Skip to main content

How to be responsible owners and reduce the number of unwanted animals in shelters

A senior dog adopted at the Urban Pooch Cafe in Singapore

A senior dog adopted at the Urban Pooch Cafe in Singapore


An amazing animal rescue story

Abandoned pets. Not again?

Indeed, this has been a topic of persistent discussion worldwide, and has been in the news in recent weeks in Singapore, where I live. After a few kittens were found in terrible states outside apartments and the perpetrators apprehended, there are now new considerations regarding the laws surrounding the treatment of pets.

As a general observation, the sad state of affairs is that it often takes unfortunate events to prompt needed action. This is especially so with pets, which tend to be further down on the list of priorities.

Many of us start with the good intentions of loving a pet, with some caving in when the responsibility of caring for them becomes a little tough to bear. If some things can be considered when getting a pet, unwanted animals in shelters can still be reduced.


Estimated statistics of unwanted animals per country

CountryNumber of abandoned dogsRate

United States

5,000,000 to 7,000,000


United Kingdom











Annual, increasing

A cat ready for adoption at the Society of Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, Singapore

A cat ready for adoption at the Society of Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, Singapore

Why there is a problem of unwanted pets

Sadly, shelters still struggle with huge numbers of unwanted pets needing care, and the problem is perpetuated by a few situations that are still all too prevalent.

The lack of neutering

Some owners fear the side effects of neutering their pets. They may also be unaware of the increased numbers of little Fifis, Fidos and Garfields that not sterilizing their pets can bring. Sterilizing a pet does have disadvantages, but does reduce the numbers of little dogs and cats that are in dire need of homes. This is especially so with cats, which tend to have more of a tendency to wander.

Unbridled breeding

What I mean by this is that there are some breeders who are in the business of consistently breeding pets for monetary objectives. They are further encouraged to do so with more people buying pets from them.

This is not to say that breeding pets itself is an unhealthy practice, but irresponsible breeding, when the breeder does not properly socialize puppies and breeds them in poor conditions, is. This is worse if the breeder himself abandons any extra puppies that he cannot sell, which is an entirely plausible scenario. Potential owners who purchase pets from such breeders only put them in business longer, which perpetuates the problem of unwanted pets.

Limited space in shelters

There can only be a certain amount of space in animal shelters, which is all too often quickly used up by the many animals needing homes.

At a recent visit I paid to the Society of Prevention of Cruelty to Animals in Singapore, I noticed all the pens for dogs taken up. There were also many rabbits, gerbils and cats that filled the limited space almost to capacity.

Scroll to Continue

Not enough volunteers

There are not enough people volunteering to foster a pet for a short time while it waits for a new owner.

More foster homes for pets without them means easing the burden of spatial constraint on animal shelters.

Unconscious support of puppy mills

Some owners who happily buy their pets from a store may be unaware that their previous home was a puppy mill where animals are kept in deplorable conditions.

While they cannot be blamed for their ignorance, it perpetuates the problem of these mills existing, and hence the numbers of pets that will not easily find homes.

Impulse buying

Many people buy that dog or cat for themselves or family members as gifts, with thoughts only of how cute that little kitten or puppy is. Many do not think of the costs of veterinary care or grooming, and if their pet might have future problems interacting with neighbors or their pets.

When these problems start cropping up, Fido or Fifi does not seem as cute, and hence makes his way to a shelter.

A pensive stray cat looking out of the window at the Society of Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, Singapore

A pensive stray cat looking out of the window at the Society of Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, Singapore

What causes owners to give up their pets

Owners are prompted to give up their pets for reasons that sadly should have been considered before they were bought.

Too much work.

Having a pet means having to make time to bathe it, feed it and take it out for daily walks. A pet also has emotional needs and some time must be allocated to play with it and give it needed attention.

Time must also be taken to clean its ears, brush its teeth and bring it for regular medical checks, which are daunting for some owners after a while.


Some owners cannot keep up with the expense of owning a pet and do not bother to think about finding someone who is responsible enough to take over its care. Many sadly take the short cut and easy solution of leaving it to the shelter to find it a home.


Some owners buy their pets without considering if they have enough time to spend taking care of it. Many have to spend long hours at work and have no time to do the necessary for their pets. Again, this should be factored in before the pet is bought to prevent the situation of overcrowded shelters.

Too old

Pets also have the same concerns that senior citizens may develop as they grow older, such as dementia or iimmobility. Some simply do not want their pet because it looks too old.


In cases of divorce, many pets are sadly left without homes when neither party wants to accommodate it.

Property that does not allow pets

In the course of time, some owners move to properties or apartment complexes that do not allow pets.

In this case, many will put their needs above their pets, leaving them to fill animal shelters. In some cases, the owner may be evicted from his property, causing him to abandon his pet.

Lack of education

This pertains to both owners and pets. Owners sometimes abandon their pets because they pose a problem to neighbors when they destroy their property or become aggressive.

