barneyWe receive dozens of inquiries each month from people who feel they can no longer keep their dog. HugABull does not accept owner surrenders, both for legal reasons and because we have long waiting lists of BC shelter dogs who need into our foster program. We do provide information and referrals for people in this situation – feel free to contact us at

Most owner surrender cases come down to two problems: the owner or the dog. Sometimes getting a little professional help and understanding can make a stressful situation become workable again. We are happy to refer you to a reputable trainer in your area. If you are sure you cannot keep the dog in the home, there are generally three options: the shelter, a rescue, or private re-homing.

The Shelter System

No one wants to picture their dog in a shelter, but if you don’t have a lot of time or resources, this might be the best option. While the shelter system is far from perfect, the majority of BC shelters provide a fair assessment of all dogs (regardless of breed) and if your dog is healthy and friendly it will have an excellent chance at adoption. Some shelters are fantastic with enrichment and exercise programs, high adoption rates, and good screening programs for prospective adopters. Others provide only basic care, but at least your dog is safe and has exposure to potential adopters.

If your dog has health or behavioural problems, it might be difficult to find a shelter to take him in – which is unfortunate because these are the animals that could most benefit from a safe haven and experienced personnel. If you would like information about shelter options in your area, or if you have been turned away by a shelter, feel free to contact us at for advice and resources.


There are some rescues in BC who take privately surrendered dogs from time to time. Once again, most prefer to take healthy, friendly, “adoptable” dogs, as managing a special-needs dog is resource intensive and require a special foster home. Most rescues only have the capacity for one or two more challenging dogs at a time, and these dogs tend to be in foster care for months or years.

At this time we aren’t aware of any reputable BC rescues that take privately surrendered dogs on a regular basis. If you feel strongly about working with a rescue, there’s no harm in reaching out and asking if rescues would be open to taking your dog or helping with networking/courtesy posting. There are many rescues who don’t work within the BC shelter system, bringing dogs from the US and other areas, so perhaps they would be open to helping people locally if your request touches their heart.

Working with a rescue comes with a huge caveat. Do not assume the organization is credible because it calls itself a rescue. Anyone can be a “rescue” and there’s no guarantee that your dog is better off with them. Ask a lot of questions about their procedures and care standards for the dogs. Ask for references, and contact people in the pet community to see if the organization has a good reputation. The No Puppy Mills site has a great list of criteria and can help you come up with some questions.

oakleyPrivate Re-homing

If you have some time and are willing to put in some legwork, this can be a good option that allows you – the person who knows the dog best – to find the best home possible for your pet.

Buy your dog some time. If you are willing to keep your dog until a suitable home becomes available, you will save your dog from the stress and uncertainty of the shelter system. Even if your home isn’t the dog’s forever home, he will do much better in a familiar environment while you search for the right fit. If housing is an issue, you may be able to hire someone to provide boarding services to ensure your dog is comfortable and safe.

Exhaust all your known options. Talk to your friends, family, colleagues, co-workers, vet, groomer, dog trainer or anyone who “may know someone” willing to adopt your dog who can provide a responsible, caring home. Networking extensively is often the key to finding your dog a good home. If your dog comes from a breeder, contact them first: a responsible breeder should take back any dog they sold.

Make your dog more adoptable. If you were a stranger, looking at your dog for the first time, what would you think of it? Most adopters want “ready made” dogs and there are plenty homeless dogs to choose from, so do all you can to make your dog stand out.

Take your dog to a vet and get all their records updated including shots, flea care, deworming etc. If your dog is not spayed/neutered, get that done as well! Adopters who want an intact rescue dog do not have the dog’s best interest at heart, and a neutered dog is less attractive to those who may want your dog for the wrong purpose. Call in a trainer to evaluate any serious issues, and don’t give up on your training regimen.

