Animal Abandonment FAQ

Thursday, February 6, 2014 - 1:00pm
Black Lab sitting alone on sidewalk

Recently, we told you the story of Callie. Abandoned in a frozen van, Callie was left for dead until the ASPCA and NYPD rescued her. While we were thrilled to report that Callie’s story had a happy ending (she was adopted by the same police officer who found her), it got us thinking about animal abandonment. Though not discussed as often as other, more overt forms of animal cruelty, abandonment is a serious issue. To help understand what abandonment is, how it’s dealt with, and what you can do to help, we’ve answered some of the most Frequently Asked Questions.

What Is Animal Abandonment?

Abandonment laws differ by state, but generally speaking, abandonment happens when an owner or temporary caretaker of an animal leaves that animal in a public or private place (inside or outside) without intending to return for it and without making provision for its continued care.

How Many Animals Are Abandoned Each Year?

Because there is no national reporting requirement for animal abuse, there is no way to track the number of abandoned animals each year. However, we do know 6-8 million companion animals enter shelters nationwide every year. This number includes animals abandoned on the street (found animals) and animals seized after private abandonment in homes or apartments.

Is Animal Abandonment A Crime?

Most states have laws making abandonment of an animal unlawful. It is sometimes a component of cruelty laws, though some states like New York treat it as a separate offense. In New York, it is a Class A misdemeanor.

What Are the Consequences for Animal Abandonment?

Consequences vary nationwide. In New York, it is punishable by up to one year in jail and/or a fine of up to $1000. Visit our complete list of animal abandonment laws by state. If an abandoned animal is found to be sick, injured or dead, cruelty charges may also be appropriate. In these circumstances, forensic veterinary work may be helpful.

How Are Abandonment Laws Enforced?

Due to the nature of the crime, it is often difficult to identify and locate the owner or caretaker who has abandoned the animal. ID tags and microchips can sometimes help identify the responsibility party. Unfortunately, there are many instances where owners cannot readily be found and charged for abandonment.

What Can I Do To Help?

If you suspect animal abandonment, contact the police or appropriate law enforcement agency in your area. Visit our Fight Cruelty Page for a list of contacts in each state.

Please consider becoming an ASPCA Guardian today. Your support will help us continue our life-saving missions to rescue abandoned animals before it’s too late. 




I totally agree! Besides, pets are not toys. People who take animals and they throw them on the street, need to be SHOT , period. End of the story. Pets are not toys. People, use your brains! You want to have pet? Consider all of the responsibilities (including Vet bills, foods, etc). Don't want to deal with all of that? Do not take pet or give it to a non-kill shelter.
That's what's happening at the Sochi Olympics. The morons threw unwanted animals on the street.Spay and neuter , so there will be no unwanted population of cats and dogs. Now, they are trying to impress an entire world with that stupid Olympics by getting rid of homeless dogs. They poison them and shot them.
I say, what goes around , comes around.

keith & Susan P...

Aug 2013 we left our two dogs with a pet setter said oh i'll play ,take them ,give water and if they did something in the house she would clean it up yeah right not we went up north to do some cleaning and did not want the dogs to get sick with all the cleaning stuff we had we also told her we would be gone a week 3 days before we came home we had extra people in our house and removed our dogs they said we tried to call you as to what was happing here this what the pet setter said oh you left them with no food or water and you did not tell me where you going we left her some papers the car we were driving, address we were at ,phone numbers get this no one call us we called the pet setter every day when we were out and about she did not call us back we can't have any children these dogs our babies now we have to go to court and being charged the pet setter thinks it's cute that all it's all on us we were not in town we have proof to the fact so what do you think Kelly K

Amber B.

What I'd like to know is what is the appropriate response if you identify an animal in distress that has been abandoned. Of course we can call the authorities, but in some cases to wait for authorities to arrive could be a matter of life & death for the pet. What if I want to remove the animal from the situation and provide immediate care? That action can have an adverse effect for justice of the person who abandoned the animal? What is ASPCA's response to this?


That's a good point, Amber. I'd like to know the answers to that too.


maybe check with PETA - i called them to complain about a petting zoo and they gave me a phone number to call for immediate help if i encounter aother problem.


PETA is THE LAST number you want to call. They have a documented history of picking up animals and killing them right in their van or shortly thereafter at their "shelter."


Then this organization should cease to exist.

Dresia Vaughn

Amen Patti.


Absolutely!! Heartless, inhumane and cruel people should be severely punished.

Ruby Norman

Amen Patty!
Abandoning a pet should indeed be a crime. Sad thing is, though most all states have laws on the books, I know here in Ohio I have seen some horrific circumstances wherein pets were left and almost dead when found and the judge merely gave a slap on the hand NEVER the maximum possible sentence, even though it was clearly justified.
How does actions such as that by our judges deter the kind of pet abuse we are seeing time and again? It doesn't! MAKE A LAW TO PROTECT PET COMPANIONS!