With particular reference to dogs, skills in basic obedience - sitting, coming to heel and learning how to stay - are necessary things to teach that will help them and humans relate to each other. When pets are given the proper training, they can become more functional members of a household and this lessens the problem of abandonment.

Other owner difficulties

When an owner that has no relatives or kin to look after a pet suddenly passes away, it sometimes creates a situation where the pet is left alone with no one to care for it. When it is found, it goes to the shelter.

The same problem occurs when an owner, who does not live with others suddenly becomes immobile and can no longer care for a pet.

A nice elderly gentleman who feeds strays

A nice elderly gentleman who feeds strays

How to spot a responsible dog breeder

  • He or she allows you to visit and willingly lets you see that the premises where she keeps her pets are well maintained.
  • The bred animals are healthy
  • The area in which they are kept is spacious and suit the needs of the animals
  • Breeds only one or a few types of dog and is knowledgeable about the breeds. He or she can explain any breed related problems in detail
  • Meets the psychological and social needs of animals by giving it toys and exercise
  • Encourages you to spend time with the puppy’s parents to understand the nature of the puppy better
  • Offers guidance in training and housebreaking your new puppy
  • Has strong relationships with veterinarians and has already brought the puppies for veterinary visits
  • Provides references for people who have bought puppies
  • Active in clubs that specialize in the breed of puppies for sale, eg. schnauzers or golden retrievers. They may compete with the dogs themselves.
  • Asks relevant questions, like why you want a dog and requires proof that your apartment complex allows dogs.
  • Requires you to sign a contract saying that you will return the dog to him if it cannot be taken care of

How to reduce the numbers of unwanted pets in shelters

It is quite clear that the problem of unwanted pets can easily be solved if owners, and potential owners have in mind a few considerations.

Consider your own situation.

If you have a job that takes you away for long hours or requires some traveling, it may not be wise to own a pet. It will be unfair to the pet to keep it when its owner is hardly around to help it meet its psychological and even physical needs.

Further, consider the expense of pet care. A pet, like ourselves will mean the cost of feeding and medical care that can sometimes be more expensive than our own. If this poses a problem, it is better not to get yourself a pet.

Choose your pet with care.

Choose a pet that can easily adapt to your lifestyle. If you have family members who are allergic to pet hair or asthmatic, it might be a good idea to keep pets like fish or terrapins rather than dogs or cats.

If you have a more sedentary lifestyle, try not to keep a dog which is too active because it will pose a challenge, in such cases, to care for.


Obedience classes for pets and owners are readily available, and to better understand how to take care of pets, it is good to put ourselves through a course.

Previously not so available in Singapore, I was pleasantly surprised to find more and more owners signing up for obedience classes when I went to the Nex Dog Park in Serangoon, Singapore, a few weeks ago. It is heartening to find increased awareness and owners taking the time to learn how to care for their pets responsibly.

Find a responsible breeder.

A responsible breeder will sell puppies that have been properly socialized and looked after in comfortable conditions. The pets will not have alarming health concerns and a healthy dog will mean a lesser likelihood of it being unwanted. There are some indicators of a responsible dog breeder in the text at the side of the article.

Zoba, a mixed breed available for adoption at the Society of Prevention of Cruelty to Animals

Zoba, a mixed breed available for adoption at the Society of Prevention of Cruelty to Animals

If your situation allows, there are other ways that you can help to ease the problem of animals in shelters.


If you have the time and the space, foster an animal that needs a home before it finds one. This will help to ease the burden on shelters.


Adopt an animal from a shelter. This can help to discourage unethical mills and also create more space in shelters for other animals.


Donate to animals shelters that will need money for the animals food, medical care and other expenses.



The problem of unwanted pets can be tackled with some considerations on the parts of owners and those considering getting a pet. Play your part to ease the problem!

I would also like to thank the hubbers who answered the question "What are some solutions to the problem of unwanted pets in shelters?" Do take the time to read their articles!


Michelle Liew Tsui-Lin All Rights Reserved



Michelle Liew (author) from Singapore on April 25, 2013:

Blessings you and the little girl, Audrey!

Audrey Howitt from California on April 25, 2013:

Such a great hub Michelle! We have a pound puppy and she is a love!

Michelle Liew (author) from Singapore on April 10, 2013:

Wow. Alexandry, it must have been a really sad experience. It's heartbreaking to be attached to so many dogs yet not be able to help them all. Thanks for sharing, and yes, it's an ultra important issue!

Adrienne Farricelli on April 09, 2013:

When I worked for a shelter, it was so sad to no longer see happy tail wags and then see empty cages. I mostly fostered and trained for them, but I never could imagine working for them, getting attached to many dogs and knowing that many would have been put down. Voted up and useful, this is a very important issue!

Michelle Liew (author) from Singapore on April 07, 2013:

Am glad to connect with a fellow dog lover! Yes, your pet is your furkid. If you won't abandon your kid, you won't do so to a pet. Thanks for sharing, Drea Alty!

