People encounter a number of challenges related to their companion animals. This page is intended to help people overcome some typical challenges that may lead to their pets ending up at Huntsville Animal Services or in some other animal shelter where they may be at risk. The very best place for your pet is simple: with you.
Pet Friendly Housing Options
We hear all the time that people need to re-home their pet because they cannot take the pet to a new place to which they are moving. Please check the pet policy for any place you plan to live ahead of time. Ours is a progressive and pet-friendly community where there are numerous places to live that allow pets.
The apartments listed at this link on Apartments.com are considered pet friendly. Because there are thousands, we have not made an effort to get more details. If you are interested in renting from one of these locations, call ahead of time. Some likely have restrictions on the size/weight for dogs, others may have breed restrictions for dogs, others may limit the number of pets you can have and we are sure all require some form of pet deposit.
The houses for rent at this link on Trulia.com are pet friendly. Please call to get more details related to size/weight restrictions, breed restrictions, pet limits, pet deposits and insurance.
The North Alabama Spay & Neuter Clinic located in Huntsville is available to anyone regardless of income of where they live. Because spay and neutering animals is the focus, they are experts. Other services are available for animals sterilized at the clinic; it is not a full-service veterinary clinic so your pet must be spayed or neutered there to receive an add-on service like microchipping. The price schedule is at this link.
Many rescue groups in the region will help pet owners offset the cost of having pets spayed or neutered to reduce local pet populations and prevent unwanted litters. You can contact the groups listed on our Helpful Links page to ask for assistance.
The Greater Huntsville Humane Society located on Johnson Road runs King's Community Kitchen which is a pet food assistance program for low income residents. The Kitchen is open two times per month. Details are found at this link.
Many local rescue groups in the region will provide free pet food upon request in an effort to keep pets in existing homes without them ending up in local shelters or in need of rescue placement. You can contact the groups listed on our Helpful Links page to ask for assistance.
Low Income Veterinary Assistance
The Greater Huntsville Humane Society hosts periodic pet wellness clinics to help low income residents get veterinary care for their pets they otherwise may not be able to afford. The program is being revamped but you will be able to find information about it on this page soon.
If the only thing keeping you from keeping your pet in your own household is inability to pay for a veterinary procedure or cost, many local rescue groups in the region will provide assistance on a case-by-case basis. Contact local rescues and explain your situation to see if one can help you. Most rescues would rather help you cover a veterinary cost by paying a veterinary clinic directly than to have your pet end up in a local shelter or with the rescue group. You can contact the groups listed on our Helpful Links page to ask for assistance.
Training and Behavior Resources
Pet behavior issues do not get better with time. They will get worse and may lead some people to believe they have no alternative than to surrender their pet to a shelter or find a rescue group to take their pet. No tax funded animal shelter is obligated to take owned pets; they often do so on a managed basis to try to help people. If you are experiencing behavioral issues with your pet, we first encourage you to speak with your veterinarian. If there is no medical reason for the behavior, we encourage you to interact with a reputable trainer or behaviorists to get help. We recommend the following organizations but you can find many more using a simple internet search.
The animals entering Huntsville Animal Services who are most at risk are dogs. Dogs do not behave in an animal shelter the way they behave with you, in your home on or your property. The shelter is full of unfamiliar people, smells, sounds and energy. Dogs often display behavior which looks aggressive which is actually the result of fear. It is up to you to keep your dogs contained to ensure they do not end up at Huntsville Animal Services or any other animal shelter where your dog may be destroyed.
If you live in Madison County and need judgment free help to keep your dog(s) safely contained, contact HAWS - Helping Animals Without Shelter. They may be able to make recommendations on how to keep your dogs contained or may be able to help you with that process using a run/trolley line or a pen. Requests for assistance from HAWS are handled on a case-by-case basis.
Dogs are destroyed for behavior at the shelter every month which we see as a preventable tragedy. Do not let your dog become a statistic.
