Owners’ rights when you lose your dog

Nobody wants to think that their pet will ever go missing. As dog owners, we all make a huge effort to ensure that our animals are healthy, happy and safe.

Using Shadow, discipline methods, strong fencing, and by providing a happy home, we hope our pet will remain safe in our care.

Unfortunately, for a wide variety of reasons dogs do go missing. In the time following this happening, the focus is on finding the animal quickly.

Unfortunately, although everyone hopes for a happy ending, there are complications that can make that reunion between you and your pet less than ideal. In some cases, those complications could make that reunion impossible.

The complications we are referencing relate to the laws around pet ownership, which strongly come into play when your dog goes missing.

Understanding the laws and guidelines relating to pets in your state is really handy. It will help you ensure that should your dog go missing, you’ll know what your legal rights are if it is found by authorities, an organization, or an individual.

States do vary with specific laws, but many have universal laws such as the following:

Your Dog Is A Threat

If your dog is seen to be a threat to wildlife, livestock or the public then he can be seized and held as property of the state.

Impounding Comes With A Threat To Your Dogs Life

Sadly, when a dog is pulled in by animal control they have the power to put the animal to sleep after just a few days if he is not claimed. Some laws state that the authority has to give you notice by letter that they have your animal. This lets you know how long you have to collect them.

Holding Your Animal Before You Can Collect Him

Sometimes, even if you have located your dog, you have to wait a certain amount of time before you can collect him. This can vary from a couple of days to much longer, depending on the state law.

Finder Law

If a person finds your dog they may have to care for the pet and try to find you within the first few days of finding the dog. The law can dictate what they have to do when they find your dog, but this differs by state.

Costs To You

In some states, dogs that have not been neutered or spayed require a higher fine than animals who have had the work done.

Hunting Dogs May Be Given Leeway

In some states, a dog that is proven to be a hunting dog might be given leeway. The authorities may accept the animal has wandered away during a hunt, and so maybe more lenient with what they do next.

A Lack Of ID Tag Is A Problem

If your dog does not have an ID tag at the time that he is found, then he could be considered abandoned property. He can then be seized and held by the state who legally have ownership over him at that point.

Your Dog Is Unable To Be Seized

Sadly, if your dog is not able to be seized some states allow federal officers the right to put the animal down on the spot. In certain areas, officers have no choice but to do this as they can be disciplined if they don’t comply.

Being Taken To Court

In some states, you can be taken to court if you lose your dog and the dog then chases a member of the public.


If a person has stolen your pet then they are prosecutable by law because dogs are considered property.

Animal Abuse

Any person who maliciously hurts an animal or steals the animal is prosecutable.

The laws above are guidelines on what is considered to be common law across the US. However, every state has specific laws and guidelines when it comes to a lost dog.

Get to know the laws in your state regarding a lost dog so that you understand your rights should your pet go missing.