From the Forum – How long is too long to leave a dog alone?

Photo by PoPville flickr user Mr.TinDC

How long is too long to leave a dog alone?

“We have a tenant who regularly leaves her dog alone for very long stretches- regularly 12-16 hours but a few 24+ hour times. I love animals and do not have a dog myself because I know I am not home enough to give a dog the care it needs. I feel awful knowing there is a dog next door who is alone that much. I am trying to to determine if I am being overly concerned/nosy or if this is something that needs intervention. I read the DC regs on animal neglect and there are no clear definition around leaving an animal unattended. But it seems if he has access to food and water and is inside out of the elements, it’s not technically neglect. I have offered several times to let him out or bring him to my place when she is not home, but she has never accepted. So then I am just the nosy landlord, or is there something more I should/could be doing?”

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43 Comment

  • epric002

    that depends on the dog and whether it has access to food/water/a place to potty. could it be trained to use pee pads in the house? the answer as to what to do though is to call the WHS/animal control if you’re concerned about neglect/abuse. their number is (202) 723-5730

  • Even if the dog has food and water, it’s going to need a place to urinate and defecate. But it’s also going to be severely lacking in mental and physical stimulation. That dog is going to develop issues just sitting alone at home all day.

  • If the dog looks like it’s well fed and medically cared for, I’d keep out of it.
    That said, as the landlord I think it’s ok to inquire about where the dog goes potty when the owner is away. If the dog is regularly pooping or peeing on the floor, that can cause serious damage.
    If it’s really distressing for you, consider not renewing this person as a tenant. They don’t sound like the most responsible individual.

    • In the original Forum post at , the landlord posted a reply saying: “We are sure that he is not being let out by anyone because we see the alarm system log, and no one is entering/exiting. I also know that he is pooping and peeing on the floor because we had to access the unit once for maintenance. It makes me so sad for him and mad at her…”
      Poor pooch. 🙁

      • epric002

        ok, with that extra info i would most definitely call WHS and report it- that is neglect. i’d also not rent to her again since she is letting her dog relieve himself all over the place.

        • epric002

          also- do you know where they got the dog from? a lot of rescues/shelters would want to know if that was happening to their dog and might get involved to try and resolve the situation.

      • This might be the most important detail. It’s one thing to hire a dog walker and simply not see the dog yourself. It’s another thing to leave the dog literally alone to the point where it makes on the floor. Like, no one wants to poop on their own floor. Most animals don’t like pooping where they sleep.

  • I feel like people may have strong opinions on this one.

  • Dogs are pack animals- they need company. What that person is likely doing is just serving her own needs (“I want a dog no matter what because I want one”). This individual is not thinking about or caring about the dog’s actual quality of life. I second calling the Humane Society with the idea of talking, not reporting. Perhaps they could give you some advice. Thanks for being proactive and taking an interest in the poor fellow. There may not be much you can do, but you’re doing the right thing by asking questions and offering to help the person.

    • epric002

      and even in they come out to investigate- that’s not the end of the world. they won’t take an animal from someone without a legitimate cause. they will probably talk to the owner about the situation and make some suggestions/give them some advice.

  • Report her to the WHS. This is cruel.

  • I would talk to her and let her know your concerns. Leaving a dog alone that long is inhumane….

  • anonymouse_dianne

    I would talk to the tenant and suggest that she hire a mid-day dog walker. Zoolatry is excellent; security conscious and reliable. You could even volunteer to cut her rent to make it more affordable. It’d be worth not to have to worry about p and p.

  • We have two dogs and leave them inside the house with all the necessary items: food, bed, toys, etc…. for eight to nine hours while we go to work.

    We watch them often with inside Cameras and they are over being alone in about 4 hours… even with companionship. After four hours that they are pacing and barking at every sounds they hear. Clearly agitated and not happy.

    Tied up like the dog in the picture…. Never leave them alone like that! Period! I agree with ANON on that – 30 seconds is too long.

  • Since you commented in the original posting that you know for a fact nobody else is coming in to walk or visit with the dog from the alarm logs, and you also know the dog is going to the bathroom in the unit on the floor, I think you should contact the Humane Society TODAY and let them know what is going on. Then notify your tenant using whatever method is approved in your lease with however much time is required in the lease that you will be accessing the apartment as soon as possible for maintenance. Find *something* you can do in there, even if it is just changing out the batteries in the smoke alarms. Then let Washington Humane know the date and time you will be accessing the unit, so that if they want to see the dog, they know when they can get in.
    Every dog owner will have those days where they get stuck in traffic or get stuck at work and the pup is alone for 12+ hours. That’s just reality, and it’s going to happen 10-15 times over the 10-15 year lifespan of most dogs. Now, most of us plan ahead for those occasions and we’ve left keys with a neighbor who we can call and ask if they can take the dog out. But if this is a regular occurrence, and it sounds like it is, and the tenant is refusing to accept help that’s been offered, it’s just pure neglect, 100%.
    The tenant may be mad at you over this, but that’s tough sh t for the tenant. The dog will be forever grateful that it ends up in a loving home with humans who can and will properly care for him or her. Never, ever, let fear of someone being upset with you stop you from doing the right thing.
    Remember, all that is necessary for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing…

