Is Abandoning a Pet a Crime? 

Is abandoning a pet a crime? The answer depends on how the pet is abandoned and the law of the country, US state, county or city concerned.

Abandoned cat Mr Pickles

Until September 7th I will give 10 cents to an animal charity for every comment. It is a way to help animal welfare without much effort at no cost. Comments help this website too, which is about animal welfare.

Giving up a pet to a rescue organisation for no good reason is abandoning a pet but it is not a crime anywhere in the USA. It is the transfer of ownership of a “chattel”, a household item. Although, arguably it could and should be a crime because the act of abandoning a pet at a shelter often leads to the death of that animal within a short time. I am not sure that everyone who abandons their pet at a shelter realise that they are often killing their cat or dog. Some do and don’t care. They might even desire it. If there is a problem of lack of awareness then an education program should be instigated to make the matter clear.

Chucking a cat through the window of a moving car is both abandoning a pet, being cruel to a pet and causing harm. All US states have comprehensive animal welfare and protection laws outlawing cruelty to animals but the wording does not usually refer to abandonment as a distinct crime.

However, in certain states the act of abandoning a pet is a crime, often a lesser one called a misdemeanor. For instance, in California, “Every person who wilfully abandons any animal is guilty of a misdemeanor”.

Section 597s. (Amended by Stats. 1999, Ch. 303, Sec. 1.) – Cite as: Cal. Penal Code §597s.
(a) Every person who willfully abandons any animal is guilty of a misdemeanor.

(b)This section shall not apply to the release or rehabilitation and release of native California wildlife pursuant to statute or regulations of the California Department of Fish and Game.

And in Florida anyone who “abandons any animal in a street, road, or public place without providing for the care, sustenance, protection, and shelter of such animal is guilty of a misdemeanor.”

828.13. Confinement of animals without sufficient food, water, or exercise; abandonment of animals
(3) Any person who is the owner or possessor, or has charge or custody, of any animal who abandons such animal to suffer injury or malnutrition or abandons any animal in a street, road, or public place without providing for the care, sustenance, protection, and shelter of such animal is guilty of a misdemeanor of the first degree, punishable as provided in s. 775.082 or by a fine of not more than $5,000, or by both imprisonment and a fine.

On the face of it the Florida law is a little softer than that of California but both are in advance of many other states.

Cat abandoned in this rucksack
Cat abandoned in this rucksack

Most often pet abandonment is the result of the owner no longer wanting to care for the animal without any good reason (a good reason might be that the person is infirm or too old). This should be a crime as it is in California.

It is difficult, almost impossible on the internet, to find the law of each state, county or city in the USA regarding pet abandonment. I can’t therefore provide a comprehensive breakdown of the law regarding pet abandonment across America but, as mentioned, true cat abandonment will nearly always be accompanied by hardship suffered by the pet or much worse. Therefore the act of abandonment will fall under general animal welfare laws and often be a crime. The final obstacle is that enforcement of the law in this instance is virtually impossible due to a lack of evidence. People intent on abusing animals do it out of sight.

P.S. In the UK the Animal Welfare Act 2006 provides umbrella animal welfare legislation. Pet abandonment would fall within its ambit under section 4 “Unnecessary suffering”.

21 thoughts on “Is Abandoning a Pet a Crime? ”

  1. Do note the laws make NO distinction for your personal and absurd definitions of what is and is not a “domesticated cat”. ALL house-cats, in the home, stray, or feral, or “domesticated cats”. Your house-cats are what are defined as a “domesticated species”, bred by humans for the purpose of humans = “domesticated”. “Domesticated” has nothing to do with what state of freedom they are presently living under. They are a “domesticated species”, no matter where they are on the planet nor no matter how much contact they’ve had with humans. This is why they can “go feral”, back to a wild state. A native cat species can never “go feral” only domesticated species can. Please educate yourself so everyone else doesn’t have to do it for you, over and over and over and over and over and over and over, on ad-infinauseum.

    • I think you have misunderstood me and are mixed up. Even in your first sentence you show a mixed up approach. You say the law makes no distinction between feral, stray and domestic cats. That is incorrect because there are laws regarding TNR which solely relate to feral cats. Also there are laws which are biased against feral cats. I don’t have the time to explain that here.

      I never said that domestication relates to the state of freedom. So I have no idea why you wrote that. Feral cats are not domestic cats and not domesticated. In Australia for example they are akin to a new species of wild cat almost. Abandoned domestic cats never quite go completely feral if they survive while feral cats born in the wild are truly wild but can be domesticated.

