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. 




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!


I agree Ruby, I see it over and over again. People get away with throwing puppies in garbage dumpsters and such. It's heart wrenching. Finding them in cartons. I wish we had and FBIA....Federal Bureau of Investigations for Animals!Then we can find the sick bastards who do these things by lifting finger prints or offering rewards. There should be judges who just prosecute Animal Abusers. They would be so sick after seeing these things they would start sending them away for life where they belong!

ben schneiderb

me to

Eileen Moore

I totally agree with Patty. There is NO excuse for anyone to abandon an animal. There are plenty of shelters in this country and organizations you can call to help you get the animal to safety. It should be against the law with a stiff punishment and a heafty fine. They depend upon us!! It breaks my heart to even think about an animal being abandoned. How we treat our animals (all of God's creatures) says a lot about us as a race. Animals are more "Humane" than the human race!!!!!


I believe crimes done to animals including abandonment should be treated the same as for humans, we are all species on this planet, and humans have shown themselves to be the cruelest most self centered, abusive of all species, we are the danger to the Earth, not climate or animals but us.


YEs pets are people too the fact that people treat them as less its because they can but its dont mean it right abandon pets cruelty abuse and killing should carry the same punish as for a childoren a human !!!!!

Nancy Mehan

I agree, Patty. Well said.