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Border Collie Rescue - On Line - Found Dogs

What to do if you find a dog

What you should to do if you see or find a stray or lost dog in England or Wales.

First you should be aware that if you see a stray dog you are not under any obligation to catch it and hold it.

You should report it to your local Dog Warden department through the Council and leave it in their hands to deal with it.
Give them details of when and where you saw the dog and a description if possible.
Dealing with stray dogs is part of their job. If they fail to act on your report you can report them to the Council.

If you do catch and hold onto the dog it is imperative that you contact your local council Dog Warden department and notify them that you have found the dog at the earliest opportunity, unless you recognise the dog and know its owner, in which case simply return the dog to them or if you have seen the dog, but not caught it, tell them where it was.
If you do not know dog and owner you must notify the Dog wardens and they will arrange to have the dog collected from you and taken into their care. You must notify the Dog Warden, this is the law.
It is their legal duty to deal with stray dogs.

You could also notify the police in case the dogs owner reports it as lost or stolen.
If it is outside office hours and the Dog Warden is not available, we would advise you to notify the Police for your own protection and to give the dogs owner an opportunity to be re-united with the dog.

You should notify the Dog Warden at the first opportunity.
Local authorities are required to provide a reception point out of hours if the offices are shut and the Dog Warden off duty.
The reception point should be available 24 hours a day and it's contact details should be published on the council website.
The Police should also be able to give you a number to call. This is where you can hand in a stray dog you have found.
The reception point may be a local boarding kennel and you will have to transport the dog there yourself, although, providing you call the reception point to report the dog as 'found' you may have the option of keeping it until the next working day when the Dog Warden comes back on duty and is able to collect it.

The Police are no longer obliged to take in and hold stray dogs so do not expect them to do so. They can only advise.

If you find an injured dog or one that is inapproachable, frightened or aggressive and the Dog Warden is not available, contact the RSPCA, who MAY agree to help.
They are not obliged to do so - even if the dog is injured.

Bear in mind that if you do lay hands on a stray dog the law will then consider you to be responsible for the dog until you can pass it over to the Dog Warden. This can lead to complications as you will be fully responsible for the needs of the dog, including housing it, feeding it and paying for any veterinary requirements and failure on your part to do so would be a breach of the Animal Welfare Act.
More complications and potential liabilities arise from the fact that the dog is not your property and as a consequence you should not do anything without its owners consent, but if you only do what is neccesary for the welfare and care of the dog the law will be on your side if a dispute should arise.

Once the Dog Warden has collected the dog, your part in the matter is over.
You have done the right thing and acted responsibly and do not need to do any more - but many people do wish to stay involved.
You may wish to register an interest in the dog and take it back after 7 days in the pound if the owner does not turn up.
If you choose to do this, after a week in the pound when the dog becomes the property of the local authority (by statute) and the orginal owner loses all right of ownership, the pound may agree to you taking on the dog and it will then become your property
If you do wish to take this path, mention it to the Dog Warden when they collect the dog and they will advise you of the process.
You may have to pay a fee so it maybe best to enquire what it may be before making a commitment.

You may wish to keep the dog in your care under the 28 day rule and save it from going into the pound. In this case discuss this option with the Dog Warden when you report the dog as found.
There is a legally defined process for keeping a dog under the 28 day rule and it does have ramifications for both you and the dog - there is more about this option below.
Important - if considering taking this option also see paragraph 5 of the section on the Law. There is a link to that section in the sliding menu on the left.

Once the Dog Warden has been informed and whatever option you have taken, you may want to assist in trying to help the dog get back to its original owner.
If this is the case ask the Dog Warden and only get involved with the Dog Warden's permission.
You can let local Vets, Pet shops and Animal rescue organisations to let them know that the dog has been found.
One of their clients may have lost the dog and contact them for assistance.
Contact organisations that are dedicated to advertising and finding lost dogs or those who run Internet website for the same purpose.
There are some links at the bottom of this page to get you started.
If it is a Border Collie, you can contact us. We may be able to put the dog on our website and on our social media pages.

You can put up posters with a photo and the dog's description and details of where and when it was found but do not give your own details as a contact point, even if you do have the dog in your care.
Give the Dog Wardens details as the people for the owner to contact.
It is their job to verify that the claimant is truly the dogs owner and it will save you getting into arguments about giving the dog over to anyone who comes forward and attempts to claim it. The claimant may not be the dogs true owner. Let the dog warden take that responsibility.

If you are keeping the dog under the 28 day rule you are not legally allowed to part with it to anyone, even the dogs proven owner, without the Dog Warden giving your permission, so to save getting into potential disputes do not give your details to anyone - only the Dog Warden

Unfortunately, these days, there are people who may wish to get a free dog for a variety of reasons, some of which may lead to a dogs death in terrible circumstances. If you find a stray dog, do not part with it to anyone unless you know who the owner is, in which case simply get it back to them at the first opportunity. The dog wardens and council do not need to be involved.

Remember, if you find a stray and don't give it back to its legal owner or report it to the Dog Warden, it is a criminal offence.

Further information for people keeping a dog under the 28 day rule

(For more detailed information on the Law, use the appropriate link in the left hand column.)

The definition of a stray dog is a dog unsupervised in a public place regardless of whether it is wearing a collar and tag.

As outlined above, to comply with legalities, the dog must be registered with the dog wardens - either handed in for 7 days in the pound or registered as found and left with you, as finder, for one month (minimum 28 days) as the law requires.
In any event it must be registered as a found stray with the local authority, usually through the dog warden service.

