Step 4. Get your Saint ready
Your Saint will be much more appealing if it’s clean, well-groomed and healthy. First, take it to the vet for a check up. Your Saint will need a heartworm test, a DHLP and a rabies vaccination if it hasn’t one within the last 6 months. Be sure to tell the vet about any behavior problems so they can rule out physical causes. A healthy, clean, up-to-date-on-shots Saint is much easier to place than a dirty, poorly-maintained Saint.
If your Saint isn’t spayed or neutered, do it now! Don’t waste your time trying to sell your Saint as “breeding stock” even if it’s AKC-registered. Frankly, no reputable Saint breeder will want it unless he came from a well known show dog fancier in the first place. The only kind of “breeder” who’ll be interested in your Saint will be a puppy mill or a dog broker. Brokers seek out unaltered purebreds for resale to puppymills or research laboratories. That’s not the kind of future you want for your Saint.
Spaying or neutering guarantees that your Saint won’t end up in a puppymill. It’s the best way to insure that your Saint will be adopted by a family who wants it only as a best friend and member of the family. If you can’t afford the cost of surgery, check with your vet, local shelter or rescue group for information about low-cost spay and neuter programs. We can provide guidance about programs which can ensure that your Saint does not end up in a puppy mill. Remember, they are of no value to the puppy mills if they are not intact.
Groom your Saint. You want your Saint to look beautiful and make a good impression. It needs to be clean and well-dressed! Get rid of those mats and tangles and give it a bath. Make sure it’s neatly trimmed. If you can’t do these things yourself, take your Saint to a groomer. Replace that old collar with a nice, new, strong collar and lead.
Set a reasonable adoption fee. The key word is “reasonable”. You can’t expect the new owner to pay you anywhere near the same price for a “used” Saint as they would for a shiny new puppy. Colorado Saint Bernard Rescue charges a standard adoption fee of $275. This number helps us to cover our costs. You are not supporting an entire organization, including the Saints that can’t be placed. Come up with a number that will weed out those people looking for free dogs, and keep it in a range where a reasonable person can afford it.
Step 5. ADVERTISE!
Word of mouth doesn’t go very far. Don’t be afraid to use classified ads to advertise your Saint. Done right, it’s the most effective way to reach the largest number of people. It’s easy to write a good ad that will weed out poor adoption prospects right away.
Your ad should give a short description of your Saint, its needs, your requirements for a home and of course, your phone number. The description should include color, sex, the fact that it’s neutered/spayed, and an indication of age. Hints: if your Saint is less than two years old, state its age in months so it will be perceived as the young Saint that it is. If your Saint is over three, just say that they’re an “adult”.
Emphasize your Saint’s good points: Is it friendly? Housebroken? Well-mannered? Loves kids? Does it do tricks? Has it had any training? Don’t keep it a secret but don’t exaggerate either. Responding to its name doesn’t make it a well-trained Saint.
State any definite requirements you might have for the new home: fenced yard, no cats, kids over 10, whatever. Try to say these in a positive way – for example, saying “Kids over 10” sounds better than “No kids under 10”. If your Saint doesn’t like other pets, say “should be only pet” rather than “doesn’t like other animals”.
Always state that references are required. This tells people that you’re being selective and that you’re not going to give your Saint to just anybody. This statement will do a lot to keep people with bad intentions from dialing your number.
Never include the phrase “free to good home” in your ad even if you’re not planning to charge a fee. If possible, don’t put in any reference to a price at all. The chance at a “free” Saint will bring lots of calls, but most of them won’t be the kind of people you’re looking for and many of them will be people you’d rather not talk to at all.
Your ad should look something like this:
“Saint Bernard: young adult, rough-coat male. Neutered. Friendly, housebroken, well-behaved. Great with children, other dogs, cats. Fenced yard, references required. Karen 555-1234”
Schedule your ad so that it appears in Sunday’s paper – the issue that’s the most well-read and widely circulated. If your budget is very limited, choose to run your ad only on Sundays rather than throughout the week. Nearly every community also has small, weekly “budget-shopper” newspapers that offer inexpensive classified ads. Take advantage of them!
Don’t be discouraged if your phone isn’t ringing right away. Most people give up too soon. It can take a month or more to find a new home, so plan on advertising for several weeks. Put a phone number in the ad where you can be easily reached or use an answering machine. People can’t call you if no one’s home to answer the phone.
