Melissa Kaplan's
Herp Care Collection
Last updated January 1, 2014

Pet Dumpers' Litany of Lame Excuses

What is the most pathetic excuse for giving up a companion animal?

©2006 Denise Flaim,, July 24, 2006


Here's a question as bedeviling as that zen koan about the sound of one hand clapping:

What is the most pathetic excuse for giving up a companion animal?

Living as we do amid an epidemic of tepid commitment and laser-sharp detachment, people routinely discard their companion animals. Some reasons - like a child's allergies or sudden homelessness - are understandable. But many are not - at least not to those who consider their animals family members, a status that is not usually negotiable.

Rescuers - you know them by the plastic airline crates in their hatchbacks, and the Milk-Bones in their glove compartments - are in the non-profit business of cleaning up the messes people make with the sentient beings they've brought into their lives. With big hearts and tiny budgets, they grit their teeth as clueless, oftentimes obnoxious owners hand over the leash - or cage, or tank.

Excuses - they have heard them all before. But maybe you haven't.

Moving is a perennial reason for dumping animals. "It's everyone's favorite," says Barbara Williamson of Best Friends Society, who polled staffers. "Nobody here can even begin to understand how you move into a place that doesn't accept pets when you have pets."

(Another head-scratcher: The person who returned a cat to the Utah sanctuary because its neurological condition "wasn't bad enough." In other words, the cat wasn't special-needs enough.)

Another common catalyst is the arrival of a sweetheart. New lovers or spouses who hate dog hair or slobber issue ultimatums, and their not-so-better halves comply.

The dissolution of a marriage is a prime reason for relinquishing animal companions, as is the arrival of diminutive two-leggers. "When the excuse is that the owner is having a baby, I send her to the president of Alaskan Malamute Rescue of New England," says Malamute fancier Susan Conant, who writes dog-centric mystery novels. "She is the mother of triplets."

Yep, family ties can be nooses for some animals. Marjorie Lipson of Long Island-based Second Chance Labrador Rescue offered up the interesting approach of blaming the kids: "My youngest child is now in college - it was her dog that we purchased 14 years ago," one owner told her as he turned over his gray-faced dog. "We never wanted a dog - the kids did."

For those who have written their wills to ensure that their furry and feathered family members will be cared for after their demise, think again. "Even though I promised to care for the dog, I knew I really wouldn't," explained one relative Lipson encountered. "I just wanted the inheritance."

Avarice is predictable. But this excuse isn't: "A woman had a 12-year-old male cat she wanted us to take because 'He won't play with toys anymore, so we want to replace him with a kitten,'" says Dottie Zammetti of A Home at Last Animal Adoption Network in Brightwaters. More than one rescuer reports cats rejected because they would not sit on laps. Or male dogs tossed because they don't lift their legs.

"He doesn't photograph well in our family portrait" is so sad that it could be made up. But it isn't.

Norwegian elkhound fancier Lexiann Grant of southeastern Ohio, who contributed that one, also had this doozy: "An Akita was surrendered because the family decided to do away with their current 'Japanese landscaping' and go with a southwestern theme."

If you find it hard to believe that people can be that superficial, consider this chestnut from Barbara Sawyer-Brown, a Ridgeback breeder and longtime rescuer from Chicago: "We redecorated and the dog no longer matches the decor." As one rescuer put it, "It's the accumulated oblivious sincerity that really gets you."

File this under "craven compassion": Pam Dennison, author of "The Complete Idiot's Guide to Positive Dog Training," had a friend who took in an 18-month-old Schnauzer. "She had a kidney problem and the owners 'loved her so much they couldn't bear to watch her die.'" (Postscript: The friend kept the dog, switched her to a raw-food diet, and five years later, the dog is still going strong.)

People dump their bunny rabbits with such infuriating regularity that Mary Cotter of the House Rabbit Society keeps a list of common excuses. Some deadbeat owners have simply performed a cold-hearted calculation: "He's sick - we're not going to pay $50 for a vet visit for a pet that cost $15."

Debra J. White of Tempe, Ariz., started volunteering at animal shelters in 1989. "I have seen and heard the most dumb, pathetic and lame excuses," she says. "The cat meows. The dog barks."

But nothing prepared her for this beaut, delivered by a pregnant woman who was jettisoning her child substitute to make room for the real thing.

"My fetus," the mother-to-be proclaimed, "is allergic to the dog."

Need to update a veterinary or herp society/rescue listing?

Can't find a vet on my site? Check out these other sites.

Amphibians Conservation Health Lizards Resources
Behavior Crocodilians Herpetology Parent/Teacher Snakes
Captivity Education Humor Pet Trade Societies/Rescues
Chelonians Food/Feeding Invertebrates Plants Using Internet
Clean/Disinfect Green Iguanas & Cyclura Kids Prey Veterinarians
Home About Melissa Kaplan CND Lyme Disease Zoonoses
Help Support This Site   Emergency Preparedness

Brought to you thanks to the good folks at Veterinary Information Network, Inc.

© 1994-2014 Melissa Kaplan or as otherwise noted by other authors of articles on this site