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.
The U.S. Senate has just passed the Farm Bill, a huge piece of federal legislation that is renewed every five years. While many parts of the Farm Bill time out after five years, other included provisions are enrolled into U.S. law permanently—and this year, that includes a new measure that is going to be a game-changer in our efforts to end animal fighting.
Congress added crucial elements of the Animal Fighting Spectator Prohibition Act into the Farm Bill, making it a federal offense to knowingly attend an organized animal fight and imposing additional penalties for bringing a child to animal fights. Violators face up to one year in prison for attending a fight and up to three years in prison for bringing a child to a fight.
The House- and Senate-passed Farm Bill excludes the dangerous King Amendment.
The Farm Bill will now be transmitted to President Obama, who has indicated that he will sign it quickly.
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In April 2013, the ASPCA Field Investigation Response (FIR) team responded to a call in Pleasant Prairie, Wisconsin. Not knowing what to expect, they arrived at the scene to find an aggressive rodeo bull, a determined police chief, and an extreme challenge. After years of living in substandard conditions, the bull had developed behavioral issues, and Police Chief David Smetana concluded that the animal should be shot.
After a heated discussion with Smetana, FIR Director Kyle Held was granted access to the bull. Under surveillance of several armed police officers, Kyle evaluated the animal and concluded that he should be placed in a new home—not killed. “We arrived at the scene at 8am,” says Kyle. “At 11am, we were given three hours to find the bull a new home.”
With the clock ticking, Kyle pulled out all the stops. “I called everyone and their brother on this one,” he says. “At 1:45, we finally found a couple of farmers that run a cattle breeding operation and were not at all scared to take the bull for temporary placement.”
With the location secured, the team now had to tranquilize the bull for transportation. Kyle called on two local veterinarians, both of whom had initially supported the Police Chief’s plan to kill the bull, for help. He says, “We not only convinced them to change their opinions, but to assist in our rescue.” It took the two vets three tranquilizer darts to get the bull calm enough for handling.
Next, under more armed police protection, the FIR team transported the bull to a waiting trailer using equipment supplied by the local highway department. Once in the trailer, the bull was medically evaluated and it was discovered that a botched castration had left him with one testicle. “That’s how we came to call him Uno the bull,” Kyle remembers. Uno was then monitored until he was awake enough to stand. The 3 hour trip to the placement farm went off without a hitch.
Uno stayed at the temporary property in Wisconsin for a few weeks until the FIR team could make arrangements for a permanent residence. He was eventually transferred to the Black Beauty Ranch in Texas, where he received a proper home—and a proper castration. Uno is now stress-free and loving life.
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Last fall, NYPD patrol officers responded to a 311 call and found two underweight dogs living in deplorable conditions in a Bronx backyard. The officers brought the dogs, Hall and Oates, to the ASPCA Animal Hospital, where our veterinarians treated them. The owner was arrested and charged with misdemeanor animal cruelty.
Hall and Oates were part of the first group of animals to benefit from a new partnership between the ASPCA and the NYPD. With this groundbreaking collaboration, which started with a pilot phase in the Bronx in September 2013, the NYPD will now take the lead role in responding to all animal cruelty complaints in NYC’s five boroughs. The change—given the NYPD’s tens of thousands of officers across 77 precincts—will allow for a swift response to abuse complaints and expedite the ASPCA’s treatment and rehabilitation of abused animals.
In the first several months of the partnership, the NYPD received nearly 800 hundred calls from the public about suspected cruelty. Twelve arrests were made, and more than 30 animals were treated at the ASPCA.
The arresting officer in Hall and Oates’ case was moved by the experience. “I am going to look further into this matter and try to make a change,” the officer said at the time. “A lot of officers are interested in what I did today.”
If you live in New York City and witness animal cruelty, please call 311 (or 911 for crimes in progress) to notify the NYPD. To learn how to report cruelty in your state, please visit our Reporting Cruelty FAQ.
When the ASPCA arrived at the home of Remy’s former owner in June 2013, we found a one-year-old Pit Bull who was too weak to stand and lying in a cage with feces and urine. The owner surrendered Remy to us, and we immediately took action to offer relief to the sweet, suffering canine.
The neighbors heard a dog cry out in pain on more than one occasion. A young Pit Bull named Remy, allegedly the victim of repeated abuse, needed help. When we arrived at the scene in June 2013, we found a gentle puppy who was so weak and frail, she couldn’t even stand.
Remy’s owner surrendered the suffering pup, who was brought to the ASPCA where she received immediate veterinary care for a host of ailments. She had two broken legs, skin disease and severe muscle atrophy.
After intensive treatment, which included surgery and hydrotherapy, Remy began to heal, but she will always walk with a limp—a reminder of all she has overcome.Please take a moment to watch and share our video of Remy’s amazing recovery.
Of course, millions of other animals still need us, so we’re also thankful that we can count on you as we fight for their lives, too. We hope you'll consider giving todayif you possibly can. It means the world to us, and to every animal we can assist together.