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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. 

Comments

Comments

Tamara

Yes, Abandonment is a Crime. I took in a poor female cat who was 1 years old, pregnant and already had a 6 week old baby because her Owner's moved & left her in a neighbor's yard. They apparently did not want to deal with her situation but there are other ways, better ways, than leaving her behind... If I knew who these people were, I would turn them in for Cruelty.!!

Ishmael

The World is a very crowded place these days. The human race is heading towards unsustainable population levels. Availability of resources impact on environment, economy and such.

I don't care if you never want to have kids (that could be a wise decision on many levels) nor do I care if you have an animal. Companion or vocational animal.

However, if you have either, and you abuse or abandon it because there are too many "good' or at least well meaning humans in the World that try. If you abandon or abuse children and or animals, it should be the death penalty.

That will solve so many issues.

Laura

Is it animal abandonment if you try all the local shelters but because they are no-kill and full they won't take it? Or does that mean the only option is the owner has to go to a vet and euthanize an otherwise healthy animal they can no longer keep?

Joanne

YES IT IS STILL ABANDONMENT BUT THIS IS HAPPENING MORE AND MORE BECAUSE CITIZENS CANNOT GET HELP. THEY WANT TO GET THE PET TO A SAFE PLACE BUT ARE ALWAYS TURNED AWAY. I HAVE RESCUED FOR MANY YRS AND AT PRESENT HAVE THREE ABANDON CATS WHICH I CANNOT KEEP THEY ARE INSIDE WITH ME BUT IT IS GETTING HARDER TO PLACE THEM AND IT IS VERY SCARY FOR THEM TO GO INTO A SHELTER WITH SO MANY AND SO MUCH NOISE. IT TAKES A VILLAGE ALSO TO TAKE CARE OF OUR BABIES.

Phyllis Lamers

If you choose to take on an animal, you also choose to take on the care for them. There are many ways to find help for an animal if the situation comes up that you can no longer take care of them. the reason should only be because of health/financial difficulties - not just because they did something you do not like or because you just don't have the time to take care of them any more. The penalty for someone INTENTIONALLY leaving an animal should be proscecuted to the fullest. A consequence should be given even if not intentional and it is abdonment or left out in the heat/cold without shelter. Dog fight victim owners should be given the same pain - perhaps a new death penalty for repeat offenders.

Carol O'Brien

I cannot even believe that this is a question. Without a doubt it is a crime against animals as well as the system that protects them.

Carol O'Brien

I cannot even believe that this is a question. Without a doubt it is a crime against animals as well as the system that protects them.

Carol O'Brien

I cannot even believe that this is a question. Without a doubt it is a crime against animals as well as the system that protects them.

Brad Olson

Yes of course it is abandonment when you purposely leave an animal and that person or persons should be held responsible and the book should be throw at them. I have things that are much worse but they would not allow them to happen.
I have no clue how people could even have the thought to leave a friend (your animal) in a strange place? They would not do that to a human family member so how can you do it to a friend that just wants to be loved and cared for and that would love you no matter what???? People that are caught doing this should be dropped in a hole in the desert and told to get out on there own and see how they like it.

FiveLittleHens

Honestly, how difficult is it to take an animal to a shelter or somewhere safe instead of abandoning it? If you don't want the animal, you can drop it somewhere rather than just leaving it to starve, be injured, or worse. On the other hand, there's people that abandon their kids; I don't guess it's reasonable to expect them to do any better by their pets.

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