“Abandon” – To forsake entirely or to neglect or refuse to provide or perform the legal obligations for the care and support of an animal by its owner or his agent. — As stated in Section 102 Definitions (as they are used in the Dog Law Act)

We’ve all seen those depressing commercials… downcast eyes, ears back, shaking like a leaf, a cold and snowy scene as the backdrop and it’s all set to a sad, sad song.

Dogs, cats and more – they are so scared. They have no home, no warm place to lay down at night, no food, no one to take them on walks or pat them on the head or say a simple, “Good boy.” No one who cares.

It is hard to watch, but they make a statement.

For me, it’s hard to believe there are people out there like that. Anyone who could be so cold, so uncaring and so cruel to something so innocent.

Animal abandonment is a problem. It’s real and it’s big.

It’s here in Pittsburgh – like the puppies found in the North Side dumpster with their mother and sibling already dead, or the skin-and-bones dog found clinging to life after being thrown away in a trash can in Westmoreland County – and it is all over the world.

And it’s heartbreaking.

Recently, I came across the story of Kai the Shar-pei mix. Last month, Kai’s sad story went viral and he’s become a poster pup of sorts for animal abandonment. The Washington Post referred to him as “the saddest dog in the world.”

The wrinkly, brown dog was left all by himself in a Scotland train station. His leash was tied to a railing and his belongings – only his food, food bowl, a toy and his pillow – left beside him in a suitcase.

As it turns out, Kai was essentially abandoned twice. Left quickly behind by the person selling him and then by the woman who was supposed to purchase him. She’s told media outlets that in person, Kai didn’t seem to be the same dog she had first found online. So she left him there, all alone. Only telling, she says, a train station employee.

Luckily, the Scottish SPCA swooped in. Taking Kai in, giving him food, care, shelter and much-needed surgery to fix a problem with his eyes. Adoption offers poured in. And last week, following his recovery from surgery, Kai was adopted by a man from Scotland who is now planning lots of fun adventures for the two of them. And in his adoption photos, well, Kai doesn’t seem so sad anymore.

From Scotland to New York City, there’s also the poor 3-year-old pit bull mix who was recently found by NYPD officers. The ASPCA says he was left to die, malnourished and zipped up in a suitcase in the South Bronx.

A suitcase.

“This dog was deprived of food and water, then discarded on a city curb as if it were garbage. Such callous disregard for a living creature is unconscionable, and should not go unpunished. We ask anyone with knowledge of this dog or how it came to be in this condition to please come forward and provide information to the NYPD. This kind of cruelty should not be tolerated in New York City, or anywhere,” said President and CEO of the ASPCA Matt Bershadker.

The ASPCA offered a reward upwards of $20,000 for information leading at an arrest in the case.

But these are just a few examples. These kinds of cases happen every day all around the globe. Many of the animals found after it’s too late. And there are real consequences for committing such acts.

Now, I’m no lawyer, just someone passionate about animals and their care and safety, so I asked a local animal activist to weigh in. Mary Kennedy Withrow is the Community Outreach Coordinator at the Animal Rescue League, and she has been fighting for animal rights locally and in Harrisburg for a long time.

She was helpful enough to layout Pennsylvania’s laws for pet abandonment.

PA Animal Cruelty Statute 5511 (c) Cruelty to animals:

(1) A person commits an offense if he wantonly or cruelly illtreats, overloads, beats, otherwise abuses any animal, or neglects any animal as to which he has a duty of care, whether belonging to himself or otherwise, or abandons any animal, or deprives any animal of necessary sustenance, drink, shelter or veterinary care, or access to clean and sanitary shelter which will protect the animal against inclement weather and preserve the animal’s body heat and keep it dry.
(2) (i) Except as provided in subparagraph (ii), a person convicted of violating paragraph (1) commits a summary offense.
(ii) A person convicted for a second or subsequent time of violating paragraph (1) commits a misdemeanor of the third degree if all of the following occurred:
(A) The action or omission for which the person was convicted for a subsequent time was performed on a dog or cat.
(B) The dog or cat was seriously injured, suffered severe physical distress or was placed at imminent risk of serious physical harm as the result of the person’s action or omission.
(3) This subsection shall not apply to activity undertaken in normal agricultural operation.

The punishments are serious. Offenders could face jail time.

“Abandonment of an animal is what’s called a ‘summary offense,’” says Withrow. “Under Pennsylvania Criminal Laws, all criminal offenses fall into the following classifications.”

There are 3 classes of Felonies (Felony 1, Felony 2, Felony 3), for which the maximum penalties are:

• Felony 1: Up to 20 years in prison
• Felony 2: Up to 10 years in prison
• Felony 3: Up to 7 years in prison.

Similarly, there are 3 classes of Misdemeanors (Misdemeanor 1, Misdemeanor 2, Misdemeanor 3), for which the maximum penalties under Pennsylvania law if found guilty, are:

• Misdemeanor 1: Up to 5 years in prison
• Misdemeanor 2: Up to 3 years in prison
• Misdemeanor 3: Up to 1 year in prison

There is also a lesser category of what is known as a summary offense. If you are found guilty of a summary offense, you face up to 90 days in jail as a maximum penalty.

As a longtime animal activist, Withrow thinks more can be done though to stop these cruel acts. Because despite the harsh punishments listed above, many times offenders are just given “a slap on the hand.”

The argument has to be made that more does need to be done – animals thrown out like the discarded remains of dinner or left trapped to die alone. These are living, breathing, loving things, not spoiled food or old rags or yesterday’s newspaper. They deserve our respect and kindness.

We are the first line of defense.

“If you ‘see it—report it!’” Withrow says. “Whether that’s a tethered dog with no shelter, water, or food in extreme weather, or dogfighting, or an abandoned animal, please call 911. Or if in the city, call Animal Control.”

She even provided the phone numbers for us Pittsburghers: from 7 a.m. to 3 p.m., it’s 412-255-2036, and from 3 p.m. to 11 p.m., it is 412-255-2935.

Then, there are the passionate animal activists – like Withrow herself – and the organizations that are fighting for pets like Kai. They are leading the charge to put a stop to animal abandonment and cruelty once and for all.

Withrow says she has worked with Pittsburgh City Council and state lawmakers, and is also part of the group Humane PA PAC. They closely monitor “the position state legislators take on animal law when it is voted on.”

“We use social media to raise awareness so that our 40,000 followers on Facebook are aware of laws being introduced, and are given the proper tools to contact their state senator or state representative,” says Withrow. “People really need to contact their legislators, they will listen to constituents; they are the people who vote.

“And last, know your judges,” she says. “They have the ability to go to the maximum [sentence].”

For more information on animal abandonment, visit the ASPCA’s website at this link.

So think back to Kai, one of the many furry faces of animal abandonment. He’s one of the lucky ones – found in plenty of time to be saved. So many others are not.

And if something as simple as treating our pets – our companions, our friends – with kindness, can be so difficult sometimes, how are we to deal with the bigger problems we have in this world?

They put their trust in us and love unconditionally, these lovely little souls deserve our humanity, gentleness, compassion and reverence. Not to be left tied up in a train station – scared, lonely and sad – waiting to be found and loved back.


Stay tuned animal lovers for more Furry Tails! You can follow me on Twitter at @HeatherLang24