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. 



RJ Simpson

I completely agree, and hope that they make that a crime or make it against the law




I agree!


Its a crime of the worst kind!

Joan Cappelluti

Absolutely! Animal abandonment should definitely be considered an act of cruelty. How unfair to the poor animal to be left behind by it's "loving" family!

Dresia Vaughn

I recently joined ASPCA. if i live to see retirement, i will donate my time doing for animals if i don't before i retire. but i'm honored to help animals. they love us unconditionally, they love you more then your fellow man, they deserve a tea steak bone along with lot's of love, hugs and kisses.


This is another area that probably needs harsher punishment and laws. People just don't take this seriously.

Dresia Vaughn

may i also add, i'm so happy to know and see, there are a lot of people like myself and family, that love animals and will do anything, and everything for them. animals have feelings, emotions, they feel love, they feel pain and they feel happiness. to see one neglected, abused, adbandon from their owner/s is the worst thing in the world. if one can't be trusted with animals, then why should that person be trusted with another human being? God placed the animals here before he made man. He gave man dominion over the animals and i don't want to think God made a mistake when he put man in charge, but when i look at how evil, cruel hearted, rotten people hurt animals for their pleasure, it makes me wonder, why did God put man in charge. But I thank him for all those people around the world who love animals and will be their voice and will fight for them, i surely would.


Yes, you are both correct. About being abandoned by a loving family. I question that. If they are a loving family would they have abandoned the pet in the first place. Abandoning a pet should carry the same punishment as premediated murder. We will continue to see animal cruelty until the punishment is made far greater the the act of cruelty itself.


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.!!