Andrea Altenweg from Canada on April 07, 2013:

Wonderful hub. As a rescue advocate I found the information in this hub very accurate, very well written, and very informative. If only more people would listen, learn, and realize that pets are not possessions, they're living, breathing, feeling beings, and deserve to be cared for properly. If you wouldn't abandon your child, you shouldn't abandon a pet.

Before getting that cute puppy, kitten, bunny, or any pet, do your research and make sure you can care for this pet the way it deserves to be cared for.

Great hub.

Michelle Liew (author) from Singapore on April 05, 2013:

I believe so too, Girishpuri, I think it is a case of not thinking through the decision of getting a pet carefully. Thanks for sharing!

Girish puri from NCR , INDIA on April 04, 2013:

Thank you for writing this hub, Michele. But honestly i feel no one does it intentionally, some problem or lack of knowledge, leads to such problems. Useful and very much concerned hub for the needy ones, god bless.

Michelle Liew (author) from Singapore on April 04, 2013:

Thanks, Mary! Unfortunately, that's a big problem all over, It's unfortunate for both the pet and the owner when such circumstances come up! Thanks for sharing!

Mary Hyatt from Florida on April 04, 2013:

In the country I live in, many pets have been abandoned because of the economy: some people who lose their jobs and have to relocate cannot take their pet with them and the pet gets left behind. I fostered a Maltese whose owners had just turned him out on the street. He weighed 8 pounds.

Our local Humane Society is always filled to capacity. I would adopt them all if I could!

Voted UP, and shared.

Michelle Liew (author) from Singapore on April 04, 2013:

Thanks,Lurana, for sharing!

Michelle Liew (author) from Singapore on April 03, 2013:

Yes, Linda, the Agri-food and Veterinary Authority here is super strict. But there again, we're a much smaller country with fewer animals than the rest, so I suppose the number also gets comparatively smaller! Thanks for sharing!

Michelle Liew (author) from Singapore on April 03, 2013:

That's right,'s good to weigh the possibilities before getting a pet, and to see if the situation allows it. Many love pets and having them...but abandon them when their situations take a turn. Thanks for sharing!

Michelle Liew (author) from Singapore on April 03, 2013:

Hi Interspacewriting! Yes, wow's the word. Thing is, there is a lot we can do to reduce this number. Thanks for sharing!

Michelle Liew (author) from Singapore on April 03, 2013:

There are so many! And it's because many do not think about their individual situations before owning one, Janine. Thanks for sharing!

Michelle Liew (author) from Singapore on April 03, 2013:

I hope so too, Eddy. The problem just increases and we need to promote the importance of educating others about proper pet care and management. Thanks for sharing!

MrsBrownsParlour on April 03, 2013:

This is so important! Thank you so much for writing about it. Very good ethical points, well-organized, educational, and helpful. Voted up!

Michelle Liew (author) from Singapore on April 03, 2013:

It is in fact abandoning a child, kidscrafts, because a pet is your furkid who has the same needs as the real one! Thanks for sharing!

Michelle Liew (author) from Singapore on April 03, 2013:

Thanks Bill. Yes, irresponsible folks who do not know what it takes to own a pet need education. Thanks for sharing!

Linda Bilyeu from Orlando, FL on April 03, 2013:

Singapore is obviously doing something right. Way to go!!!

Sheri Dusseault from Chemainus. BC, Canada on April 03, 2013:

Wow..that is a lot of abandoned pets. My little dog died a few years ago at 14 years old. Though I loved her I don't know when I will get another as it is a huge commitment. Great info!

David Pinkney from UK on April 03, 2013:

Really good & useful Information.

As above comment, when you see the numbers, you just think WOW.

Voting up!


Janine Huldie from New York, New York on April 03, 2013:

Michelle, I couldn't believe those numbers above and seriously goes to show there are just some very irresponsible people adopting/buying pets. Great tips and just hope others who may be considering getting a pet read this before they do make their decision!! Have of course voted up and shared, too!!

Eiddwen from Wales on April 03, 2013:

Oh whata wonderful hub Michelle.

Let us hope that many read this and take heed. The animal world will be far better off if they do.

Voting up and wishing you a great day.


kidscrafts from Ottawa, Canada on April 03, 2013:

Thank you for writing this hub Michelle! Very well done and you covered a lot of informations.

I find that so sad when I hear people abandoning their pet either in a shelter or in the wild for any reason; for me it's like abandoning a child.

I know that with my vet, they have a program to help elderly people who might have financial problems to help them with covering the cost of part of the food and also vet. care. I like that idea that people don't have to deprive themselves of the company of a good companion; and also probably in a lot of case to deprive themselves of food so that they can feed their cat or dog.

Voted up and awesome!

Bill Holland from Olympia, WA on April 03, 2013:

Thank you for this. Some people are not smart enough or caring enough to own pets and never should be allowed to do so. This is important information.

Michelle Liew (author) from Singapore on April 03, 2013:

On the problem of pet abandonment and how to reduce the numbers of unwanted pets in shelters

Related Articles