Family and Recovery: Where Does My Pet Go When I Go into Treatment?

Contributor: Crystal Karges, MS, RDN, IBCLC for Addiction Hope

dog-472855_640Men and women across the world have been graced by the bond and companionship that develops with a pet.

Whether it be a dog, cat, bird, fish, reptile, or anything between, pets can be a valuable part of a person’s life.

For an individual who is recovering from a drug or alcohol addiction, having a pet can bring encouragement, support, and uplifting memories in times that can be difficult.

The Human and Pet Bond

Research has demonstrated the strong emotional connection that can be established between a pet and a human. The bond that can be formed between humans and domestic animals can be beneficial on many levels, particularly for individuals who are struggling with:

  • Mental illness
  • Mood disorder
  • Substance abuse

Having a pet can encourage responsibility and accountability, which are crucial as a person rebuilds their autonomy in recovery from drug/alcohol abuse.

As a person cares for a pet, this can also bring them greater purpose, give them a sense of hope and joy, alleviate stress and tension, and encourage the undertaking of more pleasurable activities.

Options for Pet Care

kat-443294_640Many people are pet owners and have experienced the wonderful benefits that come with having a pet for a companion. Pets are a significant part of many peoples’ lives.

If you or someone you care about is struggling with an addiction to drugs or alcohol and has a cherished pet, it may be necessary to consider options for the pet, should the owner no longer be capable of properly caring for the animal.

While pets can be an instrumental part of addiction recovery, it may be necessary to default care of your animal to prioritize your health and treatment.

As difficult as this may be to consider, it is important to know that there are many options to ensure that you and your animal are adequately taken care of during your recovery journey. It may be necessary to part from your pet during various phases of your addiction treatment, such as the more acute levels of care that include hospitalization or residential treatment.

How to Find Care for Your Pet

Should you need to temporarily part ways with your pet, here are some options to consider helping you focus on your recovery during your treatment:

Check with your treatment program:

Talk with your admissions director about the option of bringing your pet during your stay at the treatment center. Some treatment programs make accommodations for pets, and this should be inquired about with the centers you are researching.

As pet therapy is often incorporated into treatment, find out if this option is available in your treatment program.

Enlist the help of a trusted friend or family member:

Do you have a close friend who can help care for your pet for the duration of your treatment? If this might be an option for you and if time allows, let your pet become acquainted with your friend or family.

Similarly, you can help your pet’s caregiver understand how to best care for them in your absence by familiarizing them with your pet.

Long-term boarding:

Long-term boarding facilities may provide reduced-rates for housing animals over longer periods of time.

These types of environments provide a range of services to care for animals, including social interactions, feeding, exercise and more. If time permits, research facilities to find an option that you feel most comfortable with leaving your pet in.

Foster Care:

retriever-348572_640If you are unable to find a person or program that can suitably care for your pet while you are in treatment, foster care may be an option for you to consider. These types of programs allow a volunteer to temporarily care for your pet for a period of time.

Foster care programs for pets should include a contract that outlines specific details, such as responsibilities of both parties, approximate length of fostering/boarding, etc.


In the case that an animal or pet can no longer be properly cared for, you may consider the option of adoption.

Having another person or family adopt your pet may be a difficult choice to make, but in the long run, you could be saving your pet’s life. Many organizations exist that can help facilitate this process and find a loving and safe home for your pet.

Ensuring that your pet is well cared for in your absence will help keep your mind at ease and allow you to focus on your treatment for addiction. As painful as it will be to be separated from your pet, getting treatment and help will only allow you to become a better person and caregiver for your animal.

Community Discussion – Share your thoughts here!

What is your experience with finding a place for your pet while in treatment?

Last Updated & Reviewed By: Jacquelyn Ekern, MS, LPC on November 20th, 2014
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About Baxter Ekern

Baxter Ekern is the Vice President of Ekern Enterprises, Inc. He contributed and helped write a major portion of Addiction Hope and is responsible for the operations of the website.