During the busy season, we may utilize a waitlist to ensure that we have adequate space for incoming cats and small animals. If you have a pet cat or a small animal (rabbit, guinea pig, ferret, etc) you wish to surrender, please call the shelter first at 703-830-1100 to confirm whether or not a waitlist is being utilized, or whether you can bring your pet in immediately.
The Fairfax County Animal Shelter is an open access shelter, meaning that we accept owner-surrendered dogs, cats, and other companion animals in need regardless of age, health or behavior. We receive about 5,000 animals every year. We accept owner-surrendered animals from Fairfax County residents only. If you are a resident of another jurisdiction, you will need to go to your county's shelter for surrendering a pet.
We accept stray dogs who are found within Fairfax County. We accept stray cats who are found within Fairfax County only if they are sick or injured and in need of medical care, or if they are declawed, or if they have a microchip or collar. Free-roaming (feral or friendlier stray) community cats should be left where they are, and you can email us at firstname.lastname@example.org for more information on our Trap, Neuter, Return program. We accept other companion animals who are found as strays, as well (small animals and non-native pet reptiles). We only accept stray animals who were found within Fairfax County. If you have found an animal in another jurisdiction, please contact your county's shelter directly.
Surrendering a pet to the shelter should be your last resort. You should make efforts to rehome your pet through friends and family and contact rescue groups prior to surrendering a pet. While the shelter has a high placement rate, animals may still be euthanized if their temperament, behavior in the shelter or behavior history, or medical condition makes them unable to be placed for adoption or sent to rescue.
Before you surrender: a friend or family member may be willing to help. Please contact trusted family members or friends who may be able to care for your pet on a temporary or long-term basis. When someone surrenders a pet to the Fairfax County Animal Shelter, it becomes the property of the County and the owner relinquishes all rights. Every animal that is surrendered to the shelter will have a medical and behavioral assessment. Since the decision to surrender an animal is final – we urge anyone who is considering surrendering their pet to consider all possible alternatives. Some options are listed below:
- Veterinary Care & Spay/Neuter: Some health and behavior problems are the result of an underlying medical issue, which can be addressed by taking pets to a veterinarian. Sometimes, issues can be resolved simply by spaying or neutering your pet. Please contact the shelter at email@example.com for information about low-cost veterinary and spay/neuter options.
- Behavior Issues: If you are having difficulty with a pet due to behavior issues, such as poor leash manners, inappropriate urination, etc, and need information or resources, please contact the Fairfax County Animal Shelter at firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Moving/Rental Issues: Many websites exist to help renters find pet-friendly housing. Simply search for, ‘pet-friendly housing’ and your town or area.
- DO NOT: Set your pet free in a park or neighborhood, leave a pet in your home when you move away, or give your pet to a stranger.
What to expect when surrendering a pet
At the Fairfax County Animal Shelter, we understand that it is sometimes necessary to give up a pet. We take the well-being of all surrendered pets very seriously and our dedicated staff provide compassionate care for all animals who come into the shelter.
You can surrender your pet during our open hours of Tuesday-Friday 12-7pm, and Saturdays 10am-5pm. Please arrive earlier in the day if possible, and on a weekday if you can. (Later in the day and Saturdays can get very busy!) When you surrender your pet, a staff person will speak with you about your pet's behavioral and medical history, and you will be asked to fill out a 'surrender profile' to help us get to know your animal better. A staff person may perform a cursory behavioral assessment on your pet. Please bring your pet’s medical records at the time of surrender and any other relevant documents or records.
If you originally got your animal from another rescue organization, please contact that rescue organization first. Most rescue organizations require that any animal adopted from them be returned to them if the owner can no longer keep the animal. Please also give the rescue at least a few days to respond.
You will be required to sign a release form giving legal ownership to Fairfax County. Please keep in mind that surrendering a pet to the shelter should be your last resort. While the shelter has a high placement rate, animals may still be euthanized if their temperament, behavior in the shelter or behavior history, or medical condition makes them unable to be placed for adoption or sent to rescue.
Thinking of surrendering a pet and want to learn more about your options? Contact us at 703-830-1100 or email us at email@example.com if you have questions!