Pet Owners Warned: Don't Abandon Your Pets This Christmas

Pet Owners Warned: Don't Abandon Your Pets This Christmas

The RSPCA is warning WA pet owners to plan ahead for their pet’s care before going away over the Christmas period, with animal abandonments notorious at this time of year.

Last December, reports of abandoned animals increased to 117 from 88 in November; increasing further in January to 127 reports before declining significantly to 77 in February (see graph below).

The majority of animals abandoned at Christmas are cats and dogs who are left at home while their owners go on holiday.

Leaving your pet at home with ‘enough food and water to last until you get back’ is dangerous:

  • water bowls can easily get tipped over or dry out on hot days; 
  • food can spoil or be consumed too quickly;
  • bored animals can hurt themselves and lay injured or dying if not checked daily;
  • sudden changes in the weather, like heat waves, can cause distress.

Abandoning an animal is an offence under the Animal Welfare Act, which carries a maximum penalty of a $50,000 fine or five years in jail.


Comments from RSPCA WA Chief Inspector Amanda Swift:

“The summer holidays are always a problematic time for Inspectors with lots of people going away on holiday and just abandoning their pets. People need to realise that this is one of the things you sign up for when you get a pet… you can’t just go away and leave them at home; you’re responsible for their care, even when you go on holiday.

“It baffles me that this is still such a common occurrence because there are so many different options available to pet owners these days. If you don’t want to put your pet in kennels, you can go online and find a pet sitter who will stay at your house while you’re away.”

If you are planning to take your pet away with you at Christmas, RSPCA WA has some top tips to help keep your pet safe and happy when travelling:


  • Check your microchip data is up to date: If you’re taking your pet away with you, it’s important to check before you leave that your contact details on your pet’s microchip are current and up-to-date. If your pet gets lost while you’re away, they can be easily identified and quickly reunited with you if someone hands them in to a vet or local ranger.
  • Check medications and equipment: It’s important to pack everything your pet needs while they’re away: a collar showing their council registration tag; any medication they require; bedding; food and treats; and things like bowls to put their food and water in.
  • Check vet services where you’re going: Research the closest vet clinic to where you’ll be staying before you leave, so you know exactly where to go in the case of an emergency. Save the phone number and address in your phone beforehand, in case you can’t find the clinic or need to call ahead for advice.

Safe travel

  • Proper Pet restraints: The RSPCA advises that animals should be suitably and appropriately restrained inside the vehicle. Animals should not be tethered on the backs of utes nor travelling unrestrained in any part of the vehicle, including the boot. The Department of Transport can issue fines for animals being transported in a manner that is unsafe: “An animal being transported in a vehicle must not be in such a position as to obstruct or be likely to obstruct the vision, or cause a distraction.” There are a variety of dog seat belts and cat carry cases on the market to allow pet owners to safely transport their pet.
  • Dogs in hot cars: If you stop somewhere for a break, DO NOT leave your pet in the car. It can take just six minutes for a dog to overheat and die in a hot car, even with the windows down or parked in the shade. Instead, take your pet with you and offer them a drink and something to eat, and stop for regular toilet breaks.

On arrival at your holiday destination

  • Settling in: New surroundings can be quite daunting for animals so give your pet some time to have a sniff around and get used to where they will be staying. Give them some food or treats to help them relax, and put their bed somewhere out of the way so they can retreat if they begin to feel overwhelmed. Familiar smells from home (blankets, toys etc.) can help your pet to settle more quickly, and if there are new people around, ask them to act calmly around your pet and to give it some space to adjust. Keep an eye on your pet for the duration of your holiday, paying particular attention to signs of stress or that they’re not coping. It’s also a good idea to check out the property to familiarise yourself with any potential escape routes your pet might find or potential hazards that could cause harm, such as balconies or open windows.


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