Having to abandon an animal is a decision that is often traumatic to the owner and the pet, but is avoidable in most cases. While pet abandonment is somewhat indefensible and can be difficult to understand, there are a number of reasons that are reported by individuals who relinquish their pets, as the cause for their abandonment. In this article, we'll discuss some of the common reasons why people abandon their dogs.
1. Dog's Behavioral Problems
Behavioral problems are among the most common reasons why owners abandon their dogs. In a peer-reviewed article (PDF) entitled “Owner Attachment and Problem Behaviors Related to Relinquishment and Training Techniques of Dogs“, scientific researchers at the University of California’s School of Veterinary Medicine found that 65% of people who relinquish their dogs report some kind of behavioral problem as the main reason for abandonment.
These canine behavior issues can range from dangerous biting and aggression, to less troubling and easily fixable issues such as pets having bathroom accidents, being destructive, barking or crying too much, or not getting along with other animals. Most, if not all, reported behavioral problems are normal dog behaviors that can be corrected if the owner is dedicated to learning about how to (re)train their pooch and how to appropriately fix the issue, and willing to commit to the amount of time that it can take to work patiently. However, a number of pet owners will not have these requirements.
Many dog owners have reported that moving to a different place was their reason for abandoning their pets. However, as pet expert Lisa Towell wrote in her article for peta.org, Why People Abandon Animals, research has shown that more than half of the individuals who claim that a move is the reason for abandoning their pet also report behavioral problems at the same time, revealing that the move may be only a secondary issue to the primary behavioral problem, forcing them to abandon dogs.
3. New Landlord Won’t Allow Pets
Along the lines of moving frequently being a reason for pet abandonment, it should be common sense that individuals who rent instead of own a home or apartment must be aware of the fact that many landlords do not allow pets, and consider this fact before adopting a pet. In cases when pet owners do not plan well and adopt a dog without checking with the landlord, once found out, they're forced to give their pet up.
4. Owner No Longer Has Time for Pets
If a person does not have a lot of free time, and/or does not wish to dedicate a large majority of it to care for a pet, that person should not adopt an animal. Pets who are frequently left alone at home often become depressed and destructive, causing a pet owner to relinquish the pet.
Research has determined that the second most common reason why owners abandon their dogs is because the animal needed more attention than the owner had time for. Information about this, and other reasons for relinquishment can be found in the following peer-reviewed research article, Characteristics of Relinquished Dogs and Their Owners.
5. Dog's Illness
Whether this is because the pet owner does not have the money, or the time to take care of their dog that has fallen ill, or simply stopped caring enough about their family friend, Michelson Found Animals Foundation, run by one of our regular podcast guests, reports that illness as a common reason that owners abandon their dogs at a time in which their pets need them the most.
6. Age of the Dog
Older dogs are abandoned more often than young puppies, because they are no longer active and enjoyable for the owner to be around, or because the cost of taking care of an aging dog has gotten out of hand. Either way, abandoning a pet because of old age is devastating to the animal. It’s important for owners to remember that aging pets deserve a loving home in which to live out their final days just as much as aging humans do.
7. Owner's Death or Illness
To prevent pets from being abandoned for this reason, pet owners, especially older and/or chronically ill ones, should have a plan (in writing) that states who should take care of their dog(s) in the case that the owner dies or becomes too ill to care for the pet.
If an individual has chronic and persistent physical or mental health issues that cause frequent stays in hospitals, it's best not to adopt an animal, unless there's someone else to care for them.
8. (Increased) Cost of Maintenance
Dog ownership can be very costly, and thus it's essential to plan ahead of time. Responsible pet owners must always calculate the price of high-quality dog food, dog toys, healthcare, and other costs of having and caring for pets, into their budget long-term budget plan. Owners who do not do this, or pet owners who have lost their job and/or have a lot of debt, have been known to abandon dogs for this very reason.
9. No Longer Profitable
This reason is far more rare simply because there are significantly less “pet owners” who are making profit off of their dogs. So whether an individual was making money off of an animal by breeding it, fighting it, or racing it, when the pet is no longer able to make money for that individual who is inhumanely using the dog to do so, the irresponsible pet owner will often abandon the pet or put the dog down.
10. Birth of a Child
Anyone who is planning on having children soon should consider opting out of getting a pet at that time. Even though there are ways to introduce a dog to newborns, generally, raising a child is much more time consuming and stressful than many people understand. Having a pet takes a lot of time and dedication, and new parents of children frequently abandon their dogs after having a child.
Research has revealed poor planning and poor decision making among people as a key factor in this reason for pet abandonment. At least 1/3 of dogs that were abandoned because of a woman being pregnant were adopted when the family already knew that the woman was pregnant. Read more about this in the following evidence-based book, The Psychology of the Human Animal Bond.
11. Dog Gets Pregnant
Similarly, a pet may be relinquished after she unexpectedly becomes pregnant. As with many others, this reason for abandonment is also preventable, especially if pet owners were to spay and neuter their animals. Tragically, abandoned pregnant dogs and the puppies that they are carrying will often be put to sleep. Read more about this in the following peer-reviewed, research article, Human and Animal Factors Related to the Relinquishment of Dogs and Cats in 12 Selected Animal Shelters in the United States.
12. Travel or Vacation
Another fact that we found in our research is that pets are abandoned during the summer months more often than during any other time of the year due to people traveling for extended periods of time to places in which they cannot or do not want to take their pets.
Instead of paying to board their dog while they are traveling, or choosing locations and dog-friendly hotels instead of those where pets aren't allowed, sadly, owners may choose to abandon the animal instead.
13. Dog Grew to Be too Large
Surprisingly, this is a very common reason for pet abandonment that we found was reported in several peer-reviewed articles. These surveys have ex-owners mention that they had to give up their dog(s) because they didn't plan for the animal to become so large and were ignorant of the breed. This and other owner reported reasons for relinquishment of pets can be found in a detailed article, Owner Attachment and Problem Behaviors Related to Relinquishment and Training Techniques of Dogs.
Many, if not all of the reasons owners report as the cause for their abandonment of their pets illustrate why it is imperative that all individuals who wish to adopt a dog research the behaviors, needs, size, costs and requirements of owning the specific breed that they wish to adopt, and carefully consider all of these things, as well as where they live and if it is suitable for the type of dog they want to adopt, as well as whether or not they have enough time to dedicate to the pet, before adopting it. By doing so, less pets will end up traumatized and living their life in a shelter.