Animal Abandonment

What is Animal Abandonment?

Animal abandonment, also commonly referred to as dumping an animal, occurs when a pet or animal is deliberately left by its owner without providing necessary care or attention. This can occur through various means, including leaving animals in public places or dumping them in the wild or remote locations.


Legal Consequences: Animal abandonment is against the law (NRS 574.100, NRS 574.110) and can lead to serious consequences, including fines, misdemeanor charges, and in severe cases, a felony charge resulting in up to 6 months of imprisonment.

Impact of Animal Abandonment 

Animal abandonment has far-reaching consequences:
  1. Health Risks: Abandoned animals face a myriad of challenges including illness, injury, starvation, dehydration, and exposure to severe weather conditions. These factors significantly impact their well-being and pose risks to public health. Without access to food, shelter, and care, abandoned pets face a daunting, lonely existence that can end in a slow, painful death.
  2. Emotional Trauma: Social animals endure severe emotional distress from abandonment, experiencing stress, fear, and sometimes depression. These animals often struggle to trust a new family, making it more challenging for them to be adopted and reintegrated into a loving home.
  3. Overpopulation: Abandoned animals often reproduce, contributing to overpopulation issues in shelters and on the streets and adding to the already existing challenges of managing the population of stray animals in our community. 
  4. Roaming Dogs: The presence of abandoned dogs can pose safety concerns, as these animals are often exposed to potential risks such as injuries or accidents involving vehicles.
  5. Disease transmission: Abandoned dogs, lacking proper veterinary care, face an increased susceptibility to contracting and spreading diseases. Many of these illnesses can easily spread through direct contact with other animals, exposure to spaces previously occupied by infected pets, or interaction with carrier animals.

Alternatives to Animal Abandonment

  1. Utilize local resources: Numerous local resources are available to assist pet owners who may face challenges in caring for their pets due to a lack of resources. Support for pet training, pet food, supplies, veterinary care, and more exists and can help you in maintaining your pet's well-being.
  2. Rehoming: If a pet owner finds themselves unable to care for their pet, finding a new, loving home may be a resolution that works for a pet’s best interest.  It's a responsible and compassionate decision made to ensure the well-being of the pet, often due to various circumstances such as changes in the owner's life, financial constraints, or unforeseen events.  
  3. Surrendering: Pet surrendering refers to the act of giving up a pet to a shelter, rescue organization, or animal control facility. This decision is made when an owner can no longer care for their pet due to various reasons, leading them to seek an alternative home for the animal. Due to local shelter capacity, this should be a last resort and may require making an appointment up to several weeks ahead of time and paying a fee.


  1. Report Animal Abandonment: If you witness animal abandonment or cruelty, report it by calling animal services dispatch at (775) 322-3647 (DOGS).
  2. Adopt, Don't Shop: Consider adopting from shelters or rescue groups when looking for a new pet.
  3. Spay/Neuter Your Pets: Help control the pet population by ensuring your pets are spayed or neutered.
    • SPCA of Northern Nevada: Call 775 324-7773 Ext. 200 or visit
    • Options veterinary Clinic: Call 775 499-3700
  4. Rehoming Tools: Utilize home-to-home pet rehoming tools to find a suitable new home for your pet without resorting to a shelter.
  5. Pet Surrender: If necessary, schedule an appointment to surrender your pet to a local animal rescue agency that accepts surrendered pets. Immediate appointments may not be available, and you may be required to pay a surrender fee.
    • Nevada Humane Society: Call: (775) 856-2000
    • SPCA of Northern Nevada: Call 775 324-7773 Ext. 200
Washoe County Regional Animal Services (“WCRAS’) cannot and does not endorse or sponsor any product, service, or vendor contained on this page. Users are encouraged to do their own research prior to engaging with any product , service, or vendor listed. WCRAS is not liable in any dispute between a listed third-party and a customer.