Animal Abandonment is a Crime

Posted by Ian Elwood, ALDF Online Editor on April 8, 2014

Abandoning a domesticated animal isn’t just a cruel thing to do, in many states it’s a crime. The Animal Legal Defense Fund sorts through thousands of messages a week. Emails, tweets, messages, phone calls—the stories of animals being abused, abandoned, and neglected are heartbreaking. So when an email came in recently about a group of chickens abandoned at a local park, we were excited to hear that Hen Harbor sanctuary had space to take them in. They just needed rescue and transport.


Roosters like Mini Stephen are regularly abandoned after owners realize they are males.

Unfortunately, this type of scenario is all too common. Many people buy chickens without realizing that caring for them is a real responsibility—they aren’t simply egg-laying machines. Around Easter time, many people buy baby chicks and rabbits on impulse, and often abandon them without any consideration for the animal, or the law. Because of the intense selective breeding done by the poultry industry, today’s chicken has no better chance of surviving in the woods than a human child. Knowing this, and the fact that these birds had someone able to provide life-long care for them, we drove out to attempt a rescue.

We arrived after dark and saw three chickens perched high in a tree. Sadly, three others had already been killed by predators. After climbing up, I was able to reach out and quickly grab the first one. He perched on my hand while flapping as I guided him to my chest and zipped him safely inside my jacket. I climbed down and put him into a large pet carrier.


Mini Stephen and Carter in a carrier.

The next one flapped gracefully to the ground as I approached him, and another rescuer was able to scoop him up. The third was in another tree, so I shimmied up and got him into the carrier using the same method as the first.

We drove to Hen Harbor sanctuary the next day after providing food, water, and rest to the chickens. Opening the door to the carrier and watching the three birds hop out onto the straw floor of a predator-proof barn was very rewarding. It was good to know that these three individuals would be safe.

Ian Elwood

Fluffypants Ian exploring his new home, where he sleeps in a predator-proof barn at night.

Thinking about how much time and energy it takes to rescue three chickens makes you think about how many others are not rescued, cared for, or even provided the smallest amount of compassion during their short lives. Chickens are used for meat, eggs, cockfighting, and are harmed in countless other ways. Attempts to pass even modest animal protection laws are fought tooth and nail by those who stand to gain from harming chickens.

Take Action

ALDF is hard at work every day, but a stronger legal framework for chickens—and all animals—will take time to build. In the meantime, you can help chickens by avoiding eggs, adopting rescued chickens, supporting animal sanctuaries, and by becoming a Partner in Protection with the Animal Legal Defense Fund.


The animals at Hen Harbor sanctuary can express natural behaviors and live a natural lifespan.

The law has a long way to go before chickens are treated with the dignity and respect they deserve, so we all need to do our part. That is why the attorneys at ALDF work so hard to enforce existing animal protection laws, and to advocate for new ones. With your support, someday all chickens will have the protection they deserve, not just the lucky few.

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9 thoughts on “Animal Abandonment is a Crime

  1. Tofu dog says:

    I don’t think most people realize that dumping ducks, chickens, and rabbits is bad. They think they’re setting them free, without realizing that most of these “freed” animals survive less than a week. It’s sad to think of all the poor birds and bunnies who are ripped apart alive by predators their first night, or who slowly starve to death later.

  2. sheila says:

    I would report my own mother or anyone if i saw them abuse animals! You bet I would do what I could do protect the innocent creatures. Yes, I believe humans do come first, but I wouldn’t just know about it and ignore it.

  3. Turtles are also abandoned. I care for a turtle now that was abandoned in a apartment for 3 months. She ate her paw to survive. You can read her story here.

  4. Dumping ducks, chickens, and rabbits is abanding them on the side of roads or just left roaming around loose. The people who do this are committing a crime and should be prosecuted to the utmost penalty of the law.

  5. Lynn J says:

    Thank you to you & your son for rescuing Rizza! He’s a cutie! God bless all of you.

  6. Wendye Kolles says:

    EVERY animal deserves love, care and RESPECT – and to live in an environment that is best suited to their specific needs – away from greedy, thoughtless, selfish, cruel humans. God bless ALL animals, their environments and the people who are TRULY passionate about them! xo xo xo xo xo xo



  8. Mariana Gaidanov says:

    I agree that animal abandonment is a crime!
    I think that the law must make hard for people to obtain a pet: it has to be a law which puts many requirements for people who want to have any kind of animal.This will discourage the irresponsible people.
    You know that : “easy come, easy go”.If they obtain easy an animal, it will be easy for some (many!)people to throw them off like garbage.
    But when they have to follow the legal requirements, in order to obtain an animal ,this will discourage the wood-harts ,and maybe they will give-up,and hopefully they will not try to obtain that animal anymore.

  9. Pet Care says:

    People that abandon their pet animal are just plain irresponsible and heartless.

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