Warning - minor Game of Thrones spoilers ahead
In the latest episode of Game of Thrones we watched Jon Snow abandon his direwolf, Ghost, without so much as a hug goodbye. Many were outraged, with some questioning the leadership abilities of a human so callous. (The directors said “a CGI issue” prevented the hug goodbye, but many fans are not impressed).
But is there a way to rehome a pet responsibly? And could Jon have done anything differently?
Rehoming shouldn’t be abandonment
First things first. Rehoming a pet means finding your pet a new home, not abandoning them. It’s illegal to abandon a pet in most jurisdictions of Australia, with many state animal welfare laws conferring a “duty of care” on the owner of an animal. You are responsible for a pet until it either passes away or you transfer ownership of the animal to another person.
There are many reasons why pets get rehomed
The most common reason cats are surrendered to animal shelters in Australia is due to accommodation issues. With around a third of all households now renting their accommodation, for many people, staying in one dwelling for 10-15 years is impossible.
Many states tenancy laws don’t mention pets, which allows landlords to refuse pets on their properties. This greatly restricts the supply of pet-friendly rentals. However, jurisdictions like Victoria and the Australian Capital Territory are looking to make things easier for pet-owning renters.
Other reasons why people might rehome their pets include injury or illness which affects someones caring capacity, a relationship breakdown or entering a nursing home. Even a change in employment can interfere with someone’s ability to care for a pet.
In Jon’s case, going south to fight in (presumably) a great deal of battles, in a much warmer climate, for an indeterminate amount of time, all constitute good reasons to rehome Ghost.HBO/IMDB
Act in your pet’s best interest
It is our responsibility as pet owners to embrace our duty of care and act in the best interests of our pet. Often rehoming can lead to an improvement in an animal’s circumstances. If a new home will provide an animal with a better quality of life, for example more exercise and affection, then arguably this leads to a better outcome for that pet. It is better to arrange a suitable alternate home for a pet than let it experience neglect due to a change in owner circumstances.
We know that many people struggle with the decision to rehome a pet, so if there are no other alternatives available to you, here is how you can rehome a pet responsibly.
1. Take all reasonable steps to address the need to rehome your pet
Explore alternate accommodation options, obtain the help of a dog trainer or employ a dog walker to overcome a lack of time. Discuss your issues with the local shelter or rescue, as they may have some advice too. RSPCA QLD have a great online tool which works through some of the common reasons people contemplate rehoming pets with practical advice and solutions.
2. Give yourself plenty of time
If you’re moving overseas, don’t leave rehoming your pet until the last minute. Ensure you leave plenty of time for the process and make a plan. By giving yourself plenty of time to pick a new home, you will give your pet the best chance with their new owners.
3. Ensure you pet is up-to-date
Make your pet as desirable as possible for a new owner. Check their vaccinations are up-to-date, get them desexed and microchipped (if they aren’t already), ensure they are on parasite preventatives and confirm they are toilet trained prior to rehoming.
4. Look for solutions close to home
Talk to your family and friends about the need to rehome your pet. Ask if any of them might consider a new addition to their family. You are likely to have more success with those close to you as they have already established a relationship with your pet. Additionally, if your circumstances change, you might be able to care for your pet again if they live with someone you know.
5. Assess potential adopters
Once you’ve advertised your pet for rehoming, take the time to thoroughly assess any potential adopters. Conduct interviews over the phone and in-person to get a feel for whether your pet would fit in with their family. Consider conducting a trial adoption or weekend sleepover prior to a full transfer of ownership, to ensure your pet and their family are happy with the arrangement.
Rehoming a pet is always a tough decision. It’s often an incredibly emotional experience and one seldom done lightly. However, if done responsibly and with your pet’s welfare front of mind, it can be done successfully.
And what of Jon Snow’s actions?
You could barely call what he did “rehoming”. There was no effort to address the reason for find a new home, he left it to the literal last minute and he didn’t discuss it with his friends and family.
While we can never forgive Jon for not giving Ghost one last hug, the reality is that as a direwolf, Ghost is naturally suited to life in the north. He gets to avoid further battles and live the rest of his days in his natural environment. Arguably, he will now experience a better quality of life than with the neglectful Jon Snow.
Authors: Bronwyn Orr, Veterinarian and PhD scholar, University of Sydney