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Justice with Jessica: Post-holiday animal abandonment

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Posted at 5:53 AM, Jan 06, 2023
and last updated 2023-01-06 07:53:12-05

Throughout the holiday season, Denver7 has warned about the dangers of giving pets as gifts.

Some shelters are concerned that their overcrowding problems could worsen due to people dropping off pets they received as gifts but never wanted.

There are some cases in which an unwanted present can become a major legal problem.

"We're finding an influx of people coming to our property and abandoning animals out in our fields, leaving them at the front door," said Roni Taylor, founder of LOLA’s Rescue in Aurora.

Taylor said she'll never forget an incident that happened at the shelter in September.

Justice with Jessica: Post-holiday animal abandonment

Someone dropped off two animals — named Mister and Jasmine — outside the shelter's front door in terrible condition. Taylor said their odor was "indescribable."

"It's a very painful, painful situation," she said. "They were matted together so badly that they couldn't walk. One of them couldn't see because the mats were covering his eyes, his nose. He couldn't turn his head because his ears were actually matted to his neck. So it's a pretty severe case of neglect."

The dogs spent months recovering before they were recently adopted.

During the holiday season, animal advocates are increasingly concerned about abandonment and neglect cases as people who receive unwanted animals don't know what to do with them.

"Legally, people are allowed to give away or sell their animals, and that includes making an arrangement to give them to a shelter," said Alexa Carreno, an attorney with Environmental & Animal Defense. "What they usually cannot do is simply drop them off at a public or private shelter without coordinating with shelter staff."

Carreno said failing to coordinate the drop-off with the shelter could lead to legal problems.

"The state statute also considers intentional abandonment a form of cruelty to animals," she said. "Abandonment means that an animal is left without adequate provisions for their proper care, such as being dumped without notice at an animal shelter."

A first offense of animal cruelty, including abandonment or neglect, could be a Class 1 misdemeanor. That could lead to fines of up to $5,000 and up to 24 months behind bars.

LOLA's Rescue said handling the situation responsibly could give the animal a chance at a better life.

"We completely understand that people fall on hard times," Taylor said. "This is what our organization does. We help the community. We help dogs in need. We help people in need."