The amount of pets given up varies by country – but, worldwide, the number is significant.
In this guide, we look at the main reasons why people give up their pets – whether the pet ends up re-homed, or left to a shelter or animal rescue.
It’s worth noting that this is a complimentary guide to our separate guide outlining some of the potential ways to stop pet abandonment problems
Summary – Top Reasons Why People Give Up Their Pets
Surveys and feedback from shelter volunteers shows that the main reasons are:
Having a low income and living in communities with high poverty rates (owner is unable to afford to pay pet expenses like veterinary care, or buy pet supplies)
A lack of available, suitable or affordable pet friendly rental homes
The pet’s behavior being an issue (can be caused by a lack of proper obedience training and socialisation in a lot of cases, or even a lack of exercise and stimulation)
And, in some parts of the world – unwanted or unplanned litters (this issue can be made worse by a lack of responsible spaying and neutering)
The full list we outline below is:
Owner has a low income, or lives in a community with a high poverty rate
A lack of affordable pet friendly rentals
Pet behavioral issues
Unwanted litters, or unplanned pet births
Expensive emergency vet bills
Owner moves house, or moves States/countries for living or working purposes
Pet is incompatible with an existing or new lifestyle or living situation
Pet is aggressive towards or harms other humans and animals
The owner gets too old to care for the pet, or the owner dies
Owner experiences physical or mental health issues
Other miscellaneous reasons
1. Owner Has A Low Income, Or Lives In A Community With A High Poverty Rate
One of the main reasons people give up their pets is because of a low income, or living in communities with higher poverty rates.
Those earning $50,000 or less in a developed country have been identified as an income group at significantly more risk of giving up their pet/s at some point (because they are having cost and housing issues).
Having a low income obviously means people may face challenges providing for themselves, their family, but then also paying for pet food, vet bills (check ups, vaccinations, spaying and neutering, medicine and other medical care), pet supplies and other pet related expenses such as pet boarding when the owner has to leave home for a period of time.
2. A Lack Of Affordable Pet Friendly Rentals
Some landlords allow pets on their rental properties, whilst others don’t.
This is another main reason people give up their pets – because they can’t find an available pet friendly rental, or they can’t find a pet friendly rental that fits in their budget.
3. Pet Behavioral Issues
Another main reason for pets being given up is the behavior of the pet.
Behavioral issues are often because the animal hasn’t been given the proper time for obedience or training, or isn’t socialised or exercised enough (or given enough time outside to let off excess energy).
It can also be because the owner isn’t enforcing proper boundaries and rules for behavior throughout a pet’s life.
These behavioral issues can include chewing on furniture and house items, going to the toilet inside, barking, jumping the fence/escaping the yard, and so on.
It’s generally rarer that the pet has genuine behavioral issues that can’t be modified with proper training and (positive) reinforcement.
4. Unwanted Litters, Or Unplanned Pet Births
Unwanted litters and unplanned pet births happen usually when dogs or cats haven’t be spayed or neutered.
Once people have one or two pets, they might not want anymore, or simply can’t care for anymore – so they have to give up the litter.
Sometimes this can be accidental, but in some countries, it can be a country wide problem that there is a lack of spaying and neutering, leading to large populations of stray animals, and animals without a home.
5. Expensive Emergency Vet Bills
In the event of a pet medical emergency – vet bills can be very high, and can be even more of an issue when the owner doesn’t have pet insurance.
Some people can’t afford these bills, or haven’t planned for it and don’t have savings, and may choose not to pursue treatment once bills reach a certain amount.
So, the pet has to be euthanized, or given up.
6. Owner Moves House Or Living/Working Locations
The owner may have to move house, or even move countries.
In this instance, the owner can’t (due to the new living situation, or due to logistical/practical issues with the move) or may not want to take their pet with them.
7. Pet Is Incompatible With An Existing Or New Lifestyle Or Living Situation
This can take any number of forms such as:
The pet is too big or too energetic for the living area and there isn’t enough space for them
The pet is too big for the owners to handle long term
The owner gets a new job (where they might have to work more or travel more), or a new partner, and doesn’t have the time to commit to walking and interacting with the dog anymore
The family has a baby – which changes family dynamics and needs
Other people enter the house who have pet allergies
A new pet doesn’t get along with another existing pet or animal in the house
8. Pet Is Aggressive Towards Or Harms Other Humans Or Animals
Can include behavior like growling, lunging, snapping and biting.
Obviously, in this instance, it isn’t safe to keep the pet around other humans and animals.
This isn’t always the pet’s fault – there can be something in their environment that is making them scared, or they may not have been socialised or trained properly as an adolescent (which leads to aggression or harm to others).
It’s important to distinguish between a genuine genetic behavioral risk, and a behavior that has developed over time because of one factor or a set of factors (and might be able to be trained out of the pet).
An animal professional/expert can help with this.
9. The Owner Gets Too Old To Care For The Pet, Or The Owner Dies
Getting older can mean the owner becomes incapable mentally or physically to care for their pet anymore.
And obviously, if the owner passes away and there is no one else immediately to care for the animal, they will have to be given up.
10. Owner Experiences Physical Or Mental Health Issues
Physical or mental health issues can impact a young or middle age person’s ability to care for and keep a pet.
11. Other Micellaneous Reasons
Can include the following, but this isn’t an extensive list:
– Owner loses their job
– The owner gets given the pet as a birthday or Xmas gift, and never wanted the pet themselves in the first place
– The owner doesn’t put in the initial thought as to whether they will definitely be able to keep a pet for the next X amount of years until the pet passes away.
They simply get a pet because they want them now, and then either the pet is incompatible with their lifestyle, or, they have to give them up because they haven’t properly planned to manage any future event that might come up that might force them to give up their pet
– The owner simply gets bored with the pet
– The owner tires of the responsibility that caring for a pet requires
– The novelty of a puppy or kitten or baby animal wears off for the owner after the initial purchase -essentially, this is buyer’s remorse
– People abandon or drop pets off at shelters/rescues because they don’t have the time or are too lazy to go through the proper re-homing process
– The pet sheds too much hair in the house and the owner gets annoyed by it or gets sick of cleaning up
– The owner doesn’t research pets before buying, and has false expectations, or no realistic expectations at all of what owning a pet entails
– The pet gets too old and becomes too difficult to care for, or the owner loses interest in them
– In some parts of the world – proper spaying and neutering and overall pet population control is a problem.
So, there’s unplanned litters that simply have to be given up
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