Ask anybody who’s ever volunteered at an animal shelter, and they could tell you that there are plenty of reasons why dogs and cats end up there. Many of them end up at the shelter because they’re surrendered by their owners. Most people have a good reason for giving up a beloved pet. Perhaps they have to move someplace where the landlord doesn’t allow pets, or they just can’t afford to take proper care of the animal.
Those explanations are all understandable. But unfortunately, some people have more outrageous reasons. Below, check out some of the most surprising reasons why people give up their pets.
18. They don’t have time for the dog anymore
One Reddit user who worked as a veterinary technician reports that many young parents surrender a dog at the shelter simply because they “don’t have time” for the animal anymore. Nobody would deny that having a baby or adopting a child completely changes your life — and requires you to make major changes to your schedule.
However, this Reddit user reports that many dogs in this situation develop severe depression and separation anxiety, perhaps as a result of “being abandoned [by] someone they never thought would abandon them.” Your dog still wants to be a part of your family, even when the family grows. In fact, some dogs even want to become best friends with a new baby, if you give them a chance.
17. They can’t or don’t want to handle the costs of the pet’s needs
According to a survey by PetFinder, one of the most common reasons why people give up a pet at the shelter is the cost of the animal’s maintenance. In many cases, those costs do get burdensome. Buying quality pet food, taking the animal to the veterinarian for preventative care, and treating any medical issues add up. Throw in paying for an occasional grooming appointment, a dog walker or sitter on long work days, and toys and treats, and dogs do get expensive.
The shelter staff probably can’t evaluate whether somebody who gives up a dog is really having trouble covering the costs of keeping the animal, or if they’d just rather spend that money elsewhere. However, low-cost veterinary care clinics and financial assistance programs can help owners who want to keep their pets, but need a little help covering the costs. So if you’re in that boat, don’t be afraid to ask them.
16. Their allergies are a problem
PetFinder learned that many cat owners surrender their cat because of allergies. (It turns out that cat allergies are twice as common as dog allergies.) According to WebMD, pet allergies affect about 10% of the U.S. population. Typically, those affected don’t react to an animal’s hair or fur. Instead, people with cat allergies react to proteins in the cat’s saliva, urine, and dander.
Many people know that they’re allergic to cats, and decide against bringing one home. However, some people who have allergies can react strongly to one cat but not much or at all to another. Or, one member of a household could get a cat without realizing that someone else in the home is allergic.
15. They’re upset that the dog bit somebody
PetFinder also found that biting numbers among the most common reasons that people give up a dog at the shelter. Biting is a serious problem, so it often constitutes a deal breaker for people with children at home. However, even for experts, aggressive behavior gets complicated to parse. As The New York Times reports, the accuracy of the aggression testing that shelters conduct is up for debate.
Researchers, including some of the developers of the aggression tests, conclude that the tests are unreliable at indicating whether a dog will be aggressive in a home. False positives and false negatives occur because a dog’s behavior is unpredictable.
It’s hard to fault a pet owner for giving up a dog who’s bitten someone. Nonetheless, the transition to a shelter may not help the dog as much as some professional training undertaken with the support of his owner.
14. They’re having ‘personal problems’
Even when they have animals depending on them, pet owners are just like any other people. They run into all kinds of unforeseen roadblocks, from divorces and breakups to medical problems and unexpected diagnoses, and the list could go on. Sometimes, those issues preclude pet owners from devoting lots of time and energy to their animals.
That’s why PetFinder found that “personal problems” number among the most common reasons that people give up a dog or a cat at the shelter. Shelter staff might wish that people could find time for their pets or lean on their support system to keep their animals as part of their families. But that’s not always possible.
13. They think the pet sheds too much
A shelter employee answering questions on Reddit explained that one of “the most common dumb excuses for turning in a pet” is that the pet sheds too much. Most of the time, you can tell ahead of time whether a dog or a cat is likely to shed a lot. For instance, some dog breeds shed a lot, while other breeds hardly shed at all. Stray pet hair is a nuisance, though it can definitely have some irritating side effects for people who have allergies.