Help With Cats (Pet Cats or Community Cats)
If you need help with pet cats or community cats (cats who live outside), you can contact Cattyshack, Inc. This organization will help you get your pet cats spayed/neutered. If you are having behavioral issues with your cat, you can get guidance on possible solutions to keep your cat in your home with you. Cattyshack, Inc. also does TNR (trap-neuter-return) of free roaming community cats, barn cats and random strays. The organization pays for surgery, the rabies vaccine and an ear tip (for community cats.) More information is found on the Cattyshack, Inc. website which includes a contact page.
When You Find a Pet
If you find a lost pet realize that animal belongs to someone and is that person's property. Pets who get loose often look like they have been abandoned or dumped when in fact they are just lost due to no fault of the people who care for them. Pets are property under the law and while we know that people often find pets and re-home them themselves, this is illegal. There is nothing wrong with trying to make plans to find the animal a new home or contacting a rescue group to see if they may take the animal, but you cannot re-home animals yourself. Please take the following steps:
Report the found pet to local animal control authorities so the pet is put "in the system" to make sure the owner can find them. Information on how to do that in Huntsville and Madison County is found here. If you find a lost pet and have control of that animal, you may be asked if you can foster the animal to avoid having them enter the shelter which can be incredibly stressful for them.
Check for tags or other identification on a collar. Many people use tags that include a phone number and some microchipped pets wear tags with the microchip number so you can contact the company and report you found the animal.
Take the animal to your veterinarian to be scanned for a microchip if that is an option for you. Most veterinary offices will do this for free to help a lost pet get back home.
Canvass the neighborhood. It may be that the pet you found belongs to someone who lives very close to you. Check with your neighbors and businesses near you to ask if they know who owns the pet you found.
Use social media to try to find the owners.Social media is a great tool to try to help pets get back home. Once the found pet has been reported to Huntsville Animal Services and is either being fostered by you or at the animal shelter, you can still use platforms like Facebook or Nextdoor to find the owner. On Facebook, you can join the page for Lost and Found Pets of Huntsville and Madison County to get the word out about the pet you found (this is a public group). You will need a good photo and information about where you found the pet.
When Your Pet is Lost
Pets get lost all the time for a variety of reasons, not all of which related to irresponsible behavior. If your pet is lost in Huntsville or Madison County, please do the following:
Once you get your pet back, please take steps to keep them from being displaced from you again by keeping them contained and making sure your children know how to keep them contained. If you have problems keeping your dog contained, you can get tips and advice from local rescue groups, from Huntsville Animal Services or from your veterinarian. Please also take steps to make sure they can get back home to you if they are displaced from you again such as having them microchipped and making sure your neighbors, postal carrier, delivery drivers and local businesses know what your pet looks like so they can help your pet get back home to you.
Pet Parent Plan
We know that life happens and there are times when people feel they have no alternative but to re-home their pet. Animal shelters are not obligated to take owned animals. Many do in an effort to help the public. Many shelters in Alabama destroy animals for space and convenience putting surrendered animals at risk. Huntsville Animal Services has improved a great deal since the days our advocacy began. It takes owed animals on a managed basis. Those animals can still be at risk of being destroyed so surrendering your pet to any shelter should be a last resort.
We encourage all owners of companion animals to make plans to re-home them in event of death, moving to an assisted living facility or nursing home, hospitalization, incarceration, job loss, home loss or some other challenge. We consider those plans to be Pet Parent Plans (much like some people designate Godparents for their children). You cannot assume that your family members or people who love you will take your pets and love them the way you do. Each pet owner should make firm plans with some person in their life to take their animals in event of a crisis whether that situation is temporary or permanent. This calls for a direct conversation with a Pet Parent to make sure they agree to the plan. All Pet Parents should be provided with thorough information about the pet(s) ahead of time and in writing. The more information shared, the better. We developed a form to get you started. You can download it in Word format or pdf format.
Re-Homing Your Pet
If you think you need to re-home your pet, please look at the resources listed on this page first. Your companion animals have the cognitive function of a toddler and putting them in a new home can be incredibly confusing and stressful for them. We realize that life presents challenges but we always encourage people to look for ways to keep the pets to whom they owe a responsibility for their care and well-being. The best place for pet is simple: with you. We know life happens, but your pet is your responsibility for the life-time of your pet.