Newspapers are just one way to advertise. Take a good cute photo of your Saint and have copies made. Duplicating photos can be done for as little as a quarter each at most photo shops. Make an attractive flyer on colored paper that you can have copied for a few cents each. Attach the cutest photo of your Saint that you have. Your flyer doesn’t have to be expensive, professional or computerized, just neat and eyecatching. Since you’re not paying for words, you can write more about your Saint than you could in a newspaper ad. Be descriptive!
Post your flyers at grocery stores, department stores, vets’ offices, pet supply stores, grooming shops, factories, malls, etc. – anywhere you can find a public bulletin board.
Step 6. Interviewing Callers.
“First come, first served” does not apply here. You are under no obligation to give your Saint to the first person who says he wants it. You have every right to ask questions and choose the person you think will make the best new owner. Don’t let anyone rush you or intimidate you. Colorado Saint Bernard Rescue turns down 5 out of 6 applications. That means successful applicants constitute less than 20% of our applications. Good homes are tough to find, but they are out there.
Feel free to contact us for our list of questions that we ask prospective adopters, or view our Adoption Application.
First of all, get your caller’s name, address and phone number. Deceitful people may call you from a phone booth or give you a fake address. Ask for information that you can verify.
Does the caller’s family know about and approve of their plans to get a Saint? If not, suggest they talk it over with their spouse and call you back. The same applies to people living with a companion or roommate. When one person adopts a Saint without the full approval of the rest of the family, the adoption often fails.
Do they own or rent their home? If renting, does their landlord approve? You’d be surprised how many people haven’t checked with their landlord before calling you. If you have doubts, ask for the landlord’s name and number, then call the landlord yourself. Be cautious about renters – they’re quicker to move than people who own their homes and movers often leave their pets behind. Remember, you’re looking for a permanent home for your Saint.
Does the caller have children? How many and how old are they? If your Saint isn’t good with kids, say so up front. How many children can make a difference depending on your Saint’s personality. A shy Saint may not be able to cope with several children and their friends. Very young children may not be old enough to treat the Saint properly. If the callers don’t have children, ask them if they’re thinking of having any in the near future. Many people get rid of their Saints when they start a family.
Have they had dogs, especially Saints, before? If yes, how long did they keep them? These are very important questions! How they treated the pets they’ve had in the past will tell you how they might treat your Saint. The following answers should raise a red flag and make you suspicious:
“We gave him away when we moved.”
Unless they had to because of unavoidable problems, moving is a poor excuse for giving up a pet. Almost everyone can find a place that will allow dogs if they try hard enough. If they gave up their last dog that easily, there’s a good chance they’ll give yours up someday, too.
“We gave him away because he had behavior problems.”
Most behavior problems – poor housebreaking, chewing, barking, digging, running away – result from a lack of training and attention. If the caller wasn’t willing to solve the problems he had with his last dog, he probably won’t try very hard with your Saint either.
“Oh, we’ve had lots of dogs!”
Watch out for people who’ve had several different dogs in just a few years’ time. They may have never kept any of them for very long.
Do they have pets now? What kinds? Obviously, if your Saint isn’t good with cats or other animals and your caller has them, the adoption’s not going to work out. Be up front. Better to turn people away now than have to take the Saint back later. The sex of their other dogs is an important consideration. Saints seldom get along with another large dog of the same sex. Dog fights can be serious problems and one dog can hurt or even kill the other. We recommend that you don’t put your Saint into a home with a dog of the same sex unless you’re absolutely sure they’ll like each other.
Do they have a yard? Is it fenced? Your Saint will need daily exercise. Without a yard, how will it get it? Can the caller provide it with regular walks? If the yard isn’t fenced, ask how they plans to keep the Saint from leaving their property? Did the caller’s last dog wander off or get hit by a car? If so, how will they keep this from happening to their next dog? Do they understand that Saints are indoor dogs, and shouldn’t be left outside for long periods of time unsupervised? Are they aware of the disastrous effects of chaining or tethering a Saint, which often leads to aggression resulting in euthanasia?
Where will the Saint spend most of its time? Again, Saints are indoor dogs. They don’t respond well to being left outside for long periods of time unsupervised.
Why is the caller interested in a Saint? What do they like about them? Find out what kind of dog “personality” they’re looking for. Many people are attracted by the Saint’s appearance and loving temperament, but don’t know the first thing about grooming requirements, dietary needs, drooling, shedding, snoring, etc. If their expectations don’t match your Saint’s disposition, the adoption’s not going to work. Be honest about our Saint’s good and bad points. Is a Saint really what they’re looking for or would they do better with another breed?
