How to Handle Abandoned Pets at Your Rental Property

Written on January 22, 2016 by , updated on December 9, 2016

Abandoned PetsMost renters are wonderful, but every once in a while, things don’t work out.

Fast forward four months, and you’ve made it through the long, hard eviction process

You arrive at the rental property with the sheriff, only to find that the tenant has abandoned the property the night before. However, instead of paying 4 months of back-due rent, he has painted your walls with profanity and left behind a sick dog that he wasn’t even allowed to have.

How could someone do that?

Sadly, some irresponsible tenants leave their pets behind when they abandon a property. Perhaps they’re moving to a place that doesn’t allow pets, or perhaps it was a stray they picked up a month ago and simply grew tired of it.

As horrible as it sounds, “moving” is one of the top excuses for turning pets over to shelters. But most people don’t realize that 35% of shelter animals are euthanized.

Still, turning an animal over to a shelter is better than just leaving it behind to fend for itself. The truth is that most domesticated animals cannot survive on their own.

The truth is that most domesticated animals cannot survive on their own.

By the time the animal is found, it could be too late. If this abandoned pet is still alive, it’s probably in poor condition—weak, hungry, dehydrated, scared, and stressed.

Whatever the reason people might have, it’s never OK for a tenant (or you!) to abandon a poor defenseless animal.

What to Do If You Find A Pet

Abandoned pets are handled differently than abandoned property. You can’t really grant the standard seven to 10 days for the tenant to pick up the property in this case.

If you find that your tenant has abandoned their pet or pets, you’ll need to deal with the situation immediately and responsibly.

Here are four steps to take if you find an abandoned pet on your rental property.

1. Proceed with Caution

A scared animal is an unpredictable one. Even if you have cats or dogs of your own and think you know how to handle them, an abandoned pet who is frightened might lash out at you, so don’t take any risks. You never know what kind of diseases an abandoned animal might carry.

You never know what kind of diseases an abandoned animal might carry.

When you enter the unit and see an animal, use a soothing, reassuring voice to calm it down. Lure it into a room or a crate with food and water, and then call animal control or the humane society.

Related: How to Help a Stray Pet

2. Contact Your Tenant

Call, text, and email your tenant to let them know you found their pet. Try everything to can think of to get ahold of them – even reaching out on Facebook and Twitter.

You want to make sure they really did abandon it before you take further action. If they have moved out and are now ignoring your attempts at contacting them, you can proceed with the next steps.

3. File a Report

Whether you want animal control or the humane society to take the animal or whether you want deal with the pet yourself, you still need to report what happened. All 50 states and the District of Columbia have animal cruelty laws. Abandonment usually falls under the definition of animal cruelty and is a punishable offense by fines and/or imprisonment.

4. Bring the Animal to a Safe Place

If you’re dealing with a big dog or any animal you’re unsure about, wait for animal control to pick it up. If you feel as if you can safely transport the animal, bring it to a shelter of your choice, ideally a no-kill shelter or a rescue agency.

  1. Give the agency or shelter your tenant’s name and the contact information in case the tenant comes by to pick up their pet.
  2. Contact your tenant to let them know where the pet is.
  3. Post a note on the door of your rental property stating where the pet is in case the tenant has changed their contact information and returns to the property for the pet.

Another option, particularly if you wish to keep the pet or know of someone who would want it, is to bring the animal to a veterinarian’s office for treatment. Note that you’ll need to pay for this upfront.

If you bring the animal home and if you already have a pet or pets, introduce the new addition slowly. Keep the new pet in a separate room until all the animals settle down.

Related: Introducing Your New Dog to Other Dogs

Bottom Line – Save the Pets Life

If you know that the tenant is gone, and you can see that the pet is in bad shape, you need to do something to save the pet’s life. Ignoring the situation is not an option.

Just make sure you let the tenant know what you’ve done with the pet. If you have extensive expenses related to the care of the pet, and your tenant refuses to reimburse you, you might want to consider suing the tenant in small claims court.

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4 CommentsLeave a Comment

  • Zane Lemon

    Signed the rental agreement and the next thing I saw was all their furniture being delivered by a rental company. Red flags!!! Any suggestions or precautions other than the obvious?

  • Metqa

    Evicted tenant in Feb 2016. Told tenant I cant afford to take care her cat. They disappear. Tenants brother says she took cat to his home against his wishes & left cat outdoors (not allowed inside). Cat wanders off & is seen in my neighborhood by children of tenant. Cat shows up 3 wks later. Tenant knows via children that cat is here. No contact for 7 mos. I fed cat, kept it inside nights & storms, gave flea meds, groom, provided collar & ID, registered chip to my address, got vaccines. Last wk, Tenant comes & tries to catch cat. Cat runs from her. Told her she is trespassing & ,if she wants me to handover cat, to reimburse me boarding fees. She claims I offered to care for cat; says she visits weekly when I’m not home. What is her case?

  • Deborah McBride

    Family moved in with understanding that it was only for 30 days, bringing a dog with them. 5 weeks later they moved leaving the dog, have been gone for 3 weeks now. I have been taking care of dog IE feeding it. What are my rights, can I legally keep it?

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