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

Two useful tags. Click either to see the articles:- Toxic to cats | Dangers to cats

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. I hope someone in Florida has photographed Dee feeding her hoards of cats, and then finds one that got ran-over by a car and photographs it as well. 🙂

    According to FL law, “(3) Any person who is the owner or possessor, or has charge or custody, of any animal who abandons such animal to suffer injury …”

    She then gets to pay a nice fine of $5,000 per road-kill TNR cat of hers and maybe a nice stay in a jail-cell where she can think about what she’s actually doing to the cats that she claims to love. LOL

    Reply
    • Your comment seems to have nothing to do with cat abandonment unless you are saying that feral cats are abandoned domestic cats. But that is not the case because abandoned domestic cats are stray cats. Feral cats are born undomesticated. I don’t get the point of your comment. You are a relatively polite version of Woody.

      Reply
    • Jim, you didn’t complete the statute:

      “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.”

      I have abandoned no feral. They exist because of the neglect and idiocy of others. All registered feral colonies are well taken care of. You should know that by now.

      Reply
      • Once you take possession of a cat you are now its legal owner. The very reason you have to sign all those forms when you take your cat to a veterinarian, so they can legally take temporary custody of your cat for the time it needs to be vetted. Then you sign forms again taking back legal possession of that cat. Those cats are legally yours and you dump them off to be ran over by cars and worse. You need to be sitting in a prison cell for a long long long long time (after you’ve paid a small king’s ransom in fines, that is). If you cannot contain a cat and keep it safe from all harms, then never take possession of a cat. It’s that simple, That’s the law.

        Reply
    • Jim, you are here in Florida. I implore you to show yourself and report me as either a hoarder or abuser of cats. I will, happily, give you all info about the rescue group I am associated with.
      Just, come out Jim. Stop being a coward.

      Reply
  2. Ps..I am not talking about shelters..but rescue. Ceners that will pick up feed take care of..get medical attention ..and give them love..until they find caring and loving adoptions can be done.

    Reply
  3. Please tell me how to get laws passed. I really feel it should be a CRIME..punishable by. jail and a fine. If the poor little animals eere hurt in. any way..it should be a felony .I agree with Eva..we should be their advocates. People please if you don’t want or can’t take care of your little ones..please find homes . Please get your animals fixed. We also need more rescue centers for these animals. They deserve. a chance to live a happy and loving safe life.

    Reply
  4. Of course it is. but any loving person will try to find a suitable home for them if possible.At the very least make contact with others and admit they can not care for the animal.We are supposed to be their advocates.
    Eva says_

    Reply
    • Beautifully said Eva. Amongst a section of society there is a acceptance that they can get rid of their cat as and when they want to. Others like you never contemplate this ever. Abandonment not in their dictionary.

      Reply
  5. Once again ..who could abandon a dog or cat that is a member of your family ? we bring these beautiful animals into our homes and lives…then dump them? Again …humans are the problem . Animals are so forgiving. A human hurts them both emotionally and physically ..and they still look to humans to help them. If only humans could love..forgive the way these wonderful animals do..I do believe crime would go way down…Why don’t we learn from them??

    Reply
    • Alexe, it is all about the attitude and mentality of the pet owner. Some are genuine and concerned like you. They are sensitive to their pet’s emotions and desires etc.. Others are insensitive and don’t see much wrong in getting rid of their cat or dog when it pleases them. These people are a horrible as far as I am concerned. They need heavy duty education and when necessary punishment. They receive neither normally.

      Reply

Leave a Comment

follow it link and logo