References: Get the phone number of their vet (if they’ve had pets before) and two other personal references. Call those references! Explain that John Doe is interested in adopting your Saint and you want to make sure he’ll give it a good home. Ask the vet whether former pets were given regular medical care, annual vaccinations and heartworm preventative. Were they in good condition and well-groomed? How long have they known this person? If they were placing a pet, would they feel comfortable giving it to this person?
Step 7: The In-Person Interview
Once you’ve chosen a family (or families) that you feel are good candidates, make an appointment for them to see the Saint. You should actually set two appointments: one at your house and one at theirs. Going to their house lets you see whether their home and yard are truly what they said they are and whether your Saint will do well there. It also gives you an opportunity to call off the adoption and take the Saint back home with you if things aren’t as represented, if you think there’ll be problems or if you just get a bad feeling about the whole thing.
If they already have a dog, make plans to introduce the dogs on “neutral” territory, like a park. Most dogs resent meeting a strange dog at home. They may be hostile toward the new dog or even start a fight.
If the family has children, ask them to bring them to the interview. You need to see how the Saint will react to them and how the children treat the Saint. Some allowance should be made for kids’ natural enthusiasm but if these children are undisciplined, disrespectful to your Saint and not kept in hand by their parents, your Saint could be mistreated in its new home and someone could get bitten.
Do you like these people? Are you comfortable having them as guests in your home? Would they make good friends? If not, don’t give them your Saint. Trust your instincts. If something about them doesn’t seem quite right, even if you can’t explain what it is, don’t take a chance on your Saint’s future. Wait for another family!
Step 8. Saying Goodbye
After the interviews are over, give the new family a day or two to decide if they really want to adopt your Saint. Make sure they have a chance to think over the commitment they’re making. While they’re deciding, get a package ready to send along with your Saint. This package should include:
- Your Saint’s medical records and the name, address & phone number of your vet.
- Your name, address & phone (new address if you’re moving)
- Your Saint’s toys and belongings (dog bed, blanket, etc.), a supply of dog food & special treats they love
- An instruction sheet on feeding, special needs, etc.; some reading material about the Saint breed.
- Collar and leash; ID and rabies tags
Set aside a special time for you and your Saint to take a last walk together and say goodbye. There’s a good chance you’ll cry. Do it now, in private, so you’re clear headed when it comes time for them to leave. Your Saint may be confused about being left with strangers and you won’t want your emotions to upset them even more.
There are some things you need to explain to the new family before they take your Saint home: The Saint will go through an adjustment period as it gets to know its new people, learns new rules and mourns the loss of its old family. Saints can take up to a month to adjust to a new home, and the new family should be careful about forcing the Saint to do anything stressful – taking a bath, obedience training classes, meeting too many strangers at once, etc. – until the Saint has had a chance to settle in. Tell them to take things easy at first and give the Saint time to bond to them. The Saint might not eat for the first day ( or week ) or two. Not to worry – it’ll eat when it’s ready. Some dogs temporarily forget their training. A well-housebroken Saint may have an accident during the first day in their new home. This isn’t unusual and rarely happens more than once.
Step 9. Paperwork
Have the new owner sign an adoption contract with a waiver of liability. We’ve provided a sample contract below you can use. Keep a copy for your records. A contract will help to protect the Saint and the waiver of liability helps to protect you. You don’t have a crystal ball to predict what your Saint might do in the future. Remember – a waiver of liability will not protect you if you have lied or misrepresented the Saint to its new owners.
Tell the family they should call you if the adoption doesn’t work out. Let them know you want to keep in touch and will call them in a few days to see how things are going. Tell them to call you if they have questions or problems. Be willing to take the Saint back if things don’t work out the way you both expected.
Sounds like a lot of work? Well, Rescue does this EVERY DAY for EVERY DOG!
Here is an example of a SAMPLE ADOPTION CONTRACT:
Re-homing a Saint Bernard is an arduous process, and not all Saints are eligible for our Rescue. Please be aware that since we only take Saints into private foster homes, we are limited on the number of intakes we can do at any given time. Also, a surrender fee will be assessed based on the expected financial impact of the Saint.
If you must Surrender your pet, please CLICK HERE to fill out this form about the pet you wish to surrender: