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Quick jumps to  - If a dog is lost - If a dog is Found - The Law - Links.


Every year in the UK, thousands of dogs are lost, stray or are stolen.
Many strays are picked up and will end up in a local dog pound  where they will stay for a period of time before being re-homed or PTS.
Owners have a limited amount of time to re-claim their dog from a pound before they loose their right of ownership.
It is important to act quickly if your dog disappears and inform the appropriate authorities.
If your dog is found and you have already registered its loss, you may save it from being placed in a pound and also save yourself a fee getting the dog returned to you.
By law every dog has to wear a collar with the owners name, address and telephone number on a tag attached to it at all times.
This simple precaution may speed up the dogs safe return to you.
Microchipping or Tattooing your dog is another form or safeguarding it against loss and is particularly effective if a dog is stolen or strays outside of your local Dog Warden's area.
There are National registers of all microchipped. and tattooed dogs to which finders can refer to help get your dog back to you.
These forms of marking are difficult to spot and obliterate and can greatly increase your chances of getting the dog back if it has been stolen.
Many people who lose their dog are, naturally, very upset and interviews indicate that these feelings are made worse by a burden of guilt if they feel that they could have done more in retrospect.
Don't wait until it happens to you - get your dog microchipped. As soon as possible.

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

Animal Welfare officers will endeavor to return a dog to its owner if it has been caught straying for the first time (if contact can be made with the owners in time). In the majority of cases stray dogs will be transported to an approved holding kennels where they are kept by law for seven days, enabling the owner to claim the dog. The dog will only be released upon payment of a fine and any other costs incurred during its detention. All stray dogs are scanned to see if they have been implanted with a microchip.

After seven days the dog is legally no longer the property of its owner and is able to be re-homed.

The Environmental Protection Act 1990 section 150 requires the finder of a stray dog to:

  • Return the dog to its owner; or
  • Contact the Local Authority for the area in which the dog was found;

If the finder fails to take one of these courses of action, he will have committed an offence and would be liable, upon conviction, to a fine.

If the finder requests to keep the dog, he must supply the officer with his contact details and details of the dog. The officer is required to keep a record of these details.

Regulations require that the Animal Welfare Officer makes appropriate enquiries to ascertain that the finder is a suitable person to keep the dog.

The finder must then be informed verbally and in writing that he is obliged to keep the dog (if unclaimed by the owner) for not less than one month and failure to comply with that obligation is an offence. The finder has an obligation to keep the dog in good condition whilst in his care which includes any emergency veterinary treatment.

The above - Courtesy of Coventry City Council



What to do if you have lost your dog.
First - Contact your local authority Dog Warden, give them a description and inform them of the full details of the loss so that they can let you know if the dog is found. If you suspect the dog may have been stolen, make a full report to the Police and get an incident reference number to identify your case.
Second - Contact the Dog Wardens services in neighbouring areas and advise them of the incident, providing a full description of the dog. Sometimes there is poor communication between adjoining areas with different Dog Wardens services operating in different areas, so it is wise to inform as many as possible in your vicinity, in case your dog has strayed or been handed into a neighbouring Dog Wardens area.
Third - Let local Vets, Pet shops and Animal rescue organisations know. One of their clients may find your dog and contact them for assistance or advice.
Fourth - Compile a poster and put copies up in the surrounding area in shops, on notice boards, but bear in mind that fly posters - even in a good cause - are still illegal, so get permission before putting them up.
Fifth - Contact organisation that are dedicated to advertising and finding lost dogs or those who run Internet website pages for the same purpose. There are some links below to get you started. If it is a BC, you can contact BCR and we may be able to put the dog on the lost and found section of our website.
As a precaution -  keep some recent photo's of your dog handy. Face view and side view at least. Update them as necessary. Make sure you have a note of any distinguishing or unique features or markings on our dog. Make notes of time, place and other details as soon as you notice the dog has gone.
Be aware - dogs that go missing are often stolen. Sometimes to order by organised gangs - sometimes just because there is an opportunity - even by people that find them straying. Make sure your dog is wearing a collar with an ID disc - as the law requires. Don't put your dogs name on the tag - it may help people who find the dog to be able to claim that it is their dog or fool your dog into thinking that a thief is a friend and should be obeyed.
For extra insurance have your dog micro-chipped. This is the method BCR recommends.


