It might seem like Christmas if you find a loveable doggo that seems to have no owner, right? If you love dogs, you might be feeling lucky like you won the lottery. You're thinking about hitting the pet store asap to get all of the food, bedding, and toys your new pooch needs. But, not so fast! Legally, you can't just keep a lost dog in New York. It's not all bad news, but there are steps you need to take before you can just claim the pup as your own fur baby. Here's what New York law says about keeping a lost dog if you find it. According to New York Agriculture and Markets Law, section 363,

The unauthorized possession of a dog or dogs, by any person not the true owner, for a period exceeding ten days, without notifying either the owner, the local police authorities, or the superintendent of the state police at Albany, New York, of such possession, shall be presumptive evidence of larceny.

Photo by Jamie Street on Unsplash
Photo by Jamie Street on Unsplash

So basically, you will need to notify the owner by checking the dog's microchip or reaching out to authorities. If it just so happens that an owner cannot be located or maybe no longer wants their pet, you will likely be clear to add the dog to your family. says,

New York State law does not prohibit finders of dogs to hold them as long as authorities are contacted. If a person believes his/her animal is being wrongfully withheld, such person can contact the police and can commence a civil lawsuit (replevin action) to try to get the animal returned. Proof to the satisfaction of the police or court that such person is the animal’s “owner” will be required (such as veterinary records, microchip, etc.).

You can take the dog to a veterinary clinic to have the microchip scanned.

Photo by Markus Winkler on Unsplash
Photo by Markus Winkler on Unsplash

In 2017, Former Governor Cuomo signed a bill into law requiring shelters and other animal organizations to try to contact the owner of a lost pet within 24-hours. The bill, which modified New York Agriculture and Markets Law section 380*2, requires,

Organizations receiving a rescued, seized, captured or impounded companion animal to examine the animal within 24
hours of intake, unless surrendered by its owner, for any identifying marks, tags, or microchips. Should they discover an animal that is thought to be missing or stolen, the impounding organization should make a reasonable effort to contact the owner.

If you are a pet parent and your dog does happen to run away or get lost one day, just know that legally, there are protections in place to reunite you.

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