Surrendering an Animal

We know that sometimes it’s just not possible to keep a pet. But before making the decision to surrender a pet, please consider all of your options. Contact our behavior consultants at Our counselors may be able to help you solve the problem. Or go to our Pet Care and Training page for information on a wide range of pet issues. Many problems can be improved by having your pet spayed or neutered. We can help! Go to our Spay and Neutering page to learn about the many resources available. Reach out to friends and relatives who might be able to give the pet a loving home.

If you must surrender a pet, please follow the advice below.

Do’s and Don’ts

If you have to give up your pet, please do the right thing:

DON’T drop your pet off in the woods or countryside, assuming that it can take care of itself. Pets lack the skills to survive on their own and may die of starvation or injury.

DON’T abandon your pet in a house or apartment you are moving out of, thinking that someone will eventually find it. This doesn’t always happen.

DON’T give your pet away to a stranger. You don’t know if that person is a responsible owner or even honest. Pets that end up in the wrong hands may be abused or sold to research laboratories.

DO try to place your pet with a trusted family member or friend, one who you are confident will love and care for your pet properly and will keep you informed of its welfare. Be sure the friend or relative understands the commitment of time and resources your pet requires and that they would like the pet because it will be a good fit for their home. Shelters receive many pets from people who knew the previous owners and wanted to help them by taking in a pet, but who did so without realizing the efforts involved in keeping the animal.

(Note: Pets adopted from the League, however, are required by contract to be returned here if you can no longer keep it. If you have adopted from us, it is often possible for the League to do a contract, at no charge, with the friend or relative you’ve chosen to care for your pet. This contract can protect your pet for the rest of its life.)

DO call your local animal shelter or humane society first if you live outside of Arlington County. We may not  have the space immediately to accept surrenders from people residing in other jurisdictions.

DO call the League if you have exhausted all other possibilities.

What to Expect

Surrendering ownership of your pet
In order to best help your pet, we conduct an interview with the owners of all incoming animals. The staff who do these interviews are available from 9am-7pm weekdays and 9am-4pm on weekends. During this interview we gather all the information a future adopter might need about your pet. We also determine if your pet is a good candidate for our adoption program. We will not place an animal for adoption that is a danger to the community.

Please call us during the previously mentioned hours at 703-931-9241 to discuss surrendering your pet. You will be required to sign a release form giving the League legal ownership of the animal. Once you have signed the release statement, you may not reclaim your pet, so please be sure that you have made the right decision for you and your pet. You are welcome to call the League to check on the pet’s status.

Pet’s medical records
It is extremely important for you to bring any medical records you have for your pet. A lack of medical information can delay the time it takes to evaluate your pet, and thus delay its availability for adoption.

Pet personality profile
We will ask you to fill out a “personality profile” about your pet. The information about its health, behavior, habits, likes, and dislikes is really helpful to people considering your pet for adoption and helps us decide what kind of home would be best for it. You can download the surrender profile for cats and bring it in with you.

Please be honest when answering these questions; let us know if your pet has a history of biting, refuses to use the litter box, has a serious or chronic medical condition, or any other problem. Your answers help to determine whether or not your animal should be put up for adoption. It is unfair to pass on severe behavioral or medical issues to another family.