Pet Abandonment & Community Actions

What is pet abandonment

Pet abandonment occurs when people choose to no longer care for their pet and leave them either on the street, at a shelter, or in some cases even locked in the house they have packed up and left behind as they return to their home country.  It can also be the result of an owner passing away and the pet having no one to take care of it.

Why do people abandon their pets?

People abandon their pets for a range of reasons and unfortunately when they are abandoned pets are forced to fend for themselves.

  • Moving out of the country and cannot afford to take the pet.
  • New landlord does not allow pets.
  • No space in new home for dog.
  • Expecting a child and don’t have time for their pet.
  • Behavioural problems of the pet.
  • Financial issues leading the family to losing their home (eg foreclosure).

Regardless of the reason, it is absolutely heart-breaking for the poor soul who has been a treasured part of the family for many months or years then all of a sudden is fending for itself on the street, usually without shelter, food or water.

Implications of pet abandonment

Unfortunately, pet abandonment is a serious and real issue in many countries, particularly in the lead up to, and during, summer.  There are at least weekly updates on social media sites noting yet another poor family pet being dumped somewhere to become ‘someone else’s problem’.


For example, expats form around 90% of the Dubai population and when they move on they tend to leave many things behind – unfortunately this sometimes includes their temporary pets.  Popular social media sites see dozens of owners looking to offload their pets before leaving Dubai permanently.


There are stories of dogs being left behind in villas, of owners getting to the airport then texting a neighbour to let them know they have left their pet in the garden and so someone will have to deal with it.  There are frequent stories of dogs being put into boarding, fees paid for a few weeks or a month for the owner to never return – which was likely their intention all along.

  • For your pet

This poor soul who has served as someone’s friend and family member, reliant on them for food, water and connection suddenly finds itself being let out onto the street with its owner driving off never to return.  They would sit there for hours wondering where their owner is, how long until they are going to return.  Wondering what it is that they did wrong to end up like this.  Imagine being turned out onto the street in the middle of summer, with no shelter or water and no knowledge of how to survive for fend for oneself.


  • For you and your family

For those in the community, or who have left this community, who have dumped a pet – you have demonstrated your example to your family and loved ones.  Your children now see it as ok to love and then dump a helpless animal onto the street.  Your family now sees how little you value animal life and that it is ok to show no respect to not only the animal but the community left to pick up the mess you have left.


  • For your community

How is it that pets have come to be regarded as disposable goods in this country?  How can people move to this country, take all the benefits it has to offer and then repay it by dumping their unwanted animals on the streets, at the vet or shelter for someone else to sort out.


This issue has led to all of the shelters being completely overwhelmed which means (depending on the time of the year) they are no longer able to take on new animals.  Rescue organisations are overwhelmed trying to find temporary homes for these animals whilst they search for forever homes, which can also be in a different country.


Dog lovers and animal welfare individuals are also overwhelmed in their homes due to rescuing and fostering more and more animals because they know the alternative would mean likely death on the streets, particularly in the summer heat.  Some rescue workers have up to 20 animals in their home, doing the best they can to care for and rehome these poor souls who have been dumped by the people they trusted most in this world.


One other heart-breaking implication of this selfish and cruel action is that at some point the shelter can take no more animals. At some point a poor shelter manager may have to make a decision about the fate of certain animals when they can take no more in nor find forever or foster families to assist.  They are left with 2 horrific choices – leave the dog on the street to die a likely death of heat stroke/starvation or by car accident.  Or PTS, as I’ve recently come to learn the meaning of – put to sleep.


There are a few shelters in the UAE that are forced into this decision.  The blame does not lie with the shelters but with the people who are continually abandoning animals at a rate which can’t be matched with available homes, and people who are having “just one litter” of puppies or kittens, and then can’t find homes for them so bring them to the shelter etc. “No-kill” shelters sound better on the face of it, but the reality isn’t so pretty behind the scenes either – they get full so fast and then either have to turn people away (so they then either dump their pet or end up at a kill shelter anyway) or they become overcrowded to the point that the animals are extremely stressed and at risk of disease.

Statistics on pet abandonment

Statistics on pet abandonment are very hard to come by so like for like comparisons (within or between countries) are almost impossible.  However, some organisations do compile certain data and we have captured a few pieces below.  We will continue to add to this as we come by relevant statistics.



The RSPCA (Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals) receives thousands of animals every year. Statistics on the numbers of animals received, reclaimed or rehomed are compiled on a national basis by RSPCA Australia and published annually on their website.  During 2015-2016 they received about 45,000 dogs and 55,500 cats.  Of these, 13% of dogs and 30% of cats were euthanised.


