Law Handles Lost Dogs

Each state has its own laws regarding lost and stolen pets. Though most pet owners consider their pets as beloved family members, the law treats them as personal property. If your dog was taken or missing, you must know the laws in your state. Understanding how the law classifies pets gives you the best chance of finding your lost dog.
  • In most states, pets found wandering without tags or other identification, are seen as abandoned property and become the property of the state.
  • In some states, dogs are seized if they are deemed a public threat, or if they are harassing livestock.
  • If your pet is missing, it is critical that you check with local shelters frequently. Sadly, in many jurisdictions, pets only have to be held a few days before euthanasia. Shelters are crowded and underfunded. Even if you have filed a lost pet report with local shelters, keep going back to check for your pet. There are reports of tragedies when shelters had a flyer of a missing pet. The pet was euthanized anyway because the missing pet report was misfiled or never checked.
  • Though identification tags are an essential tool to see your pet reunited safely, don’t rely on them entirely. States, counties, and cities all have different laws, but not all are required to contact you even if your pet is wearing tags.
  • Since the law treats pets as property, you must be able to establish ownership. Have your pet microchipped and keep the information up to date. Keep your pet current on vaccinations, and make sure identification tags and the collar are in good shape. Inspect them regularly to make sure no snaps or buckles are frayed or loose. Check the tags for legibility and that they are securely attached to the collar.
  • In many states, it is a felony to steal an animal. Know the law in your state before filing a police report. If you have reason to believe someone took your pet, file a police report right away. If an officer is hesitant to make the report, remind them politely that you know the law about stolen animals. Most police officers are kind, but often assume a pet has wandered away. Compile any evidence you have of the theft, such as a cut lock on a fence or security camera footage. Check with your neighbors as well. They may have seen something, or their security systems may have picked up the theft from your yard.

Know the laws surrounding pet ownership in your state and county. Know which dogs are considered aggressive breeds in your state and county. If your dog falls into this category, you must ensure they are kept secure in your home or backyard at all times.

You may know your beloved pet is just a teddy bear at heart, but breed laws allow sweeping judgments. Breed-specific legislation and neighborhood HOA’s may prohibit certain breeds. It is essential to know if your dog is allowed in your community.

The following are some of the breeds most often labeled as aggressive:

  • Any dog labeled or resembling, a pit bull terrier or mix.
  • Rottweilers
  • German Shepherds
  • Wolf-hybrids. Wolf-hybrids are classified as wild animals, and ownership is restricted in many states ad cities.
  • Dobermans
  • Akitas
  • Mastiff/Bull Mastiff
  • Chow Chow

Even if your dog is not on the list of aggressive or dangerous breeds for your geographical area, any frightened dog may act aggressively. Any display of aggression gives police and animal control officers the legal right to take action in the interest of public safety. Owning a dog labeled as an aggressive breed comes with a responsibility to ensure the dog is safely secured on your property.

Breed restrictive legislation may seem grossly unfair to lovers of certain breeds. Opponents make the valid argument that it unfairly targets an entire breed. The argument is that owners should be accountable for a dangerous dog, regardless of breed. All dogs can be aggressive if mistreated, untrained, or trained for fighting. If your dog has aggressive tendencies, work with a skilled trainer to address these traits.

Unfortunately, dogs go missing from even the most diligent owners. Some shelters go so far as to euthanize these breeds immediately upon arrival. In some areas, up to seventy-five percent of shelters euthanize pit bull breeds upon arrival. Lovers of the breed are forming groups to help stop the overbreeding of pit bulls. They are also fighting legislation that discriminates against the breed and educating people about owning a pit bull.

Acting quickly when a pet is missing is the best way to find your lost pet. Quick action is more imperative if you have a dog classified as an aggressive breed.