Animal shelters : the consequences of pet abandonment

Animal shelters : the consequences of pet abandonment

Published April 20, 2023.
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Virginie Roger, AHT, CCRP, M.Sc. Kinesiology
Certified Animal health technician, Certified canine rehabilitation practitioner, Master in kinesiology.

Thousands of pets are abandoned each year, three times more during the moving period. Living an abandonment marks life forever, but let's talk about the consequences attached to it, let's talk about the other side of the coin.

Pet abandonment: behind the scenes

Abandonment in the wild

Some people decide to let their dog, cat, lizard, rabbit, turtle, bird, go free outside and in the wild. A pet that has been kept and raised in captivity cannot survive alone, without humans, outside. Whether it is lack of food, shelter, temperature adaptation, the attack of a predator; the majority will not survive for long and will live a dreadful end of life.

From another point of view, freeing a species that does not belong to our Quebec fauna can also be problematic. For example, the adorable little red-eared turtles. Very popular a few years ago, owners abandon them when they become too large or get tired of them over time, since they can live more than 50 years in captivity. Their intentional release into watercourses has caused a lot of imbalance in the habitats they colonize and they are now fearsome invaders.


The stress caused by abandonment creates a drastic drop in the immune system and, in turn, disease development. Stray animals therefore increase its spread. They could contaminate their congeners and could also contaminate humans. Zoonoses are diseases that can be transmitted from animals to humans such as rabies, leptospirosis, some parasites, etc. For example, stray cats using children's sandboxes as litter can contaminate them with extremely dangerous parasites. But don't get confused here between stray animals your neighbor’s pet! The latter are vaccinated and protected against parasites, they can therefore walk freely without problem.

Pet abandonment: behind the scenes

Animal overpopulation

Unsterilized animals reproduce at a crazy speed! A direct consequence of the abandonment of pets is animal overcrowding in Quebec. Did you know that a cat can have 5 litters per year, each including 5 to 6 kittens? So a couple of stray cats can quickly populate the neighborhood and become harmful.

Abandonment in accommodation

The distress of pets left behind following a move is evident. These pets are found in poor condition and the care required to put them back on their paws is enormous. Also, we must not forget the damage that this causes in the homes directly. In search of food to survive, they try to climb, open the cupboards, scratch. They defecate and urinate everywhere and the material damage leads to enormous costs. This kind of scenario does not help landlords grant tenants the right to have animals. Respect is required to increase tolerance and trust in order to foster cohabitation with our faithful companions.

Pet abandonment: behind the scenes

Full capacity shelters

Shelters are there to help you. They take charge of pets and give them care when you cannot keep them. They are also the place to go for you to adopt a new member of the family by giving a second chance to those who have been left there. However, overcrowding often forces them to carry out much more euthanasia than those which are necessary, for lack of space.

Finally, please note that getting rid of a pet is as big a responsibility as adopting one. According to federal law, getting rid of an animal by simply leaving it behind is considered animal cruelty. There is always an option to ensure their well-being: look for a new family within your entourage, advertise it on the internet, contact shelters and SPCAs in your area or your veterinarian. We wish you never to have to face this situation, have a great moving day!