Re-homing your pet: An international student’s responsibility to their animal companions

Having a pet to keep you company can sound like a great idea. After all, a cute critter can help ward off feelings of loneliness and may even improve your own mental wellbeing, especially for international students living alone for the first time.

But taking care of a pet is a huge responsibility and is something that shouldn’t be taken lightly if you are looking to adopt one. Consider that you’re in charge of another being’s life and beyond just being available to take care of it, one should also take into account the long term responsibilities that come with raising an animal – this includes knowing how to properly re-home a pet if and when you decide to leave Australia after your studies.

In 2016, reports of a pet dog that was irresponsibly abandoned by its international student owner who was returning to China had surfaced, upsetting the wider Australian community – some even calling for an adoption ban for temporary visa holders.

The community’s concerns are understandable. Leaving an animal behind like that is cruel, but that isn’t to say that all overseas students are incapable of properly re-homing their pet.

One of Alex’s British Shorthairs. | Photo supplied.

Exporting your pets

For almost three years, Monash University student Alex Yang has taken care of his two British shorthairs. He will be graduating in July but is now already thinking about what will become of his pet dogs.

“I really hope to take them to China with me. But the process will be really complicated,” Alex said.

The process that Alex refers to is the exporting procedures that all pets and their owners need to undergo before moving an animal out of the country. Each country has its own biodiversity laws which ensure all animals, even domestic companions, are properly tested, vaccinated and treated before they can enter the country. This is to make sure that animals coming into a country are not bringing unwanted diseases into the country or, in other extreme cases, upsetting the local ecosystem.

Avoiding these laws can get you in a lot of trouble – just ask, Johnny Depp.

For students like Alex, the exporting process can take up a lot of time and resources – things that a graduating international student may not have in their final year overseas.

“I’m not sure if I will have enough time before I graduate but I’d prefer to do everything before I let them go,” he said.

Rehoming pets

Instead of taking his pet dogs with him to China, Alex instead has decided that when the time comes, he’ll put his dogs up for adoption to ensure they find a good owner or family.

For those wishing to give their pet away responsibly, here are some ways you can find a new home for your pet:

  • Family and friends: If you have family or friends in the country who are open to welcoming a pet into their lives, this might be the best course of action to take. Advertise on social media and see if anyone in your immediate circle is happy to take your pet in.
  • Go back to the breeder: In some cases, the breeder you originally purchased your pet from (if you did), may be open to taking your pet back – get in touch with them!
  • Animal shelters: Contact an animal shelter and let them know that you’d like to re-home your pet. Leaving your pet on their doorstep is not acceptable. Ensure the shelter has a no-kill policy (some shelters may only be able to hold an animal for a certain amount of time) and be prepared to be put on a waiting list (some shelters may have a long waiting list for animals that need to be re-homed).
  • Talk to your local council: Some city councils will offer to re-home your pet – explore what options your local council offers.

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