What Happens When You Abandon Your Pet

News from the Natural World: The Consequences of Abandoning Your Pet? The Beagle investigates!

News from the Natural World: What happens when you abandon your pet? The Beagle investigates!

6.5 million pets are surrendered in the US every year. Of these, only 3.2 million are rehomed. What happens to the pets that don’t find forever homes? Only 700,000 return to their original owners, while over a million are euthanized. The statistics paint a grim picture indeed. This is why we must ask difficult questions like ‘What happens when you abandon your pet?’ before making such decisions. 

While we understand that sweeping statements such as “abandoning your pet should never be an option” aren’t going to ease your situation, we do believe there is a better solution—one where your four-legged family member doesn’t end up a statistic. 

Read on to learn more.

Common Reasons People Abandon Their Pets and How To Circumvent Them

What Really Happens When You Abandon Your Pet

As frowned upon as it is, pet abandonment is extremely common. Here are several reasons why people take such drastic measures:


Moving to another state or city can be stressful, and many people tend to abandon their pets as they cannot handle the added responsibility or expense during the move.

Even when moving within the same city, many landlords and apartment complexes may not allow pets, putting a pet owner in a tough situation. Before you give up your pet, try the following:

  • There is no shortage of pet-friendly residences. If you haven’t found one yet, re-examine your ideal neighborhood criteria. Picking a location that adds a few minutes to your commute, for instance, will spare you and your pet the heartache of abandonment. 
  • Have an honest discussion with your landlord and compromise on a slightly higher pet fee or negotiate conditions that benefit you.
  • As a last resort, asking friends or family to take care of your dog while you figure out alternate solutions is also a great idea.

Having A Baby

The arrival of a newborn is another reason why parents, especially first-timers, abandon their dogs. However, raising a child and a pet is no different than raising multiple children—it is possible with a few cutbacks and a little help. And just as having a sibling can benefit children, growing up with a dog is an incredible experience for your child. 

So before you make that heart-wrenching decision, here’s what you can try:

  • Train your dog to behave around children, especially infants.
  • Expose your dog to other older children to help it get accustomed to sounds, smells, behaviors.
  • Appropriately introduce your baby to your dog.
  • Teach your child to respect dogs starting from an early age.
  • Include your four-legged baby on family outings, so they feel like part of the family unit—it’s easy for your dog to feel excluded when your baby arrives.
  • Get help when you need it—be it a friendly neighbor taking your dog to the vet or the teenager next door helping with dog-walking responsibilities.
What Happens When You Abandon Your Pet?
What Happens When You Abandon Your Pet?

Behavioral or Health Issues

Aggressive, misbehaved dogs can be difficult to deal with. However, undesirable behaviors don’t mean your pet is any less loveable. Before you give up on your dog, try the following:

  • Visit your vet to rule out health-related causes—yes, some health issues can cause dogs to behave aggressively.
  • Get a trainer or behaviorist—they’ll help you understand your pet’s behavior and remedies.
  • Learn to train your dog by using free online resources and guides.

If your dog has a chronic illness that affects its quality of life or behavior, speak to a vet or ask for a referral to get a specialist’s opinion if your current mode of therapy does not seem to be working.

If you’ve tried everything possible but your dog’s health deteriorates further, or their behavior is beginning to threaten the safety of you and those around you, consider humane euthanasia instead of abandonment.

Health or Physical Limitations

If you are ill and can no longer care for your dog, consider alternatives to abandonment such as:

  • If it’s a short-term situation, ask friends or family to foster your dog while you recover.
  • Ask neighbors or friends to help you out with activities you find challenging, like walks, trips to the vet, and grooming.
  • Sign up to have volunteers, outreach programs, or welfare organizations care for your dog.

Financial Struggles

If you are facing financial difficulties and cannot afford the added expense of having a dog, consider the following:

  • Visit low-cost pet welfare clinics.
  • DIY, thrift, or borrow supplies like dog collars, treats, and beds.
  •  Find discounted heartworm and flea prevention.
  • Look for mid-range diet food, or try giving your dog homemade meals.
This Happens When You Abandon Your Pet

Legal Consequences of Abandoning Your Pet

Abandoning your pet is inhumane and unnecessary from a moral and ethical standpoint. It is also illegal in every state- you could be booked for animal cruelty and face:

  • Penalties or fines ranging from $50 to $500
  • Up to 30 days of jail time.

How Long Is Considered Abandonment Of A Pet?

Abandonment is legally presumed between 4-14 days, though this varies by state.

Now that we’ve covered the owner’s side of things, let’s look at how animals suffer when they are abandoned.

Why Is Abandoning Pets Bad?

