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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. 

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Joanne

YOU ARE CORRECT BUT YOU HAVE TO BLAME ALOT OF IT ON THE HOUSING INDUSTRY ALSO MAKING IT VERY HARD ON FAMILIES. DO NOT EVER MOVE INTO A PLACE WHERE THEY DON'T ALLOW PETS. HIT THEM WHERE IT HURTS.

Patricia from M...

Abandonment of animals should be a crime and perpetrators should be sought out and punished. But there need be a system in place to deal with the problem.
For example many animals are abandoned each year when people move from their appartments. The landlords could alert authorities (local humane shelter, police) immediately if an animal is left in an appartment. These authorities would seek out the owner and levy a hefty fine (enough to cover the cost of the service). Unfortunately one reason tenants leave animals is because new landlords will not accept them but it is no excuse for not being responsible and finding the animal a new home or at least dropping it off at a shelter.

Joanne

MOVING IS NOT AN OPTION TO ABANDON A PET YOU TAKE THE BABY WITH YOU
JUST AS YOU WOULD WITH ANY CHILD. IF THE IGNORANT LANDLORDS DO NOT WANT PETS THEN DON'T MOVE THERE YOUR PET COMES FIRST!!!!!!!!

Leslie

Animal abandonment is form of cruelty and it is a crime. But the consequences are not severe enough. We need to work through our local municipalities and state governments initially, to assure that laws are enacted that dictate severe penalties to individuals who do not properly care for their animals - including abandonment. Please contact your local city and country commissioners, managers and boards as well as your state representatives to voice your opinion that if they are to remain in their jobs - they are required to assure their dedication to protecting animals.

Sondra

I would like to see each city have a drop-off facility, free of charge, for animals that are no longer wanted or can no longer stay with their current owner for whatever reason. To surrender a pet it costs $25.00 in our city. If there were places that these unwanted pets could be taken to that was free, I'll bet abandoned pets would be a problem no more. God bless all that take care of the unwanted, unloved creatures of God.

Laura

Drop off fees are one method limited admission shelters reduce the number of pets entering their facilities. This movement is no longer about caring for the welfare of pets, it has evolved into a fundraising race where the shelter with the best statistics wins. Animals be damned.

Joanne

YES THERE NEED TO BE MORE CAT HOMES IN EVERY COUNTY WHERE PEOPLE CAN HELP OUT AND FERELS AND PETS CAN GO TO A WARM PLACE WITH BEDS AND TOYS AND LATER GET ADOPTED OUT. IF EVERYONE WOULD JOIN TOGETHER IT COULD PROBABLY HAPPEN. THOUGH YOU HAVE TO DEAL WITH THE COUNTY TO GET THEM BUILT. BUT IF WE DID THAT ALL OVER THE COUNTRY THERE WOULD BE LESS ON THE STREET AND LESS MURDERS OF CATS AND THEY WOULD COME TO KNOW WHAT A HOME IS AND HAVE ATTENTION AND BE LOVED ON. THINK ABOUT IT.

Patti Jordan

HUMAN SOCIETY IS NOT WELL.....TO LEAVE A PRECIOUS LIVING THING LIKE CALLIE IN THOSE CONDITIONS IS UNTHINKABLE. THE PUNISHMENT FOR SUCH A 'PERSON' IF THEY SHOULD BE CALLED THAT IS NOT WHAT I CAN STATE IN THIS COLUMN. THANK GOD FOR ASPCA., AND ANY OTHER ORGANIZATIONS OUT THERE WILLING TO HELP THESE POOR ANIMALS IN SUCH GREAT NEED. GOD BLESS YOU ALL

Donna C. Matthews

When you see what ends up happening to abandoned animals who have been abandoned you would truly believe that it is a most cruel crime. It gives me nightmares to think of how much suffering abandoned animals have to endure.

Michelle

Call the police? Do they really have the time that it takes to file a report and investigate? They would probably laugh at me.

I think that abandoning an animal is abuse and needs more attention and publicity. But what is one to do when the shelters are full and you have a two week wait to surrender the animal? On top of that, the shelter charges to take in a surrender and people don't want to pay.

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