Reasons for Surrendering

The majority of owners surrendering take a short term view on pet ownership, and give their pets "away" once caring for a pet gets too "ma fan" (troublesome).

An abandoned pure breed dog with a massive hernia.An abandoned pure breed dog with a massive hernia.Occasionally owners surrender pets to us due to tragic, unavoidable events in their families such as illness or death. But, the sad reality is that at any time, there is a pet that urgently needs a new home because its owner cannot or, more likely, chooses not to look after it anymore.

The most frequently cited reasons for surrendering pets are:
  • Housing does not permit pets
  • Moving house
  • Leaving Hong Kong
  • No space
  • Too many pets
  • Human pregnancy or newborn baby

The tabs below go into more detail regarding the specific reasons people give up pets to the SPCA.

Surrender process


  • Dog surrender
  • Cat surrender
  • Small Animal Surrender
  • Turtle & Reptile Surrender
1. Housing does not allow

1 in 3 dogs are surrendered at the SPCA because their owners do not seriously think through how their future accommodation restrictions could affect their dog. Some move into housing that after a few years bans dogs in the building, and they are then faced with the dilemma of moving flat or giving up their dog. Sadly, it is usually the dog that loses out.

However, many people are highly irresponsible and decide to get a dog, knowing full well that dogs are not permitted in their building. Once the dog is reported to the housing authorities, the owners must decide what to do - either get rid of their dog or be prepared to move out. In many cases, it is the dog that is "thrown out". When the owner cannot find a home for their dog, their priorities change. Their once "beloved" pets end up at the AFCD, SPCA, other overwhelmed shelters, or worse still, abandoned on the street or in country parks.

Many times an owner "dumping their dog" on a rescue organisation will proudly announce that they are "donating the dog" to the organisation, and cannot understand why the organisation is not appreciative of their generosity!

According to a census survey of dog and cat owners in 2010, almost 10% of Hong Kong's dog owners are living in public rental housing. Another 20% are living in subsidised rental housing. This means that there are currently more than 30,000 dogs at risk of abandonment, surrender or being given away.

2. Moving house or leaving Hong Kong

A dog is a long term commitment and will need your daily attention. So, consider the life span of your pet carefully, as well as your own life plan. If you are likely to move into public housing or other accommodation that does not allow dogs in the future, do think it through responsibly: your dog will not be welcomed in your new residence and you will not be able to keep it. What will you do?

Many pet owners do move with their pets and many pet owners take their dogs along with them when they leave Hong Kong. It can be done but it does take extra effort and money, but it is what your dog deserves as a beloved member of your family.


If you are not prepared to move with a pet or intend to move somewhere that does not allow pets, PLEASE DO NOT GET ONE! 

3. No time

Owners underestimate the needs of a dog, or the time and responsiblity involved in taking good care of their pet. They may no longer want the dog once the novelty has worn off.

Dogs are sometimes surrendered when the family member who originally got the dog leaves and the remaining family members find they cannot cope with its care. Some owners find that other commitments have increased, their priorities change and they can no longer willing to dedicate sufficient time and energy to their pet.

Dogs are social animals, who need plenty of daily care and interaction. When owners no longer dedicate sufficient time and care, a dog's welfare starts to suffer e.g. grooming and baths decrease, walks decrease, dogs may be caged or tied up for long periods of time, signs of illness not noticed etc. This is called neglect and will result in health and behaviour problems for your dog. 

4. Behaviour problems

A commonly sited reason for surrender is that the dog has behavioural issues such as aggression, barking and separation anxiety. When dogs behave badly, it is often because owners have let their pet develop bad habits. Once behaviour problems develop, owners need to recognise the problem and address the root cause. Behaviour problems can be avoided or managed.

If you need advice on your dog's behaviour, please call our Dog Behaviour and Training Hotline:
  2232 5567 or email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

1. Too many

Cat owners become overwhelmed by the offspring of their undesexed or "intact" cats. Unsurprisingly, surrendered cats are often not desexed.

Many surrenders could be avoided if owners desexed their cats.

2. Leaving Hong Kong

The second most common reason for cat surrenders is when owners leave Hong Kong without their cats.

As cats can live up to 20 years, many cats travel with their owners when they move. Taking your cat with you if you leave Hong Kong can be done, but it does take extra effort and money, however it is what your cat deserves as a beloved member of your family.

It is unfair and irresponsible to adopt or buy any pet if you are unwilling to take it with you when you leave Hong Kong.

3. Human pregnancy or newborn

Pregnant SPCA vet nurse Cherry with her cat.Pregnant SPCA vet nurse Cherry with her cat.Families also opt to surrender their cats when there is a pregnancy or newborn, even though many people raise babies, children and their cats together with no problem.

Many expectant mothers worry about the parasite Toxoplasma gondii which can pose a threat to pregnant women. Specifically, infection during pregnancy can cause problems for the baby. If present, the parasite maybe passed on by eggs which are transmitted in cat faeces. However, risk of exposure from cats is in fact far less than that from other sources, such as eating undercooked or raw meat, or handling raw vegetables and not washing your hands well afterwards. Studies have revealed no correlation between cat ownership and infection.

Dozens of our staff have worked with cats or kept cats throughout their pregnancies with
NO problems from Toxoplasma gondii.