Most abandoned dogs end up at shelters or pounds – the numbers cross the 6 million mark. Of these, a meager 700,000 return to their owners, and 1.6 million are adopted. The remaining continue to live in shelters. Some may even fall victim to accidents or abuse, as strays are not treated kindly. That’s why animal abandonment is a problem.

Over 500,000 Dogs Are Euthanized Every Year As Shelters Lack The Capacity And Resources To Care For So Many Dogs. 

It’s common knowledge that abandoned pets get ‘sad,’ but do animals feel abandonment in a deeper sense? Well, they do.

So, what happens when you abandon pets? The effects of abandonment manifest emotionally and physically in all dogs. Let’s have a look at them.

Loss of Appetite or Malnutrition

Abandoned dogs tend to be malnutritioned if they end up as strays on the street as they do not know how to fend for themselves.

Even in shelters or welfare homes, abandoned dogs find it hard to get comfortable and eat as per their natural appetite due to the emotional duress they undergo without their owners.

Depression and Inactivity

Abandoned dogs display symptoms of depression. Just as humans tend to become inactive when depressed, dogs too lose their liveliness and playful nature. They spend all day moping around, with no enthusiasm for games they previously enjoyed.

What Happens When You Abandon Your Pet?
This also Happens When You Abandon Your Pet

Trust and Abandonment Issues

Abandoned dogs undergo a lot of emotional trauma, which causes several issues when they interact with each other and humans.

Some dogs may become skittish and afraid of human contact. Others tend to become more aggressive and angry.

Even for dogs in shelters with regular meals and a safe space to sleep, the change from their usual home environment is extremely jarring. They may find it difficult to trust their new caretakers and adjust to their new surroundings.

Despite Everything They Go Through, There Is Still Hope For Abandoned Dogs As The Right Rehabilitation Therapy Can Help Dogs Heal.

Can Abandoned Dogs Be Rehabilitated and Healed?

Shelters work very hard to help their dogs heal from the trauma of abusive households and abandonment.

Just as humans require therapy and exercise to overcome a sorrowful situation, dogs too have programs to help them get back to their old selves as much as possible. It also helps prepare them for future adoptions so they can adjust to their new homes better.

A shelter dog is made to feel safe and comfortable before any sort of actual healing can occur. Once the dog feels like it can trust the caregiver, a combined program of mental and physical exercises is required to make them feel rejuvenated. This could include walking, playing fetch, and obedience training.

It Can Take Between 60 To 120 Days For Any Visible Progress. 

Abandoned dogs can enjoy a normal life after they have been fostered, rehabilitated, and adopted. However, the scars of being abandoned rarely ever fade completely, and they require a lot of tenderness, patience, and care.

What Happens When You Abandon Your Pet?

How To Ethically Give Your Dog Away?

If you have exhausted all your options and are still unable to keep your dog, there are ways to give them away while minimizing the damage.

As a responsible dog owner, it is your duty to make sure you leave your dog in good hands.

If possible, ask a friend or family member that is familiar with the dog if they would like to care for it and adopt it as their pet.

If this is not an option, look to rehome your dog or find it a foster family.

To do so, you must make a flyer to spread awareness amongst people who may be interested: 

  • Include essential details such as age, breed, sex, size, color, health, personality, temperament, etc.
  • Attach a few cute photographs.
  • Always be honest, especially about dog health or behavioral issues. Not disclosing such information is unfair towards your dog and the people who choose to adopt it.
  • Provide details regarding food preferences, medical requirements, and other details.

Once you’re done making the flyer, it’s time to spread the word!

  • Distribute the flyers around your neighborhood, office, gym, and all other places where a dog-lover may see it. 
  • Post on social media, across your personal accounts, and also on dog-centric groups and adoption pages.
  • Ask your friends and family to help you out by informing their contacts too.
  • You can also speak to your vet – they will surely have some leads.
  • Ask adoption agencies if they have someone looking to adopt a dog with matching specifications.

If someone comes forward to adopt your dog, do a thorough background check before initiating any procedures. You have to make sure your dog will be well taken care of.

If you cannot find someone to adopt your dog, you could consider a no-kill animal shelter or rescue group.

However, shelters are overcrowded or at full capacity. This is why most shelter dogs are likely to be euthanized. Thus, a shelter should be your last resort.


Dogs are loyal, loving creatures that make your life better. Their wagging tails, innocent eyes, and smiling faces are hard to resist.

They deserve better than to be abandoned. So, no matter what curveballs life throws at you, it is unforgivably cruel for your dog to bear the consequences.

Now that you know what happens when you abandon pets, we hope it will encourage you to find a more suitable alternative.

There are always alternatives to leaving them high and dry, and as a dog parent, it is your job to make sure you do everything you can to avoid it.

Written to support the work of The Upper Pawside – NOW

The Upper Pawside

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