Why Are Dogs and Cats Abandoned?
Of the 41,500 dogs and cats who passed through New York City Animal Care and Control in 2005, most were domesticated pets and most were not neutered or spayed. Very few of the animals were wild, or feral, animals. These facts tell us a lot.
- Animals who end up in the city's shelters are household pets who get lost or get abandoned, or they are the offspring of lost or abandoned pets.
- The cost of spaying or neutering presents an obstacle that many people can't overcome.
This isn't surprising. People who can afford to buy food, litter and other supplies on a weekly basis face a very big bill when it comes time to spay or neuter their pets - a bill that can go from $270 to neuter a male cat to $625 to spay a female dog. Few, if any, vets offer cut-rate or payment plans, and, to most people's surprise, the city's animal welfare organizations offer very limited low-cost spay and neuter services.
The Stress and Distress of an Animal in Heat
When cats and dogs reach sexual maturity, they begin behavior that can seriously disrupt the lives of their owners. Sexually mature male cats spray urine on furniture and walls to mark territory. Male dogs also mark territory with urine. And the aggressiveness that comes with sexual maturity in both male dogs and cats can present a more serious problem for dog owners who must take their dogs out into public. Intact dogs can be aggressive both with other dogs and with people.
Female cats go into heat, a week-long period of constant cries. Owners of female dogs in heat must not only endure the obvious distress of their dogs, but must keep them away from intact male dogs when outside.
And of course, dogs and cats who become pregnant present their owners with the daunting and often impossible job of finding homes for the kittens or puppies.
These things can overwhelm an owner who may have too few resources - money, time, energy - and too many other demands - children, jobs, bills. Many people make a good faith effort to place their animals in one of the city's nonprofit shelters only to discover that none of them will take their adolescent cat or dog.
To get into the nonprofit shelters, even kittens and puppies must be brought in for what is essentially an "audition." If the animal fails, an owner will have made a time-consuming and probably difficult and expensive trip for nothing. The next stop is Animal Care and Control, where an older cat or dog has a slim chance of surviving for more than a few days.
Nonetheless, people pushed to their limits will surrender their pets to Animal Care and Control.1
Others, faced with this dismal choice, abandon their animals in parks or other neighborhoods, believing that giving an animal a chance to survive on its own is better than having that pet put down.
1. It's hard to know exactly how many owners actually surrender their animals. Animal Care and Control charges owners who surrender pets a fee that ranges from $35 to $75. Consequently, people who want to avoid the fee can claim their animal is a stray, for which Animal Care and Control charges no fee.