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Humane Law Forum: Avoiding Adopter Roulette

Preventing adopters from rehoming pets into potentially unsuitable conditions

Recently, a shelter contacted me with concerns about an adopter who gave his new rabbit away to a neighbor, without the shelter’s approval. The practice is known as “rehoming,” and is unauthorized under most adoption agreements. The shelter is now wondering what options it has to make sure the animal is safe in his new home.

Sound familiar? The case is similar to the 2007 situation involving Ellen DeGeneres, her hairdresser, the puppy Iggy, and the California rescue group Mutts & Moms. DeGeneres adopted Iggy from Mutts & Moms, and then gave the dog away to her hairdresser. Two weeks later, a representative of the rescue group contacted DeGeneres to check on Iggy. At that point, she revealed that she had given the dog away, in violation of the written adoption agreement. Two days later, a representative for Mutts & Moms visited the new owner’s home to retrieve the dog. Police officers were summoned and determined that Mutts & Moms should retain possession of the dog because the implanted microchip still listed Mutts & Moms as the owner. Despite a televised tear-filled plea by DeGeneres, the animal was taken from the hairdresser, returned to the shelter and eventually found a new home. Shortly thereafter, Mutts & Moms had a full-fledged public relations debacle on its hands, as several animal lovers and Ellen supporters barraged the rescue group with criticism and threats.

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