  • It would be one thing if you were the neighbor, but you’re not. You’re the landlord. Your relationship with the tenant should be governed exclusively by the lease, which I’m guessing is silent as to this issue. Candidly, as a landlord, I would not risk the fallout, as it easily could turn on you quickly, and other than the dog being alone, I’m not sure you articulate any other cause to be concerned about its welfare. As others have mentioned, food, water, and potty pads could be plenty for this particular animal. The only hook you might have is if you somehow created a documented record of the dog pooping on the floor, which seems like a possibility here. Then it might fit into some health, sanitation, and hygeine clause in the lease. But I’m guessing you’d have to engage in a fair amount of sleuthing just to get that evidence, and it wouldn’t wind up a confrontation to which you would come with clean hands, as spying on your tenants ain’t cool. But I’m sympathetic as a dog-owner. Your heart’s in the right place. Just make sure it checks in with your head before doing anything rash.

    • I have spent a lot of time over the years at Landlord Tenant court and have heard a lot of the cases presented there. I have never once seen a landlord punished for involving the appropriate authorities over suspected domestic, child, or animal abuse. Not one single time. It’s your obligation as a human being to intervene when you think something is wrong, and no judge would EVER hold that against you. If you want, publish the address and I’ll call the humane society myself.

      • +1 – I am happy to call too if no one else will.

      • There’s no indication of suspected animal abuse beyond leaving the dog at home in OP’s post. It’s not an emaciated, underfed dog, or one that shows clear signs of physical abuse. I’m no animal law expert, but I take to be true the post’s indication that unattended/at-home animals aren’t subject to a clear regulation. So what we have here is a dog left alone at home, albeit for extended periods of time, by an owner who at a minimum could do much better by his furry friend. But since most dog owners leave their dogs at home alone for hours (my pooch happily naps all day, whether I’m there or not), it’s a matter of degree, and I don’t see the clear-cut case for abuse here. I would be very cautious about calling authorities on one of my tenants on that basis.

        I would add that, if I were to follow my “obligation as a human being to intervene when [I] think something is wrong,” I’d start day-long calls to Family/Children services and MPD, among other agencies, before I got three blocks from my house most days. The law — and in this case, the lease — are what matter here. Not my elevated sense of how others might do things better.

        • epric002

          the WHS investigates cases of neglect as well, which this sounds like it very well could be.

          • Unfortunately, I think they have pretty generous standards for “neglect.” Maybe the OP’s best bet is to call WHS and ask if the dog being cooped up inside for x hours constitutes neglect. If WHS says it doesn’t, then the OP can decide whether to confront the tenant about it head-on or whether to address it strictly as a matter of damage to the unit (pee, poop).
            No idea if the tenant is at all difficult, passive-aggressive, or vengeful, but something tells me that if WHS comes to investigate and the tenant knows that the OP is the one who reported her, that could strain their relationship.

  • OK, I’ll be devil’s advocate here. I am a dog owner. I have a ten year old dog that, through many years of experience and working with him – with longer and shorter hours – is perfectly content to be at home for 12+ hours. I come home, he’s there – just as excited to see me as he is when I go to the store for fifteen minutes – he doesn’t run for the door to pee (has never had an accident)…so while I completely support your concern for the welfare of an animal, you have no idea what the animal or owner’s story is. Do you hear the dog crying/barking incessently? Scratching at the door? Those would be obvious sounds of distress, and maybe worth investigating further…

    • How many UTIs has he had? Even if your dog mysteriously does not act like a pack animal (I’m doubtful that he is perfectly happy with long periods of alone time), that doesn’t mean most dogs are not in need of more companionship than a few hours a day after you’ve been out and about for 12 hours. It probably means you have a dog that deviates from the norm- he isn’t the rule.

      • He’s never had a UTI, and yes…I’m sure he isn’t the norm. He gets plenty of exercise twice a day, before and after any long days especially – the point being, I wouldn’t want someone making judgments with out knowingme, my dog, or the rhythm of our life.

        But in the case of this post, it seems like a valid case to at least investigate what is going on.

      • Most dogs in this city happily spend 10 hrs a day napping on couches, arm chairs and cool tile floors. And no they don’t get UTIs, bark insesantly or destroy the house. The length of time in the original post seems a little excessive. But it is outrageous to suggest that dogs can’t be left alone for 8-10 hrs routinely. Though in the rest of the time they need both mental and physical stimulation. Walks, dog parks, take them along when you go out to dinner or run errands.