      Native species of American cats are true wild cat species and the word “feral” does not apply to them so I don’t know why you wrote that sentence.

      • Let’s see if we can dumb this down to your ability to think, it will be difficult.

        You have two dogs, a male and female pair of Collies. Both are a domestic animal, a “domesticated species”, bred by man for the uses of man. You dump them off on an island. You come back 3 generations of dogs later and the island is populated with their offspring. You take them all back to the mainland. Which of them are “domestic species” and which are wild native species?

        Apparently you fail to understand and grasp the concept of the word “feral” too. Native species cannot go feral. Only domesticated species of animals can go feral (which does not alter their “domesticated species” status and definition). Like feral hogs, feral horses, etc. You have domesticated house-cats, domesticated stray-cats, and domesticated feral-cats. Then there are your myriad wild/native cat species. Only ONE species is considered “domesticated”, your house-cat, Felis catus. The feral Felis catus is no different than the one in your house. They are both defined as a “domesticated species” by science, by law, by all educated and thinking people, the ONLY difference is that the one in your home is habituated to humans and the other is not. In all science, in all law, in all people with basic common-sense; they all use the definition that any house-cat, no matter its comfort level around humans, is called a “domesticated animal”. That is the definition of “domesticated”. Not your layman’s biased “I wish it were true so I don’t have to obey the law” definition.

        You have the world of knowledge available at your fingertips today, yet you insist on pretending to be this uneducated and stupid when it comes to cats. Why is that?

        • TLDR: ‘Domestication quickly alters the genetics of any species since natural selection is no longer the primary driving force and selective breeding for desirable traits becomes the primary objective.’

          It’s simple:
          The offspring of the two abandoned dogs are feral while the parents have become strays (definition: a domestic animal with no identifiable owner and found to be wandering). Feral animals are a domestic animal mimicking the behaviors of a wild animal.

          You cannot have a wild domestic animal, you have a feral one.
          You cannot have a domestic wild animal, you have a tame one.
          It takes hundreds of years to turn a species from wild to domesticated.

          Wild, native species has nothing to do with animal abandonment and breeding to that location. A wild, native species are not imported or invasion species.

          Take the mustang, or if you rather, just the roaming horses in the United States of America. Horses are not native to the USA, so they cannot be a wild, native species. Also, they are not wild, but feral as they were brought over after domestication (small fact: the native horse ancestor in North America went extinct long before settlers arrived). A turkey, however, is a native, wild specie, unlike the pheasant. You can debate whether a certain turkey is feral or wild due to it being a popular farm animal. However, you can certainly tell from the PHYSICAL differences between them which is wild and which is domestic.

          • Oh yeah, forgot to lay out the definition for tamed animal:

            ‘An animal that is relatively tolerant of human presence.’

            All in all, people use the terms domestic and tame; wild and feral interchangeably, ignorant of the nuance of the meanings of the words.

  2. Person #1: Drops off a cat that they claim to be in charge of in a park, then Person #1 goes home. The cat is ran over by a car. Person #1 is guilty of all animal-abandonment laws and fined $5,000 for allowing an animal in their care to get hit by a car.

    Person #2: Drops off a spayed or neutered cat that they claim to be in charge in the park (and there are now even veterinarian records to prove they were in possession of that cat and claimed responsibility for it), then Person #2 goes home. The cat is ran over by a car. Person #2 is guilty of animal-abandonment and fined $5,000 for allowing an animal in their care to get hit by a car.

    Please point out the difference between the two and why one is guilty of animal-abandonment and the other is not. This I’ve got to hear. LOL

    • Hi, I think you have another typo which you have failed to spot because in both examples you say (correctly) that the person is guilty of cat abandonment yet in the penultimate sentence you say there is a difference and one is guilty and the other is not.

      The fact is that it is irrelevant whether a cat is neutered or not when it comes to abandonment under the law where it is a crime to abandon a cat.

      • I asked it that way because YOU think one should be guilty and the other should not be guilty.

        So, you agree then. Both people are guilty of animal-abuse and animal-neglect and animal-endangerment. Why have you not turned in your supporter Dee to the authorities for her 100+ counts of animal-abuse?

        Once you take possession of any animal, you are now the legal guardian. If you cannot obey all the laws required to keep that animal safe from all harms, then you need to sit in a prison cell. It’s that simple. Why do you fail to grasp these common-sense simple concepts that every other pet-owner and animal-owner (and non-pet-owner) on earth comprehends?


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