It is a criminal offence in all Australian States and Territories to abandon an animal of a species usually kept in a state of confinement or for a domestic purpose.



It is difficult to find statistics relating to pet abandonment in the UAE.  There are many welfare groups and individuals working hard to help abandoned and stray animals across the country however there is no single source or consolidation of this data for now.


Some welfare groups will indicate there could be upwards of 100,000 stray cats alone on the streets of Dubai.  This seems like an overwhelming issue to tackle, but that doesn’t slow down the dozens upon dozens of amazing people who continue to rescue, neuter, foster adopt and rehome these furbabies.



The RSPCA in the UK also braces itself each summer as thousands of animals are dumped.  One article from 2016 refers to pet owners abandoning their animals at a rate of 1 every hour because they want to go on holiday.


In 2015 over 9,000 pets were dumped across the UK.


The RSPCA provides advice on what to do before giving up an unwanted pet:



The ASPCA (American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals) reports a range of statistics in relation to homeless animals and animals in shelters.  At the moment, no government institution or animal organization is responsible for tabulating national statistics for the animal protection movement so the figures provided on their website are national estimates.

  • Approximately 6.5 million companion animals enter shelters every year (approximately 3.3 million are dogs and 3.2 million are cats).
  • The number of dogs and cats entering U.S. shelters annually has declined from approximately 7.2 million in 2011.
  • Each year, approximately 1.5 million shelter animals are euthanized (670,000 dogs and 860,000 cats).
  • Approximately 3.2 million shelter animals are adopted each year (1.6 million dogs and 1.6 million cats).
  • About 710,000 animals who enter shelters as strays are returned to their owners.

What can we do to prevent pet abandonment and the stray animal population increasing?

There are a range of initiatives governments and communities can consider that can help prevent pet abandonment and help slow down the increase of the stray animal population.

  1. Education and awareness – we need to educate children and adults about animal care and welfare.
  2. Adopt Don’t Shop – we need to stop buying cute puppies and kittens from pet shops. For every animal you buy, you are taking the home of a shelter animal in desperate need of a loving home.
  3. Neuter our pets – we need to neuter our pets and develop TNR programs to address the stray animal population. Refer to The Importance of De-Sexing Your Pet page on the various benefits of neutering your pet.

UAE community programs to tackle the pet abandonment problem

As you will see in the Fur-Time Directory, we are fortunate to have many groups and individuals dedicated to supporting animals across the UAE.  Following is a summary of some of the types of programs many of these groups are undertaking to rescue, heal and protect animals in their community.

  • TNR – Trap Neuter Release Programs

A TNR program is where free roaming cats and dogs (or strays) are trapped, de-sexed (or sterilised) and then returned to the outdoor location they were found at. This program is humane and critical to reducing the stray animal population.


Middle East Animal Foundation set up the first licensed TNR operation for cats in the UAE.  Information about this can be found in the Resource Centre.

  • Shelters – established to home some of the stray and abandoned animals.
  • Animal Welfare Support by Individuals and Organisations
  • Adoption Days – to permanently rehome animals.
  • Fostering – to temporarily rehome animals.
  • Relocation Programs – to relocate animals to foster or forever homes overseas.
  • Feeding stations – permanent locations for food and water which are maintained by volunteers.
  • Education and awareness – this is undertaken by many of the shelters and welfare groups and differs from group to group.

How other countries tackle the pet abandonment problem

Many countries around the world have undertaken research and studies about how to manage the stray animal situation.  And there are some countries that really stand out with how they have successfully reduced the stray animal populations.


The various research tends to point to 3 key approaches:

  1. Sterilisation via responsible pet ownership and TNR programs for handling the stray animal population;
  2. Education (responsible dog ownership, breeding, dumping); and
  3. Registration (identification of both animal and owner).

The Netherlands is reported to have no stray dogs due to a number of key initiatives.  It does however have a way to go to manage the stray cat population.  This country is also one of few to have a political party (Party for the Animals) in its parliament, whose core purpose is to improve animal welfare.

  • There is country-mandated legislation that allows spaying and neutering services to be free for its citizens.
  • Taxes apply on transactions where puppies are bought, rather than adopted from one of the 200 dog shelters.
  • The country has invested in education campaigns to raise awareness about adopting instead of buying animals.
  • If community members see a stray animal they can contact The Netherlands Animal Control who will rescue the animal and take care of it until it is adopted.
  • There are high penalties for those convicted of animal abuse (from steep fines up to prison sentences).


Over time this website will be updated to include a summary of countries who are taking a proactive approach to managing the stray animal program, their key initiatives and links to related articles and reports.