Short-term issues. If the issues you face which cause you to consider re-homing your pet may resolve themselves, consider find a temporary foster placement instead. Good options are family members, friends, co-workers, neighbors or people you know through church or an organization to which you belong. This will allow you to visit your pet to reduce their stress and get your pet back when the situation has been resolved.
Behavioral Issues. If the issues you face relate to some behavioral problem with your pet, consult with your veterinarian first. There may be a medical reason for the behavior that can be treated. If there is no medical basis for the behavior, reach out to a trainer or behaviorist for help. Re-homing a pet with behavioral issues only passes that problem along to someone else without addressing the issue to help your pet.
Permanent Re-Homing. If you have no alternative but to re-home your pet with someone you don't know, there are a few options open to you and some things you must to do facilitate that process.
Re-home your pet yourself with someone you know. This should be your first option to reduce stress on your pet. Talk with your family members, friends, co-workers, neighbors and people you know through church or an organization to which you belong to see if any of them can help you. Your veterinarian may also be able to help you find a suitable home for your pet, depending on the reason for re-homing your pet.
Ask local rescue groups for help. Local rescues in our area are overwhelmed with animals due to a variety of reasons. They do still help the public when they can. You can find a list of local rescues on the Helpful Links page of our website. Prior to doing this, you need to have good photographs of your pet, be prepared to talk in honest terms about why you need help and you need to assemble basic information about your pet for marketing purposes (age, gender, breed if known, vaccination status, spay/neuter status, microchip status weight, activity level, if they get along with other dogs and/or cats, if they get along with children). You also need to provide information about their behavior and personality to help the rescue group such as their activity level (from couch potato to needing a lot of exercise), if they are house trained, if they ride well in a care, if they walk well on a leash, if they have favorite toys or activities, etc. The more information you provide, the easier it will be for a rescue group to find an appropriate home for your pet.
Ask Huntsville Animal Services for help. The local tax-funded shelter is not obligated to take owned animals. It does take those animals on a managed basis if space becomes available. This should be an absolute last resort for your pet. Keep in mind that the shelter is an incredibly stressful place for animals and most of them do not behave there they way they behave with you or in your home. This may ultimately lead to them being destroyed if they get sick at the shelter or are deemed a public safety risk. As an alternative to owner surrender, you can ask the shelter to do a courtesy listing on its Facebook page to help you find a new home for your pet without taking your pet to the shelter at all. This is the ideal way to re-home your pet with the help of HAS. You will need to share the same information you would provide to a rescue group so the shelter can develop a courtesy listing for your pet. The shelter also has helpful information on its website on this subject including how to request physical surrender of your pet.
Re-homing your pet yourself with someone you do not know. You can get the word out about your pet using flyers or social media. You should share the same information you would share with a rescue group. There is an element of risk involved in this process. Not every person who may be willing to take your pet will have their best interests in mind. We recommend that you ask for a veterinary reference for any potential new home. No Kill Pima County has excellent information on this subject on their website on this page under Tips for Screening A Potential New Home. We thank No Kill Pima County for allowing us to share the information here. A website called Home To Home may also help you find a new home for your pet.
Moving With Your Pet
We often hear of people who want to re-home their pets because they are moving. There is absolutely no reason your pets cannot move with you unless you serve in the Armed Forces and are moving to a foreign country. Your pets are your responsibility so it is up to you to provide for them in your moving plans. Make sure you choose a place to live at your new location that allows pets and check any local laws about pets ahead of time so you are not surprised when you arrive. If you are traveling by plane, do some research with the airline you have chosen about how to have your pet travel with you. If you are traveling by train, you may also be able to take your pet with you on the train. If there is some reason you cannot take your pets with you when you initially travel, make plans to have your pets stay with a family member or friend until you can either transport them to your new location yourself or have them transported with the help of a company that specializes in pet transport. This article by the Einstein Moving Company is an excellent resource to help you plan for your move related to your pets.