Disposing of a Pet

Perhaps we’ve all at one time or another wondered how to dispose of an unwanted pet. Whether it’s a dog, a cat, a rabbit, or a reptile, responsible pet owners investigate responsible disposal methods before acting on their intentions.


Regardless of the reasons for wanting to end a relationship with an animal – illness, moving, less responsibility, etc. – consequences exist not only for the pet but possibly for the environment and its wildlife.

Pets such as rabbits, birds, turtles, and snakes, may end up being released into the wild with the idea that they are being returned to their natural habitat. But not only are these captive animals (and usually captive-bred animals) not prepared to compete in the wild, they may also introduce diseases or parasites that are not compatible with their wild counterparts, as well as contracting diseases or parasites that are not compatible with themselves.


One example is the desert tortoise. According to Arizona Game and Fish Department, “It is not only illegal to release a captive desert tortoise into the wild, doing so is detrimental to wild tortoises because it can spread disease and disrupt uniquely adapted genetics in wild populations.”

As for snakes, who hasn’t heard of the expanding problem of Burmese pythons invading the Florida Everglades? These exotics thrive in this climate and consume vast quantities of native wildlife not accustomed to such a predator. And even if a released snake is thought to be native to the release area, it can likely end up as dinner for another predator since it has probably lost a lot of that wild edge through breeding. Animals that have become accustomed to humans caring for them will have a definite disadvantage over those that have fended for themselves from birth.


“Releasing long-term captives outside their normal range, even if it’s similar habitat,” according to wildlife rehabilitator Melissa Kaplan on her website, http://www.anapsid.org/release.html, “may also prove fatal as many of them fail to learn to feed, hide, and generally survive.”

Occasionally people release dogs, cats, rabbits, birds, and other domestic pets thinking, perhaps, that they are doing the right thing by giving them their freedom. However, the wild is a treacherous life even for those critters accustomed to the dangers. A domestic pet in particular is not capable of maintaining a healthy lifestyle as their wild cousins are, and their odds of survival are minimal.


Zoos rarely accept exotic pets because most are common and may already be on display. Even if the animal is needed, zoos must be selective in what they accept, interviewing the owner regarding health of the animal, history of ownership, etc. The risk of introducing disease and/or parasites requires extreme vigilance.


Responsible pet owners would be wise to investigate costs and obligations necessary to raise a pet, whether exotic or domestic, before entering into such a commitment. However, if the need to dispose of a pet arises, the local humane society can often help. For unwanted reptiles, the best option would be to contact a local herpetological society that can assess the health of the animal, treat it, and adopt it to those with experience and expertise required to care for them properly.

Pet ownership is a responsibility as much as raising a child.  Critters deserve our attention to their needs before, as well as after, being acquired as pets.

6 thoughts on “Disposing of a Pet”

    • Hello Etham,

      Thank you for the offer of your corn snake. Unfortunately, living in a very small environment, we are unable to provide suitable space for another snake, cage and accessories. I would suggest for you to contact a reptile rehabilitation facility or some other group that could give a good home to a great species of snake. Since the corn snake is such an excellent representative of its species, I’d also be inclined to contact nearby schools which have a strong biological or zoological course of study. I remember a zoology class I attended many years ago that had a “class” Eastern Hognose snake. We’d take turns cleaning the cage, feeding and recording that snake’s behavior. It would be more beneficial for the corn snake to stay in the UK rather than be shipped thousands of miles away, an effort that all too often results in death caused by improper handling by the airlines.
      I wish you the best of luck in your search to re-locate your snake.

  1. I have 4 big snakes two of which are bigger and live in bigger cages..my estranged husband owns them but can no longer afford to care for them because of his failing health…my 32 year old and I are looking to put them in a place where they will be able to thrive better please help us and thank you for your time.

    • Hello Lena,

      I’m sorry to hear you have to find new caretakers for your 4 snakes. Snakes can be really long term relationships and I have also considered what to do when I’m unable to care for our four, smaller snakes that could outlive me. Fortunately I have some associates in AZ that are qualified and willing in the event the need arises. But I will advise you what I’d do in your shoes. First off, it’s very unlikely a zoo would be willing to accept any of your snakes but although you didn’t say, I think you are in NJ, not too far from Philadelphia. I will attach some websites of reptile rescues fairly close to you that may be willing to help you out. And, if they are unable, I bet they would know of someone in the area who would. The reptile community is very close knit and there’s bound to be someone or some organization to eliminate your concerns. Check out the following links:

      They all seem to be well representative on the Internet and should be your first step in finding new homes for the critters. You are doing the right things by trying to re-home the snakes and I wish you success.

      Take care,

    • Without knowing your location: City/State/region, it’s difficult to advise you on rehoming your Pythons. Many areas have reptile rescue groups as well as reptile clubs that may have information that will help. Most zoos will NOT accept a common animal such as a Ball Python however. Your local Game and Fish Dept may have info regarding your situation as well. Personally, I’d Google “Reptile conservation” in your area and see what pops up. There’s also numerous reptile groups on Facebook and an excellent website, Kingsnake.com could also be of help. I’m in contact with some folks who keep snakes in their homes although the HOAs seem to prohibit vaguely having them. Good luck with the re-homimg if absolutely necessary. They need a good healthy home.


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