No excuse is good enough to abandon a pet

As an animal lover, it hurts to see on social media and reported by news organizations that animal rescues and shelters are overrun with pets that have been abandoned.

A gray tabby cat sits on the back of a green sofa.
Ann Bailey's family adopted a kitten they named Frodo 11 years ago after finding him and his sister in a tree near their farm. They fed the two kittens formula until they were old enough to eat solids. Frodo's sister "Sam" was adopted by a friend and lives in Maine with her and her family.
Ann Bailey / Agweek

Arwen. Frodo. Sam. Smokey. Gollum. Merry. Rocky.

Those are the names of the felines that have arrived at our house as strays. Five of the six were kittens when we found them in our farmyard. The sixth was a wild adult female that had two batches of kittens totaling 11 before we tamed her enough to get her spayed.

We also took the other four females to our veterinarian to have them spayed and given their vaccinations and the male to be neutered and get his shots.

We kept Arwen, Frodo, Smokey and Rocky and found good homes for Gollum and Merry. Besides the stray cats we have given homes to, we also have adopted a cat and two dogs from our local animal shelter.

Because we are animal lovers who are dedicated to keeping our pets healthy and living a good life, it hurts to see on social media and reported by news organizations that animal rescues and shelters are overrun with animals that have been abandoned. At least one shelter in Fargo, North Dakota , recently was concerned it would have to euthanize six dogs because the shelter was getting overcrowded.


The shelter director posted on social media that dogs were pouring in from pounds and from across the region more quickly than the shelter could find homes for them. Fortunately, in the end, people stepped up so the dogs didn’t have to be euthanized.

But that doesn’t mean the situation is solved. Every day rescues and shelters post on social media dozens of dogs that they take in and care for until they find fosters, and eventually, adopters for the animals.

A calico cat sits on a multi-colored blanket.
Arwen, then a kitten, appeared four years ago on Ann Bailey and her family's front porch and they adopted her.
Ann Bailey / Agweek

Not only dogs, but cats, a species in which its females can have as many as three litters a year and a total of 100 kittens in a lifetime, also are filling up shelters and rescues.

I don’t know the reasons why people don’t take care of their animals or abandon them, but I do know that none of them are legitimate. Cats, dogs and other pets depend on their humans for long-term care and those of us who have them need to honor that commitment.

The words “long term” are key here. It means that the cute, furry puppy or kitten in the pet store window, the “giveaway” posted on social media or the one from the neighbor or friend’s litter that you buy or adopt will be yours for many years to come.

It also means that when that kitten or puppy become adults that have unique personalities, that will test their owners’ patience. Some of them may require professional training.

Dogs and cats both live well into their teens and some as old as 20 years. To responsibly care for their pets over their lifetime, at the minimum, owners will have to pay veterinary bills, buy food, and in some cases, kennel boarding. The financial burden can amount to hundreds, even thousands of dollars, annually per pet.

Meanwhile, pet ownership requires a time commitment. For example, dogs need to go on walks for exercise and cat litter boxes must be cleaned.


The animals also develop an emotional attachment to their owners/companions.

That’s why I believe that potential pet owners need to carefully weigh whether they can make the emotional, time and financial commitment to have a pet and why, if they decide to get one, there is absolutely no excuse for not honoring their commitment.

If a pet owner has a life situation that makes caring for the animal impossible, they need to contact a shelter or rescue about getting help. Simply getting rid of their pet or ignoring it is unacceptable.

I don’t believe animals are equal to or greater than humans, nor am I anthropomorphic and believe that animals think and reason like humans. It’s because humans have higher intellect than animals that it’s wrong not to properly care for them.

A gray cat sits on a brown blanket.
Smokey, 15, wandered into Ann Bailey and her family's farmyard when she was a kitten. She is the oldest of the three formerly stray cats that became family pets.
Ann Bailey / Agweek

Ann Bailey Eric Hylden / Grand Forks Herald

Ann Bailey lives on a farmstead near Larimore, N.D., that has been in her family since 1911. You can reach her at 218-779-8093 or

Opinion by Ann Bailey
Ann is a journalism veteran with nearly 40 years of reporting and editing experiences on a variety of topics including agriculture and business. Story ideas or questions can be sent to Ann by email at: or phone at: 218-779-8093.
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