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Dealing with Abandoned Pets in Rental Properties

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abandoned dog

I just read a news article that was somewhat heartbreaking.  A landlord recently discovered that his tenants had skipped town and left their 2 dogs behind.  When the landlord eventually entered his rental property, he was greeted by the 2 abandoned dogs, both of which were weak and haggard from lack of food and water.  The good news is that the dogs are now recovering and should be ok.

Luckily in this situation the abandoned dogs were friendly, but this may not always be the case.  Therefore if you ever find yourself dealing with an abandoned pet, use extreme caution.  Avoid approaching the pet; instead, call Animal Control to address the situation.  Alternatively, call the police, which you may need to do anyway because in some states it’s a crime to abandon a pet without making arrangements to properly care for the animal.  Plus, calling the police will help protect you if the tenant ever comes back and claims that you entered the apartment without just cause.  It’s definitely good to have the cops in your corner!  Similarly, make sure you accurately document your actions and itemize any associated expenses so you can protect yourself down the road if needed.

Aside from the issue of abandoned pets, it’s imperative that you follow local laws regarding abandoned rental units in general.  Many states offer guidelines to help landlords determine when a property can legally be labeled as “abandoned,” as well as how you’ll be required to handle this situation.  For example, the tenant is usually required to be missing for a certain amount of time before it can be legally declared that he or she abandoned the property.  Also, you will usually have specific requirements to follow if any tenant possessions are left behind; for example, in many states you are required to store the possessions (at your expense) for 30 days before you can legally dispose of, sell or donate the items.  So make sure you check your state’s landlord-tenant laws online and follow protocol as closely as you can.

To sum it up, although the concept of abandoning a pet is disturbing, there are clearly some things we can learn from this incident.  Always handle abandoned pets with extreme caution, and always involve Animal Control as well as the police.  Document everything, and brush up on your knowledge of your state’s local regulations regarding abandoned property and possessions.  When in doubt, use common sense and you’ll be just fine.

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