Chicago's no-kill shelter for cats, rabbits and dogs

Thinking of Giving Up Your Pet?

Do you feel you can no longer take care of your pet? Many pet-related issues can be frustrating, and you may feel that surrendering your pet is the only solution. Red Door is sympathetic, but limited in how we can help. We do not have the room or the resources to take in every animal that needs a new home.

However, please be aware that there are a number of resources available to help pet owners. Based on our years of experience, we offer the following advice:

For animals adopted from other shelters or rescue organizations

Please contact the original shelter or rescue group to return the animal. This is a requirement in the adoption contract you signed with that group. If necessary, you can also surrender the animal to the Anti-Cruelty Society, 312-644-8338.

Do not "set the animal free" outside

This is not a humane solution for your pet. It may only seem like a suitable solution because you will not be around to watch the animal starve to death, be attacked by other animals, hunted down by predators, infected with all kinds of diseases, or picked up some unscrupulous person. Pet rabbits are not the same species as the wild bunnies you see outside. Pet rabbits no longer have the instincts of wild animals; they are not capable of fending for themselves outside. And even wild rabbits do not live very long lives outside.

Also, it is against the law to dump any pet outside or to abandon any animal in a building. Red Door works with the Chicago Police Department, the city’s Animal Care & Control commission, and the Anti-Cruelty Society’s humane investigators to prosecute anyone who abandons a pet.

Allergy/asthma issues

Please remember that people who are allergic to animals are allergic to many other things as well, so getting rid of the animal may not solve the problem. Also, current medical studies show that children who grow up with pets are much less likely to develop allergies or to continue having allergies as they grow up.

With rabbits, it is often the hay—not the rabbit—that may be causing an allergic problem. This is a fixable problem.
For more information on dealing with pets and allergies, please ask Red Door for its allergies & pets article.

Pregnancy/baby issues

Please check out these two websites for good advice on dealing with your cat through your pregnancy, and on how to introduce babies and pets.

Before the new baby arrives, follow these tips for a smooth transition:

  • Do not ramp up the amount of attention you pay to your pet before the baby arrives. Try to pull back a bit, so your pet has already adjusted to a change in your time and attention.
  • If you are going to stop allowing your pet to sleep in your bed, go through this transition before the baby arrives. Leave sweaters or T-shirts that smell like you on the pet’s new sleeping area.
  • Change up your pet’s schedule before the new baby arrives. Feed your animal at different times; come home earlier and later. This will help your pet make the transition to a new, unpredictable schedule for the first few months after the baby’s arrival.
  • Try to have someone bring a blanket or towel home from the hospital before the baby comes home. Allow your pet to smell it and even sleep on it.
  • If you have multiple pets, let each pet meet the new baby individually.
  • When feeding the baby, try to have someone hold your cat or pet your dog. It will help your pet feel part of the new environment.

Feral/wild cat issues

Red Door works with other groups in the TNR—trap-neuter-release—of feral cats. If you need to rent humane traps, please phone us (773-764-2242) or email us. Also, read these for advice: Alley Cat Allies:

Behavior/health/senior animal issues

It is extremely difficult for shy or senior animals to do well in a shelter environment. They usually do not adapt to shelter life and frequently fall into a rapid decline. Often animals with age, behavioral or health issues end up dying at the shelter in less than a year. Please try to work with your pet, rather than considering surrendering it to a shelter. If there are behavior issues, the first step is to consult a veterinarian. Many problems are due to a treatable medical condition.

For more advice, check out the Humane Society of the U.S.’s resources.

For litterbox issues

Read the helpful suggestions at:

For housing issues

Finding a new home for your pet

Remember that finding the best possible home for your pet should be your top priority. With that in mind, here are guidelines:

  • Advertise through family, friends, and local animal hospitals/veterinarians. Take a clear photo of the animal looking at the camera and write a brief, appealing description. Be sure to highlight the animal’s strong points: “neutered,” “affectionate,” “kid-friendly,” “house-trained.”
  • Post a description on or
  • Do NOT advertise your pet as “free to a good home.” Dogfighters have been known to pick up “free” animals to be used as bait. Snake owners look for “free” rabbits to use as snake food. Ask for a reasonable adoption fee.
  • Ask to visit the prospective new home. You should always ask where the animal will be living—inside or outside? In a cage? And why does the person want this animal (for example, using a cat only as a mouser isn’t a great answer.) Be wary of people who are only interested in “watch dogs” and of people who only want an animal for their children.
  • Say that you will be doing follow-up calls in the future to check in on the pet.
  • Ask for veterinary references.
  • Ask for a valid form of identification—preferably a driver’s license. Record the information in case you want it in the future. If you have a purebred dog or cat, there are specific rescue groups that may be able to take in your pet. Go to or to find local breed rescue groups.
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