During pregnancies, husbands and other family members can help clean out the litter tray.  Having someone else change the litter tray is the best way to avoid exposure to your cat's faeces. Those who do clean out the cat's litter tray should wear gloves and wash their hands thoroughly afterwards. Wash your hands after handling your cat, and try to keep the cat indoors to prevent transmission from other cats.

If you are concerned about Toxoplasma gondii, and if you are pregnant or hoping to get pregnant, you should discuss this with your veterinary surgeon and your doctor.

Sometimes family members maybe concerned that the presence of a pet may trigger health problems in the child. Often this is unfounded.

Recent research suggests that the benefits of growing up with a pet, particularly
before the age of 5, boosts the immune system.

Small Animals: Rabbits, guinea pigs, chinchillas and hamsters

Almost 500 rabbits, guinea pigs, chinchillas and hamsters are surrendered to the SPCA by their owners every year. Hamsters make up more than 50% of this number.

1. Too many

Though guinea pigs, rabbits and chinchillas can be desexed, pet owners who choose not to do so find that they not only will have more animals than they bargained for, but will also have to deal with behaviour issues like mating related aggression, as well as possible health problems of intact or undesexed animals.

Hamsters in particular, are prolific breeders and can have more than 50 babies a year! Hamsters are solitary by nature, so are fine on their own. Keeping more than one hamster can result not just in breeding (even if you get two of the "same" sex - pet shops often sex hamsters wrongly) but also fighting. Hamsters can be extremely aggressive and have been known to kill cage mates.

2. Allergies

An air purifier with a HEPA filter can help protect against allergies.An air purifier with a HEPA filter can help protect against allergies.Allergies is the main reason for surrender of rabbits and guinea pigs. Pet allergies are often triggered by specific proteins in an animal's saliva, skin glands as well as urinary/reproductive tract that are left on their fur during grooming or shed on furnishings. The type of allergen shed can vary from species to species, and the amount that triggers the allergy varies from animal to animal. Thus, some people are allergic to some cats, but not others!

However, don't immediately assume allergic reactions must be due to a pet. Allergies can also be triggered by a multitude of different allergens, including dust mites,  pollen in the environment or other items in your home.

Consult your doctor regarding identifying the particular allergen and explore other management strategies with your doctor and your vet. Some pet owners have managed their allergy using High-efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filters, a pet free room or delegating pet grooming or bathing duties to other non-allergic family members.

3. No time

Many owners cite having no time to care for their small furries.
Almost 20% of rabbit owners and more than 40% of chinchilla owners find the daily care of these animals too much.

Small furries are often considered an "easy" pet for children but the novelty often wears off and the animals are given away.

Remember that rabbits, guinea pigs and chinchillas have relatively long lives. Rabbits and guinea pigs can live up to 10 years and chinchillas, up to 15 years, almost as long as a dog or cat. They need special diets and though they may not need to be walked like dogs, they still require space to run around and exercise. 

Long term suffering: a deformed, malnourished chameleonLong term suffering: a deformed, malnourished chameleonTurtles, snakes and lizards are reptiles and their welfare and health is often compromised as owners lack the knowledge, resources and ability to care for them properly. The poor welfare of such animals is of particular concern as they suffer more acutely in captivity. However, the keeping of exotic reptiles is on the rise.

The bulk of reptiles we receive have been abandoned
  • Released into ponds, in country parks or public gardens and other public areas
  • Abandoned in boxes or cages in public housing estates or rubbish points, even the MTR!
  • Land tortoises have been released into ponds where they drown, as they are not adapted to swimming and too heavy to float.
  • Fresh water turtles have been released into the sea where they dehydrate and die.

Their release into Hong Kong's natural areas threatens Hong Kong's native reptiles with competition for food and habitat, as well as introducing diseases and parasites that native animals may not necessarily face.

More often than not, reptiles that are surrendered or abandoned are in very poor condition and show signs of long term suffering - a direct result of owners' long term neglect or ignorance.

Aside from a lack of knowledge, the same reasons that cats, dogs and small furries are surrendered, also apply to reptiles:

1. No space OR No time

Due to long term incorrect diet, this Red-eared Slider suffered a severely deformed shell.Due to long term incorrect diet, this Red-eared Slider suffered a severely deformed shell.Unlike dogs and cats, reptiles can grow exponentially in size.

Red-eared Sliders may be only 2 inches and weigh less than 50 grams when bought from a pet shop. However, they will grow to a length of 12 inches and weigh up to 2 kilograms.

This means that they quickly outgrow the tiny tanks that pet shops often sell with these turtles.  After paying less than HK$20 for the turtle, owners are unwilling to spend the thousands of dollars necessary to maintain their turtle in a suitably sized tank, with appropriate diet, proper lighting and filtration. Simply put, owners did not research before acquiring the turtle and then do not want to deal with their reptile's growing needs, growing costs and long life span.

2. Moving house or leaving Hong Kong

Again, few people realise how long reptiles live. Reptiles live twice, sometimes three times as long as cats and dogs. Moving house is part and parcel of Hong Kong life but some owners find they do not have the space to accommodate their pet, or simply no longer want the pet in their new home.

Moving country with your reptile is often more complicated than moving with a cat and dog. Special permits may need to be obtained to legally import your pet when you move. Even where possible, other owners find it too much trouble to move with their reptile and give them up instead.