Other people give up a pet — either a dog or a cat — because they didn’t realize how much grooming the animal would require. Some animals require very regular brushing to keep up with their coats. Others require regular haircuts by a professional groomer. However, responsible pet owners assess what an animal needs before they take him home so that they aren’t surprised by grooming needs later.
12. They’re moving and don’t want to take the dog along
The same shelter employee cites moving to a new home or apartment as another “dumb” reason to surrender a dog or cat at the shelter. Some landlords do prohibit tenants from owning pets at all. Plus, some dog breeds are commonly targeted by bans and breed-specific legislation. In that case, you often have little recourse if your new landlord won’t allow you to have a pet or if the city where you plan to move has prohibited ownership of a specific dog breed.
Nonetheless, some people give up a pet when they move without good reason. Perhaps they don’t want to figure out how to move the animal to their new home hundreds of miles away. Or maybe they just don’t want to dog-proof a new house. Sadly, PetFinder cited moving as the most common reason that people surrender an animal at the shelter — separate from but followed by a landlord that doesn’t allow pets.
11. They think the dog barks too much
In the same Reddit thread, the shelter employee noted that some people surrender a dog because they think the animal barks too much. (It’s not surprising, given that many people count excessive barking as one of the most annoying dog behaviors.)
All dogs bark. But sometimes, dogs develop bad habits that irritate everybody around them. Some bark when a new person or animal comes into their territory. Sometimes, dogs bark when they’re startled. And many dogs bark when they feel bored or lonely (as they do if they’re left outside all alone, without the attention they need).
To figure out why their dog is barking and address the problem, the ASPCA notes that pet owners need to do a bit of work. Many dog owners do what they can to identify and correct the problem. However, some don’t have — or take — the time to do so. Instead, they just surrender the dog at the shelter.
10. They’re upset that the dog chewed on something or had an accident
Training and housebreaking a puppy can get challenging (even if you choose a breed that has a reputation as “easy to train“). However, the shelter employee’s final “dumb” reason to surrender a dog is that an unattended puppy chewed on something he shouldn’t have or had an accident in the house.
Puppies, in particular, need to go outside often, especially right after eating. And even if a dog who knows where to do his business relieves himself inside, it’s possible that he’s been left in the house for too long. Plus, in an older dog who’s been housebroken for years, accidents could signal a medical problem. That means that a visit to the vet may be a better choice than a one-way trip to the shelter.
9. They’re having problems with the cat soiling outside the litter box
It’s not just dogs that sometimes relieve themselves in the wrong location. PetFinder determined that house soiling is one of the most common reasons why cats end up at the shelter, too. However, the Cornell Feline Health Center notes that cats relieve themselves outside the litter box for many reasons. And, fortunately, you don’t have to give up your cat at the shelter to fix the problem.
Litter box problems can signify medical problems that interfere with a cat’s normal urination or defecation behavior. An aversion to the litter box or the particular litter you buy could also lead to house soiling. Additionally, a preference for another location could cause a cat to soil your house. Spraying can also be the source of the problem. But cat owners can figure out the cause and solve the problem, especially with the help of their vet.
8. They think the dog is too hyper
Another surprising reason that some people surrender a dog at the shelter? They’ve decided that the dog is too hyper. Most of the time, you can find out what energy level expect by researching a dog’s breed before you bring him home. Or, if you want to adopt a dog, make sure to pay attention to the shelter or rescue’s assessment of the dog’s temperament and personality.
All dogs need exercise. (And few actually get enough exercise.) Dogs with high energy levels become hyperactive when they don’t get enough exercise on a daily basis. So some people end up surrendering a dog at the shelter when they could fix the “problem” by going on more walks. In fact, those walks would probably benefit both them and their dog.
7. They don’t like the way the dog reacted to a child
Dogs need to be taught how to interact with children, but children also need to be taught how to interact with dogs. When parents don’t help their children learn how to gently and safely play with a dog, they might handle the animal too roughly. Some dogs are endlessly patient, even with toddlers. However, a dog who doesn’t have a lot of patience could snap at a child.