If you elect to keep a dog under the 28 day rule your local authority is obliged to issue a notice under section 4 of The Environmental Protection (Stray Dogs) Regulations 1992 and for the purposes of section 150(2) (a) of the Environmental Protection Act 1990.
If the dog has not been seized and taken into the council pound they are not obliged to enter it on their stray dog register, however the dog must be recorded by their office in "a permanent form suitable for reference purposes", as a found stray in the care of the finder, from the date on which it was found.
This record must specifically include a brief description of the dog, any information on a collar or tag attached to the dog, the date, time and place when and where the dog was found and the name and address of the finder.
They must visit and inspect the property where the dog is to be kept and be satisfied it needs no veterinary attention.
They must ensure that you are a suitable person to keep hold of the dog and be satisfied that you can provide for its needs.

The written notice they issue to you must state the date the dog was recorded by them or as a found stray. It must also state that you are obliged to keep hold of the dog for one month from the date it was registered and that to part with the dog before the month has elapsed, other than to its legal owner, would be a criminal offence.
The notice should also contain a file reference or case reference number specific to that dog.

You may find that some dog 'contract' wardens are not aware of the law and also that some would rather not take the trouble to comply. Oblige them to. If it goes pear shaped for any reason it would be you that would be stuck with the consequences.

If proper registration has not occurred any attempt to 'advertise' the dog may be construed as an attempt to deprive its original owner of ownership. During the period of 28 day rule, passing the dog on to a third party without authorisation would also be an offence.
Either action may lead to you being prosecuted under criminal law or sued under civil laws by the original owner - or both.

If someone comes to you and claims ownership of the dog you should refer them to the dog warden. Only if authorised and requested by the dog warden should you to pass the dog onto anyone. Get confirmation in writing from the dog warden before passing on the dog
Do not part with the dog to anyone before the 28 days is up, other than under these circumstances.
If the person claiming the dog does not turn out to be the legal owner and the legal owner comes along later, someone may be in serious trouble so make sure it's not you by covering all eventualities.
It is the dog wardens responsibility to ensure the dog is only released to its legal owner - let them make the decision and take any consequences.

Dogs are property.
Their value is therefore initially measured in terms of money. Bear in mind that if it is a working dog it's value may be small (if it is a typical unregistered and untrained farm 'cur') however if from a registered bloodline, worth a whole lot more and if a part trained sheepdog could be worth a considerable sum to its owner.
A fully trained and ISDS registered sheepdog from a good bloodline could be worth several thousand pounds.
Appearances can be deceptive.

While you keep the dog during the 28 days you must do so at your own expense and will be legally responsible for its care and welfare under the 2006 Animal Welfare Act as 'keeper'. You will have no rights to have any outlay refunded.
If the owner comes forward and you pass the dog back they have no legal obligation to cover any of your costs under the 28 day rule, nor will the council. The dogs owner may be asked to pay the council a release fee.

At the end of the 28 days you may apply to the local authority for a letter releasing you from the obligation to keep the dog and at that point, should you wish, you may pass the dog on to anyone or return it to someone claiming to be its owner without risking criminal charges as you would have discharged your obligation under law.
However, under the 28 day rule, legal ownership of the dog is not transferred to you or anyone else (as it would be had the dog spent 7 days in the pound) and the dog will always remain the property of its original owner.
Should that owner come forward (at any time in the future) and claim the dog, the law states that it must be returned if the claim is verified
Failure to do so may invoke civil and criminal charges and claims for compensation.

If the dog has been microchipped by you (or another person you passed the dog on to) the original owner may claim compensation for damages or interference or loss of value.
If you have passed the dog on to anyone else, or to a rescue, you will be obliged to pass on that information to the claimant so keep a record of anyone you give the dog to, verifying identity and address by view of driving license and council tax details so you have this information to hand if required.
Keeping a dog under the 28 day rule is a minefield of legal complications and uncertainty.

We always advise people to let the dog go to the pound and spend its 7 days.
At the end of that period the law states that ownership is vested in the local authority by statute and the original owner looses all rights if they have not claimed the dog in that time. Legal ownership can only be transferred by this statutory process.
The local authority become the legal owner of the dog and can legally pass the dog on to someone else, giving them legal ownership.

You, as finder, can hand the dog over to the dog warden and offer it a home at the end of the 7 days.
If they agree, you will be its legal owner, can pass it on to a rescue or new home and the original owner cannot do anything to prevent this.
Because the dog had been 'seized and impounded' according to law they will have lost all rights of ownership..
Under the 28 day rule they will always be the legal owner and will always retain all and full rights.

Placing 'Found' dogs on our website and on our social media platforms

To comply with the law, we can only place a dog on our website or promote it via social media as a 'found' stray, once it has been handed to the dog wardens. If the dog is with the finder under the 28 day rule we need to verify this with the dog warden.
When this has been done, please provide us with contact information for the local authority and the stray register reference number, along with a detailed description of the dog and full details of the location, date and time it was found.
Preferably include a photo (but not required).
We cannot publish the finders contact details, only the pound where the dog is held or the dog warden service responsible for the dog.
If you do not feel the dog has been properly and lawfully registered or if the council dog warden service have not followed the procedures outlined on these pages, we would strongly advise you to get the situation rectified before advertising the dog anywhere.


Lost or Found Dogs is a national website where you can register lost or found dogs from anywhere in the UK
Animal Search UK - an organisation dedicated to helping owners find lost dogs.
Battersea Dogs Home lost and found - If you have lost or found a dog in London or within the M25 boundary.
Alfie's Lost Dogs - a free resource for people to list lost and found dogs from anywhere in the UK.
National Pet Register  - for all of the UK
Us - BCR - Social media, website and register in case someone contacts us about a lost or found Border Collie.

If in Scotland - Lost Dogs Scotland is an additional resource to the above

If you think your dog has been stolen
Read this page, notify the Police, and use the link on the left to find out more.