When is an Animal Considered Legally Abandoned on Your Property?

Annie runs a cleaning service that often does the cleaning in residential rental properties after tenants move out. She arrived at a home recently in which the gas was turned off and the thermometer read 47°, but the tenant had not finished moving her belongings.

Unfortunately, among the items the tenant had left was a small, shivering dog. No food or water was available and the elderly animal had been left to fend for herself in the cold. Annie brought this to the attention of the landlord and offered to take the small animal home.

The landlord was as horrified as Annie at the treatment of the dog, but could she legally let Annie take her?

Was the Animal Legally Abandoned?

Though pets are largely treated as property under the law, it is illegal in most states to abandon them. As a landlord, it is important to understand what constitutes “abandonment”.

Obviously, a blog post is no substitute for legal counsel and if this situation has happened to you then you’ll need to talk to an attorney or contact our office to discuss your specific situation.

Abandoned Animals

As a general rule, an animal is considered to be abandoned if the tenant has left it in a public place or if the animal has been left without provision for its needs. If the tenant has moved then the animal is probably considered to be abandoned and you can follow the same laws as for abandoned property.

However, as in the case with which we began this article, if the tenant has not finished moving out then you may not be able to take title to the animal (though you are morally and legally obligated to take care of its immediate needs).


Failing to provide for the needs of the animal also falls under the definition of animal cruelty. Colorado law states that any person, “… having the charge or custody of any animal, fails to provide it with proper food, drink, or protection from the weather, consistent with the species, breed, and type of animal involved, or abandons an animal” has committed animal cruelty.

What to Do

If you find an animal who has been neglected, report it to the Humane Society or the local police department. You can find contact information for El Paso County, Colorado Animal Enforcement on the Humane Society website.

If the animal appears to be abandoned on your property, you may need assistance determining if the animal is legally abandoned and considering your options. Blue Mountain Real Estate can help you with problems like this and anything else related to your rental property. Contact us to be sure you’re doing the right thing.