Pet Rescue Dilemma!

You adopt a pet but it’s not working out as you expected. What to do?

Australia is supporting animal rescue with rescue awards and Dr Jo is proud to be an Ambassador. Together with the Companion Animal Rescue Awards, Dr Jo Righetti has some tips to help when your pet rescue is not going as expected or when you need to ensure that your new adoptee fits into your family.

Occasionally, pet adoption does not go quite as expected. Perhaps the animal is more energetic than you thought Perhaps they have separation anxiety. Perhaps they don’t get along with your other pets.

Photo: Jo Lyons Photography

What sort of issues can come up when you bring a rescue pet home?

  1. Issues with settling in

Just like any other pet, your new adoptee may take a little while to get used to your routines and you to get used to their behaviour. Make sure that you purchase necessary items prior to bringing your pet home. Stick to your desired rules (e.g. if the pet is not going to sleep in your bed, don’t start the first night in bed with you!)

2. Behaviour emerging and experiencing conflicts

As the animal settles in, their natural behaviours may emerge, sometimes not for several weeks. These early days are a great opportunity to put in the training, to get the behaviour you desire.

By ‘conflicts’ I mean behaviour such as overly friendly one minute, then a little withdrawn the next. Liking one dog, but not another. This is normal as the animal settles into your environment and routines. Reward the behaviours you desire.

Separation anxiety can be common in rescue pets. They go from a kennel environment, or perhaps from not having much interaction or love from people, to being loved (a lot!), then their human has to leave (due to necessities such as work).

If it is reallly not working out, ask the shelter for help. If it is really not working, you can ask to take the animal back to the shelter. This is not failure,” says Dr Jo. “Learn what did not work and choose more carefully next time.”

How can we prevent adoption issues before they start?

  1. Be prepared!

• Ask the rescue organisation for results of their behaviour assessment on the animal. This will show if the pet is keen on people, likes being touched, is ok to be left alone etc.

• Ask the organisation or foster carer what behaviours they have seen in the pet. Every animal has issues (just like people!), so don’t be alarmed. Just be prepared to put some work into dealing with any issues. Being forewarned is being prepared.

Photo: Jo Lyons Photography

More help with your adoption

How can we prepare children/family to bring a rescue pet home?

  • Talk to your children/family members. Look at pictures and stories of pets online. Discuss with older kids. Visit a shelter if you can bear to, but don’t bring home pets the first time (make this a definite and discuss prior to going).
  • Involve the child in the care of the pet. Give a young child a particular job to do to make them feel involved (e.g. feeding).
  • Discuss animal behaviours you see. If the animal is shy or withdrawn or is scared of certain things, draw this into the child’s own experiences. Empathy for the pet will result.
  • Supervise children and the new pet!


What if we have other pets at home? How do we introduce the pets?

  • Introduce pets gradually and carefully. Do not just put them together and hope for best. Do not leave alone together until you are sure they can get along (this can take weeks!).
  • If possible, introduce dogs on neutral ground, perhaps at the shelter prior to choosing a dog.
  • The new animal needs to go into its own space to explore and feel safe.
  • The new animal needs to bond with the humans prior to having to deal with other pets.
  • Cats need carry cases and controlled introductions.
  • All animals need positive experiences in the presence of one another (e.g, feed each their favourite food).
  • Listen to Pets4Life’s Paw Perfect Introductions podcasts on this topic.


Jetpets Companion Animal Rescue Awards 2018

For more information on the Jetpets Companion Animal Rescue Awards, visit


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