“Owner surrender” is still abandonment

By on September 22, 2012

There are fewer households with pets, and fewer pets in U.S. homes, according to the latest AVMA numbers. Most attribute the decline to the economy. As most who work in pet rescue can attest, the number of pets given up in shelters is increasing as people face unemployment and foreclosure.

If this guy can keep his dog, so can you.

An “owner surrender” due to loss of one’s home elicits sympathy: someone facing hard times, presumably through no fault of their own, loses not only their house but their best friend. Rental units that allow animals are difficult to find – every time I see a real estate sign that says “for rent, no pets” I want to pelt it with eggs. (I don’t, because that wouldn’t be vegan.) The lack of available housing for people with pets is a serious issue in cities today. Civic action to compel more property owners to accept pets is very needed, particularly when so many people must downsize.

While this is a real problem, people who abandon their pets for housing reasons don’t get a free pass. (I was delighted to read this news story about a local pet-friendly homeless shelter.)

A decent person would rather live in a tent city, a car or a cardboard box with their pets than take them to a shelter where death is certain. These animals haven’t done anything wrong to justify being abandoned. People who throw their animals away like trash don’t deserve sympathy. There is no justification for indifference to the animals who love them and depend on them.

You cannot convince me that this person exhausted all options. There are dozens of alternatives, only one of which is to move to a place that accepts pets. Cats and small dogs are easy to sneak in and out of a building.

Rather than sentencing a pet to death, they could have placed them with a friend, family member, coworker, or neighbor – at least then they could continue to visit their pet. They could have found them a new home with a kind stranger through an ad. They could have contacted a rescue organization or even a sanctuary. They could have put them temporarily in a foster home or even a kennel until they found more suitable housing.

There are times when the care of a pet becomes too expensive for people with shrinking means, and in this specific circumstance, it can be better for the animal to live elsewhere rather than suffer hunger or neglect. However, these are not the financial hardships we’ve heard lately. (Putting two kids through college is not cause to abandon your dog, but it is cause to insist your brats get part-time jobs in the dining commons.) As with housing, a decent person would give up satellite television before they’d give up a dog.

I am not sure why animal lovers seem to think playing the financial hardship or foreclosure card is an acceptable reason to abandon an animal. Is it sad? Yes, it’s sad – for the animal who is left in a cage to die alone, scared, and unwanted, with no idea what they’ve done to warrant it. But it’s not sad for the human who abandons them.

My thanks to Pets of the Homeless for the above photo, and for their important work.


  1. Jack Carone
    September 26, 2012

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    Tell ’em, K. !!

  2. Brittney
    September 26, 2012

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    You know, I lost a lot of that sympathy ages ago while working at a shelter. A man came in to surrender his two older labs and his two little girls, who were in hysterics. When he found their was a fee to surrender his pets, he gave an award-winning speech about losing his job and home, and now dogs, as the only apartment he could afford to provide his family with did not allow two large pets.

    We dabbed our eyes and waived the fee, eager to place his confused pups. The girl lab went immediately – within the hour. The male lab, shy and depressed and curled to the back of his cage, was overlooked. Staff loved and adored him (I even began taking him home at night for cheering up after making a temporary deal with my no-pets apartment complex), but after three months, he still hadn’t found a new home.

    Until the day I approached a man standing by his cage. I was thrilled to see his tail going – this was going to be it! He was SO EXCITED!

    Until I realized it was his old owner… who was back looking for two new puppies. And was irate we hadn’t rehomed his old lab yet – didn’t I know how hard it was on his girls to see their old dog still here?

    Our shelter less-than-politely told him where he could take himself, and made sure he understood he would NEVER be adopting from our locale again…. and thus ended the day I felt sympathy for ANYONE who “couldn’t move” with their pet.

  3. Brittney
    September 26, 2012

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    LOL oops, typed that with too much emotion. He came in with his little girls, to surrender his labs. Not to surrender both… (though it wouldn’t have surprised me).

  4. Brittney
    September 26, 2012

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    I should also follow up that this lab ended up adopted by a lovely family who I always passed on our walks around my neighborhood, and had started timing their family bike rides to pass me and play with him. He’s a happy camper all-around. <3

    • Clarissa Dalloway
      August 11, 2014

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      Brittney, that story left me with my jaw hanging open. I am stunned that he had the audacity ….to chastise your shelter for not placing his lab that he tossed at you with that poor luck story, OMG you are SO much more a patient person than i , my dear , i would have bopped that man upside the head ..i know i would not have been able to stop ….it makes me so sad to think ..that he most likely has pets now ..pets who are owned and half ass cared for, by a sociopath. Good for you and your shelter, Brittney…much love to your wonderful care you gave that sweet dog and others …thank you .

  5. Kezia
    October 25, 2012

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    Brittney, so sorry I’m just seeing this now – but THANK YOU for caring about these babies. I can’t tell you how glad I am to hear that at least one story had a happy ending.

  6. Katrinak
    January 3, 2013

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    I can’t say how much I love this post. LOVE. I knew a guy who decided to leave his wife and become a woman, which I was totally supportive of if that’s what she wanted to do. However, I was not happy that she left her chickens to roam, and thankfully the neighbor adopted them, gave away a dog, and then told me she couldn’t afford her four houses and said that she would be taking them to the auction (usually they end up in slaughter houses). I talked to her wife and she found a home for her horse and I took one as a friend for another horse we rescued (they are both spoiled now). She kept one and gave the last one to a guy there who I did not approve of. I am not friends with this person anymore, obviously, but what pissed me off the most was she made $30/hour and yet couldn’t afford the inexpensive care for the horses (all the money was now going for hair and makeup and clothes, ugh!), or the time to rehome them with loving people. And I see this all the time. I would totally live in a tent before I would give up my animals, and I would go hungry before they would. That’s how it should be.

  7. Di
    February 5, 2013

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    and look how proud, healthy and comfortable that beautiful, sleek black dog is with his owner! 🙂
    after my 15yo gorgeous girl passed away, although my boys loved and adored her, they were continuously ‘at my heels’ to get another dog. After a few months we visited the pound and found Ted. He was a beautiful, sleek, black 4yo boy with an infectious warmth that stole all of our hearts immediately.
    Unfortunately Ted and his canine brother (Banjo) had been dumped in the kennel as their owners were moving interstate. The day after we got Ted we were so impressed we returned with the idea of adopting Banjo too – but he had already been rescued.
    Over the last 6 months Ted has been living with us we still to this day wonder how anyone could have ever abandoned him; he’s so loyal, loving, warm and funny!
    and i do believe my boys are smitten too! 🙂

  8. KW
    November 9, 2014

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    I am sorry to say this still happens. A guy came in to the shelter I volunteer with and surrendered his older dog for no other reason than he wanted to “exchange” it for a younger model. Very sad. As far as financial may shelters have assistance programs or even some food banks where food is provided. And there are low cost spay/neuter and vaccination programs as well. Look for help and use surrendering as a last resort only, not the first

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