Even if the dog doesn’t cause any harm, some owners panic when they see their dog snapping at their child. Sometimes, they react by taking the dog to the shelter, which isn’t always necessary. Some dogs really don’t get along with children. However, many would get along with small humans just fine if given the chance (and if the adults in the household tried a little harder to ensure that their kids know not to pull a dog’s tail or its ears).
6. They decide they have too many animals at home
Another surprising reason that people surrender an animal at the shelter? They have too many animals at home. PetFinder cites this as a common reason that both dogs and cats end up at the shelter.
Unfortunately, it’s relatively easy to imagine how this kind of scenario plays out. People may see a stray animal and feel compelled to take it in, even if they have multiple other pets at home. Though they have great intentions, they may decide in a few months that they just have too many animals to care for. So the newest dog or cat gets taken to the shelter — a scenario that they could have prevented by thinking long and hard about whether they could handle another animal in the first place.
5. They’re renovating the house or redoing the yard
According to animal rescue workers interviewed by the Daily Hive Vancouver, this is one of the most petty reasons that people decide to give up a pet. Because they’re renovating their home or redoing their yard, they either don’t want to take the animal’s needs into account or don’t want the animal to scratch up new hardwoods or dig up the new landscaping.
Dogs and cats occasionally make messes. They have accidents. Sometimes, they track in mud. And sure, they may be harder on your new lawn or flooring than you are. But most pet owners would agree that none of those are good reasons to give up an animal at the shelter.
4. They didn’t know the cat would sleep all day
Similarly, rescue workers note that some people give up animals because they didn’t know what to expect of an animal’s behavior. One even witnessed a pet owner giving up a cat because the animal was “freeloading and just sleeping all day.” The same shelter director noted that somebody returned a cat, on the same day they adopted the animal, because it hid under the bed.
Both of those behaviors would be pretty easily predicted by somebody who knew how cats act — or a first-time cat owner who had done their research about what to expect. Another rescue founder reported that somebody surrendered a dog because the animal didn’t like walking outside in the rain. Again, that behavior wouldn’t surprise most dog owners or anybody who dislikes walking around in the rain themselves!
3. They didn’t realize that the animal would need so much attention
Clearly, not everybody who brings a pet into their home knows what to expect. PETA reports that sometimes, people give up an animal at the shelter because they didn’t realize how much attention the pet would need. In fact, “the dog needs too much attention” numbers among the statements that shelter workers might hear most.
Animals’ personalities vary, and some animals are more independent than others. But it’s safe to assume that if you bring an animal home, he’s going to need a lot of attention. Unfortunately, not everybody who adopts a dog or a cat seems to have gotten the memo.
2. They don’t know how to handle the animal’s medical needs
Taking care of a sick dog or cat can require a lot of time, work, and even money. Not everybody can — or wants to — provide those things, even to an animal they’ve had for years. Unfortunately, some people surrender a dog or a cat at the shelter because they just can’t or don’t know to handle the animal’s medical needs.
A shelter employee explains on Reddit that many people bring in elderly or dying animals. Sometimes, those pets just need to be put to sleep, a hard choice that a veterinarian might have recommended. That sounds like one of the saddest situations for shelter staff — and it probably is. Pet owners should take responsibility for meeting their pet’s medical needs and keeping their quality of life high.
1. They haven’t thought about any other options
Even though most pet owners consider getting a pet a major commitment, some people do run into circumstances that make it very difficult for them to keep their dog or cat. But one of the most heartbreaking reasons that people give up a dog at the shelter is that they haven’t thought about any other options for the dog.
As one shelter employee explained on Reddit, “I’ve noticed that most people drop off their animals as their first option, instead of their last resort.” The employee adds, “We try to give people other options and information to help solve whatever problem is causing them to feel like they need to get rid of their pet. We’ll give them names of other shelters and rescues who may be able to give their pet a better chance. Most leave their pet anyway.”