It’s a sensitive topic among animal lovers, and rightfully so. Millions of animals of all kinds end up abandoned on the streets, in shelters and in other terrible situations due to pet owners who can no longer keep or care for them. We wish it would never happen and that every pet — be it dog, cat, bird, ferret, or any other live a long, happy and cared for life with plenty of love, food, water and shelter. Pets are in our world due to no fault of their own, and they’re often put into homeless situations without warning or any way to help themselves. Animals also form close bonds to their human “families” and experience emotional pain, distress, fear and depression when their family abandons them.

As a senior, I think about my beloved pets and worry about their safety and welfare should I no longer be able to care for them due to illness, or worse. There are many resources to help those who are in need of help caring for their pet, including many that can help you keep your pet even if you’re facing adversity or struggle. If you’re having a hard time caring for or meeting your pets needs, or if you can no longer keep your pet due to unforeseen circumstances you cannot change, these tips can help:

Consider all of the options you have before making a decision. If it’s a matter of not being able to afford food or vet care, look first for options and help. Many local rescue organizations will gladly help with food and other care if you are willing/able to keep your pet. Even if you reach out to one or two, they can likely point you toward additional resources if you are not able to locate any yourself. Before you make any decisions about your pet, consider all options. Struggle doesn’t always mean you have to get rid of your pet.

Explore fostering, boarding or other temporary home options. Many times it is assumed that life or other issues mean you have to get rid of your pet entirely, which is not necessarily true. Local organizations and rescues are willing to help with temporary home options for animals who may have humans in need. Again, even reaching out to a few organizations to start can help you gain access to other resources. Let people know if you are open to temporary home options.

Consider and choose shelters very carefully. If you absolutely must remove your pet from your home, consider shelter options very carefully. Many people just dump their pet at the local animal shelter, assuming that it will be able to fend for itself and the shelter will find it a place to live. Or worse, that the shelter will provide lifelong care. Space limitations will often prevent this. Do not surrender your pet at a shelter that euthanizes! Its chances of being put to death can be greater than being adopted. If there are no “no-kill” shelters or rescues in your area, go outside of your area as many will arrange to transport your animal to them.

Let your vet know you’re having issues. Speak with your veterinarian about any issues with meeting your pet’s care needs financially, or if you have to find it a new home. Many veterinarians are willing to donate or discount care, and some will help place an animal in a new home to help avoid it being abandoned or dumped at a shelter. My veterinarian will promote animals in need of homes by postings on the bulletin board in his waiting room.

Ask family and friends for help. If you think your family or friends can help with your pet’s care or assist in helping you in any way, let them know you need help. Though you want to be very careful any time you re-home your pet, or put it in other people’s care. Many who thought friends or family were caring for pets later learned the animal was neglected, abused or abandoned. Never place your pet with anyone who you are not sure will provide its absolute best care, even if it is temporarily, and make sure to stay in close touch with them to check up on your pet. When you can, assist with its care. If a friend or family member is willing to take your pet, ask a local rescue organization or no kill shelter to do a home visitation and check in to ensure the individual can care for your pet, is allowed to have pets, etc.

Never list your pet on websites, social networks, or other resources. Dozens of horrific animal abuse and torture cases even this past year alone involved animals that were given away for free on websites, social networks and other resources. Even if you charge a fee, many animal abusers and torturers scour these sites for animals to harm. Second to this, many animal test laboratories rely on free give away animals for research animal testing, and there are many instances that dog fighting organizations utilize free give away animals for everything from fighting to use as bait to train dogs for dog fighting. You absolutely cannot assure a safe, loving home through these resources.

Look into animal-friendly community resources. A lot of homeless shelters, nursing homes, abuse resources and other community services are now becoming more animal-friendly, working to keep pets with their families in severe situations such as domestic violence, aging or loss of work/home. If you aren’t able to find any locally, again look beyond your immediate region. Even if a shelter can’t arrange for transportation for you and your pet, many local rescue organizations may be willing to help.

Use technology. While you should never list an animal on Facebook, Twitter, Craigslist, etc. to find it a home, you can use the web to locate rescue organizations and other resources, including local low cost or free spay/neuter clinics, microchipping, vaccinations and other care. You may be able to get referrals to resources for help with other needs regarding your pet in the event you can not care for it or continue to provide it a home.

Consider your pet. Most of all, know that your pet loves you very much, and is dependent and relying on you to help it any way you can. Just dropping it off at a shelter and going on with your life might be easiest for you, but it can be devastating, lead to injury through the wrong re-homing, or even death via euthanasia more often than not. Abandoned animals often become very depressed, yearn for and cry for their families, and struggle with adjusting to life without them. Your pet deserves your care and consideration in every choice you make for it.

Regardless of what you choose, you have options and you can make choices that can ensure your pet’s safety and care. If you suspect or are concerned about your ability to keep your pet, take action right away to find resources and options. Never just abandon your animal. If you’re not 100 percent sure that you can provide lifelong care to a pet, do not adopt one.

Dog bless.