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People Should be Fined for Abandoning a Cat

People Should be Fined for Abandoning a Cat

by Michael
(London, UK)

Abandoned cat - photo by Eirik Newth (Flickr)

People are fined in the USA for chucking litter on the ground in public places yet I see very little in the way of fines being dished out to people who abandon their cats. Which is the worse, throwing a cigarette butt on the ground or throwing a cat away? Which has the greater impact on the environment? I think the answer is obvious.

I would have thought that a person could be prosecuted under one of the animal welfare laws. A full-time indoor cat will almost certainly suffer if simply abandoned outside. Such an act must surely be in breach of animal welfare laws. Prosecutions can and do take place but rarely it seems.

One point comes to mind. Animal welfare laws are obviously designed to protect the welfare of animals. Animal suffering will have to be established. In other words the crime is not what is called, "strict liability".

Whereas the laws regarding litter are strict liability. The only thing that has to be proved is that a person threw litter on the ground or out of a car, for instance. That is easier to prove and leads to more convictions. As a result it is more effective in stopping people littering public places.

Is there not, then, a good argument for tightening up the welfare laws to make cat abandonment a strict liability offense? If someone abandons a cat it should be a crime - simple. No cruelty or loss or damage of any kind should need to be proved.

As abandoned cats affect the environment as well as the cat, a change is the law could be conducted under existing animal welfare or environmental laws.

Enforcement would be a problem of course. But enforcement of litter laws are also difficult but that has not stopped their creation and effectiveness.

If such a law had only a small impact on the number of abandoned cats it could be declared as successful, I feel. There needs to be some effort to curb irresponsible abandonment of cats as it is the root cause of the unacceptable numbers of feral cats.

People constantly complain about feral cats and focus on how to deal with the cats yet I see almost nothing going on to curb the behavior of people.

Surely the focus is misplaced. What I find shocking is that in one way more importance is being placed on the throwing away of a piece of paper than the throwing away of a living, breathing creature that was once a member of a family.

Does this tell us something about humankind's attitude towards the cat and the dog companion?

It seems to me that it would be very easy to introduce the crime of abandoning a cat. The people who prosecute the litter louts could simply extend their area of operation to abandoned cats.

People should be fined for abandoning a cat either for cat abuse or as a strict liability offense akin to the litter laws. Is this a crazy idea?

People Should be Fined for Abandoning a Cat to laws and cats

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People Should be Fined for Abandoning a Cat

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Apr 09, 2011
by: Michael

I have just learned that in Texas it is illegal for a resident to drop an animal off in their parking lot. A charge of abandonment could be made against them (source:

Response to last comment. To charge someone with abandoning a cat there would have to be a witness or evidence that it has taken place. That would seem to be common sense.

The same laws as litter laws would essentially apply.

Oct 08, 2010
It depends on whether the cat truly is abandoned
by: Anonymous

I just have one question. How would you know that a cat had truly been abandoned and that it isn't a stray that has simply wandered onto your property? My cat Jack has disappeared from my yard and been gone for eight days. I have no real idea where he is, but I would certainly hate to think that the person whose yard he is now in would believe that his owner (me) had abandoned him. I have not, in fact I am trying frantically to find out where he is so that I can get him back as quickly as possible. He has not been abandoned, he has apparently abandoned ME. I do think there is a huge difference.

Jul 28, 2010
Good news
by: Ruth

Thanks Michael.
Any new laws in various cities are steps in the right direction. I think even if people are rarely prosecuted, the thought of maybe being so puts them off risking it...I hope so anyway.

Jul 27, 2010
Update 27th July 2010
by: Michael

I have discovered that in Ohio it is an offence to abandon an animal:

OHIO REV. CODE ANN. § 959.01 (2008). Abandoning animals

No owner or keeper of a dog, cat, or other domestic animal, shall abandon such animal.

OR. REV. STAT. § 167.340 (2008). Animal abandonment

(1) A person commits the crime of animal abandonment if the person intentionally, knowingly, recklessly or with criminal negligence leaves a domestic animal at a location without providing for the animal's continued care.