  • Yeah, it doesn’t seem like you have taken the basic, obvious step of actually talking to the tenant. So that is something you could, and should considering doing. Maybe the dog is tired and sleeps most of the time. Maybe the dog has a lot of toys to play with. Maybe a dogwalker or sitter comes when you are not home. However, the general rule is not to leave a dog home alone for more than 8 hours or so. If the dog is whining or barking or making other noises like scratching at the window sills or doors, that could be a sign of anxiety or distress. If you have a gut feeling that the dog is being neglected, do the right thing and talk to the tenant first. If the tenant is being uncooperative, aggressive or there is obviously something wrong, consider calling animal control.

    • The OP _has_ talked to the tenant, at least somewhat: “I have offered several times to let him out or bring him to my place when she is not home, but she has never accepted.”
      The OP also said the following in a follow-up to the original Forum post: “We are sure that he is not being let out by anyone because we see the alarm system log, and no one is entering/exiting. I also know that he is pooping and peeing on the floor because we had to access the unit once for maintenance. It makes me so sad for him and mad at her…”

      • There is a difference between talking to the tenant about whether the pet is being neglected, and offering to take care of him. I don’t know the OP but I’m going out a limb here to say that he or she is probably not the most confrontational person around. Obviously if the dog is pooping or peeing on the floor then that could be one reason to call animal control, and could also pose a health risk. I’m kind of surprised the landlord has not yet tried to evict the tenant, but then again, maybe it’s not that surprising if the landlord is not very confrontational.

  • It sounds based on the information in your post that the owner is regularly being negligent. Also, if it were a one off thing, it seems doubtful you’d even notice it. I would simply go and speak to the tenant and tell them about your concerns for the length of time he is left unattended and his urination/defecation in the unit. Ask for a commitment to hire a dog walker/neighbor/friend at more regular intervals and say the consequence of non-compliance is a consultation from WHS, the termination of the lease, and/or both. You can rightfully say you’re concerned about the dog’s welfare and the condition of your home, and in order to remain a tenant in good standing, he needs to take corrective action immediately.

  • I would for this tenant focus on the damage caused by a pet peeing/pooping on the floor and indicate that this will become an issue for the return of the security deposit. If they put down pee pads, the humane society probably won’t do much about it, so that’s the best you can hope for.

    In the future (for new tenant, or if tenant wants to sign a new lease after this term expires rather than going month to month), you could write something into the lease to prohibit this, so you could move to evict if it happens again.

  • Am I the only one weirded out by the idea of a landlord checking the entrance/exit logs on their tenant’s apartment? I sure hope the lease makes it clear to the tenant that their movement is being tracked and they have no expectation of privacy.

    • Quite possibly the OP looked at the logs AFTER he/she saw dog poop/pee on the floor and was trying to figure out what the deal was, whether there was a dog-walker, etc.
      I don’t think checking the alarm logs is tantamount to putting an ankle monitor on the tenant.

    • I don’t think having a log of when the tenant enters or exits the unit is an invasion of privacy. It would be the ethical thing to let the tenant know that the landlord has a log, but legally I would be surprised if there were a requirement to disclose.

  • Is there a possibility that they have a dog walker come during the day?

  • The time to confront the tenant about this would have been when you were in the unit and saw the mess on the floor. Then you could have told them to stop letting that happen or else they’re going to forfeit their deposit.

    Now as for whether or not to call WHS, if you invented a reason to go in again and scope out the situation, that should give you the info you need to decide whether or not to call it in. I wouldn’t call unless the dog looks sickly, distressed (including making distress noises when the owner’s not home), acts vicious, or you find some other visible evidence that the dog is being mistreated or neglected. Anything outside of that is not your business.

  • Random -I am 99% sure that is a cattle dog in the photo but I have never seen a mostly white one like that- anyone know for sure?

  • any amount of time is asking for your dog to disapper.

    if you love your dog, don’t leave him/her unattended.

    • ok – thought we were talking about outside. as the question is inside, it depends on the dog. I try to let my dog out at a max every 8 hours, but sometimes it might be 12. he is paper trained and has a place to relieve himself inside the house (and has been trained since I got him at 8 weeks). 12 hours seems ok if the dog is able to be comfortable. more than that on a regular basis seems a bit neglectful.

      on that note, time for a Saturday morning walk..

  • I don’t agree with the practice at all but where I grew up in the country, this is not an uncommon practice. Dogs there just aren’t pampered as much and are seen more as work animals (herding, hunting) rather than a buddy. It is not uncommon to see a dog in a pen, alone, 24 hours a day. Again, I never agreed with this behavior but maybe this has something to do with where the owner came from, where this isn’t frowned upon much.

    • This is an indoor dog, not an outdoor dog that has an opportunity to relieve itself.
      It sounds like this dog is NOT paper trained and is stuck trying to “hold,” but then has accidents on the floor because its human hasn’t come back to let it out.

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