Make an “honest” list. All dogs have pros and cons. What are your dog’s strengths and weaknesses? What kind of home would your dog fit best in? Be honest about your dog to potential adopters – making your dog out to be something it’s not, will mean it comes back to you, ends up in a shelter, or is euthanized. The most successful adoptions come from honesty, and from both parties knowing what they’re getting.

Marketing your dog
Spread the word as widely as possible. Make up bright coloured posters which catch the eye, with a good quality, cute photo of your dog (use a colourful blanket or toy to attract interest). Distribute them everywhere: vet, pet stores, grooming shops, the neighborhood café poster boards, the community centre and anywhere else you might catch the right person’s eye.

Run a well-worded ad in the local paper . Specifically state that you will require an interview, references, and a home visit – that should discourage any adopters whose motives are questionable. A simple, effective ad could read, “Pit bull type dog, brown, medium sized, neutered, seeks loving home. Friendly, likes swimming and cookies, but no cats. References and home check required. $75 adoption fee. Karen 604-555-1234.”

Don’t offer to give away your dog for free. Free dogs attract the wrong kinds of homes – someone who won’t invest in a reasonable adoption fee is generally unlikely to pay for vet care, quality food, or other costs down the road. If you are uncomfortable charging an adoption fee, consider donating the fee to an animal charity or rescue group.

Screening a potential owner
Ask the right questions, and ask some open questions to encourage people to talk freely. Feel free to use our adoption application on our site as a reference guide for suggested questions. Some examples:

– Do they have any experience with this breed, or have they done any research? You’d be surprised how people answer this – ensure they understand the loving, family nature of the pit bull and are not looking for a guard or yard dog.

– Do they rent or own their home? If they’re renters, ask for the landlord’s phone number to confirm they’re even allowed to get a dog, and if there are any breed restrictions.

– Does the caller have children, other pets, lots of visitors, other animals over to their house? You know your dog best and can evaluate whether this will be a good environment for her.

– Why do they want a dog? Why are they interested in a pit bull? Everyone’s reasons are different and this may give you some insight into their motivation.

– Ask about their past history with pets. Have they given pets away before, bred them, etc. If they did have pets, ask them what problems they encountered and how they solved it, to ensure they have the commitment to work through normal dog issues (housetraining, separation anxiety, manners).

– Where will the dog spend most of its time, and where will it be when the owner isn’t home?

The “meet and greeet”
Once you have an applicant that sounds promising, have them meet the dog in person – in your home or in a quiet, neutral space like a park. One of the biggest indicators in compatibility is how they approach and interact with your dog (do they pet it, act a bit standoffish, tell them to “get down, sit down” constantly? Does one person seem to be into the dog, and the other not?).

  • Do they ask you questions, or are they just trying to hand you some money and go?
  • If they have another dog, ask them to leave it outside or in the car at first. After the applicants have met you dog, you can introduce the new dog through a calm walk on neutral territory.
  • If they have children, have them come along. Ensure that the parents understand and teach their children about proper interactions with the dog. A typical pit bull loves children and tolerates their affection, but as with any dog, interactions should always be monitored. Children should be taught to respect the dog – letting the dog sniff them first, no pulling on tails, manhandling, or crawling on the new pet.
  • Trust your instincts – what vibe is the person giving you? Go with your gut feeling and trust your judgment – if there is something “not quite right”, hold out and wait for someone else. Your judgment is usually right in the end.
  • Tell them you’d like to do a home check. Anyone who has ANY issue with this should be a red flag right away! An honest person should have no issues with meeting you in their home to let you know your dog will be comfortable there.

Saying Goodbye
Ensure you draft some kind of paperwork indicating the transfer of ownership of the dog. This allows the new owners to have full care and responsibility of their new addition, and releases you from any liability or care concerns there may be in the future. Create a clear and simple document with dates and any relevant details. Get signatures and copies for you and for the adopters.

If you are at this point, you’ve done a very good job! If keeping your dog isn’t an option, you’ve done the next best thing: you’ve taken the time and effort to give your dog a shot at happiness.