(2) It is no defense to the crime defined in subsection (1) of this section that the defendant abandoned the animal at or near an animal shelter, veterinary clinic or other place of shelter if the defendant did not make reasonable arrangements for the care of the animal.

(3) Animal abandonment is a Class B misdemeanor

How many prosecutions are there? It does though seem that legislators think that this law is viable.

May 05, 2010
Hi Finn
by: Michael

I am perfectly happy for you to play devil's advocate! It is a good idea.

I know it would be hard to enforce such a law. But many laws are hard to enforce and are still effective law. I mentioned litter laws. It is almost impossible to catch someone throwing away litter but there are signs and penalties and they have an effect.

At a basic legal level a cat is litter. Sounds odd but a cat is a chattel (I know the law is wrong but that is how the law sees cats).

Why can't the two, abandonment of paper in public and abandonment of cats be treated the same?

Also it is not impossible to enforce an abandonment of cats law. People get to know miscreants, people who do it regularly. It is these sorts of people who could be targetted.

It might be the case that a tiny proportion of cat caretakers are the people who cause most of the cat abandonment problems.

Speeding in a car is also hard to enforce. Most people in Britain speed in 30 mph limits. But the law is still there as a check, a deterrent. Making phone calls in moving cars without a hands free phone is illegal in the UK. It is almost impossible to enforce this but the law exists.

Pure enforcement is not the only criteria. Laws change perceptions and deter. They can change behavior. The drink drive laws in the UK changed people's habits. Before they were introduced people regularly drove while drunk and thought it OK.

That is my argument.

May 04, 2010
The Devil's advocate
by: Finn Frode, Denmark

Hi Michael. Allow me to play the Devil's advocate here. Unless you are actually caught kicking the cat out of your car 10 Miles from home, how would a case be proven - allowing for reasonable doubt and all that?
Supposing your Charlie gets so fed up with Binnie that he decides to give up his secure life with you and become a stray, would that constitute a crime? Or at least a gross negligence on your part?
Because if it doesn't, wouldn't it be too easy for other tresspassers just to claim that their abandoned cats have simply run away from home?
Also - wouldn't the risk of being convicted for negligence mean that fewer cats would be allowed to run free?

Except for that - I agree abandoning cats is immoral and cruel. I just have my doubts about laws that are hard to enforce. 😉

May 02, 2010
Hi Michael
by: Ruth

Yes hopefully a law would deter people but sadly not many people have respect for laws nowadays.Take the law about not driving while using a mobile phone.People still do it as they know there's a good chance of getting away with it.We have a problem with dog mess in our town because there aren't enough neighbourhood wardens to catch the owners not cleaning it up.
I'd love to see people being fined for breaking any law but sadly I don't think it's going to happen.

May 02, 2010
Hi Ruth
by: Michael

I agree it would be difficult to enforce. But to convict for littering I guess you have to catch people or at least have proof and littering laws are fairly effective it seems.

I feel that the presence of such a law would deter abandonment of cats.

May 02, 2010
Not crazy
by: Ruth

It's not a crazy idea Michael, it's a good idea but the person abandoning the cat would have to be actually caught in the act or it could never be proved.
Especially in the case of a strictly indoor cat, as hardly anyone would have seen that cat, some people probably wouldn't even know the people had a cat.
I'd think anyone planning to abandon a cat would drive miles away, probably after dark.
We'd know if anyone in our neighbourhood's cat was missing and we'd ask what had happened to it and if it showed up in the local newspaper's found column we'd recognise it and look into it.
But in big towns and cities that wouldn't happen.
It upsets me that cats don't have to be accounted for, anyone can get one, the ones who shouldn't have them eventually abandon them. To some people cats are possessions, not part of the family.
I wish they would make a law worldwide that it was a criminal offence to abandon any animal.

Michael Broad

Hi, I'm a 71-year-old retired solicitor (attorney in the US). Before qualifying I worked in many jobs including professional photography. I have a girlfriend, Michelle. I love nature, cats and all animals. I am concerned about their welfare.

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