What to do if you have found a stray or lost dog in England or Wales.
It is imperative that you contact your local council Dog Warden department and notify them that you have found the dog. 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 job to deal with stray dogs.
You may also wish to notify the police. 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 then 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. This is where you can hand in a stray dog you have found. The Police may be able to give you a number to call.
The Police are no longer obliged to take in and hold stray dogs so do not expect them to do so, however you can ask.
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 may then consider you to be responsible for the dog until you can pass it over to the Dog Warden.
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 this is the case, 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.
You may wish to keep the dog in your care under the 28 day rule and save it from going into the pound. In which case discuss this option with the Dog Warden when you report the dog as found. Important - See paragraph 5 of the section on the Law, below.
Once the Dog Warden has been informed and whatever option you have taken, you may want to assist in helping the dog get back to its original owner. If this is the case and 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 organisation that are dedicated to advertising and finding lost dogs or those who run Internet website for the same purpose. There are some links below to get you started. If it is a BC, you can contact BCR and we may be able to put the dog on the lost and found section of our website.
Further information for people keeping a dog under the 28 day rule
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 have elected to keep the dog under the 28 day rule, the local authorities are obliged to issue you with 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 also visit and inspect the place where the dog is to be kept and check the dog. They must also ensure that you are a suitable person to keep hold of the dog and be satisfied that you are able to provide for its needs.
The notice they issue to you must state the date the dog was registered by them as a found stray and also 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 wardens are not aware of the law and also that some would rather not bother to comply with it - however if it goes pear shaped for any reason it would most likely be you that took 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 or to breach the 28 day rule by passing the dog on to a third party, which could lead to you being prosecuted under criminal laws or sued under civil laws by the original owner.
If someone comes forward and claims ownership you should refer them through the dog warden and if requested by the dog warden to pass the dog onto them, ask for confirmation in writing before doing so. 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. 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 as little as 30 (if it is a typical unregistered and untrained farm 'cur') however if from a registered bloodline, worth a whole lot more and if part trained 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'. If the owner comes forward and you pass the dog back they have no legal obligation to refund any of your costs under the 28 day rule.
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 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 (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. 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. Its a minefield.
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.
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 - they have no rights.
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

To comply with the law, we can only place a dog on our website as a 'found' stray, once it is registered with the dog wardens.

If this has occurred, please provide contact information for the local authority and the case reference number, along with a description of the dog and full details of the location, date and time it was found. Preferably include a photo (but not required).
If you do not feel the dog is properly registered or if you have not been issued with a notice by the council, we would advise you to get this sorted out as soon as possible before advertising the dog anywhere.



The law, the stray dog, its owner and finder.
Local Authorities (Councils), have a duty to appoint a dog warden who's job it is to seize and control stray dogs within its jurisdiction. Authority is given under two acts of parliament - the Environmental Protection act of 1990 (sections 149/150/151) and - the Environmental Protection (Stray Dogs) Regulations 1992
The law states that a dog is the property of its human owner. If you keep a stray dog and do nothing, it may be regarded that you are deliberately trying to deprive that owner of their property - stealing by finding. If found out, you may be prosecuted and the dogs original owner may also be able to sue you for compensation.. By law the local authority should be informed through their Dog Warden Service which usually works through the Local Council Environmental Health Department.
It is only after a period of time - defined by law - that a dog, if unclaimed, ceases to be the property of the original owner and becomes the property of the local authority who can then deal with the dog as though it were their own.
If the dog goes to the local 'dog pound', it is kept for 7 days and then becomes the property of the council. If the owners turn up during this time they can reclaim the dog and pay a release fee. If they turn up after 7 days they may have lost their legal right to the ownership of the dog, but if the dog has not been re-homed or PTS they may still be able to get the dog back.
After 7 days in the 'dog pound' the dog is usually passed on to the ownership of the people who run the pound who will then seek to find a new home for it. Sometimes the dog is passed on to a local animal rescue group for re-homing. Sometimes a local animal rescue group is already the official licensed 'dog pound'. In a very few areas, dogs are still destroyed after 7 days - but this is rare.
If the dog stays with the finder it has to be kept for at least 28 days. If during this time, the owners turn up they can claim the dog back. They may or may not have to pay a release fee or fine to the council, but you will not be legally entitled to demand any payment towards food, keep or veterinary costs you may have incurred and you will have to give them the dog back. If they do not turn up within 28 days, the Dog Wardens will allow you to keep the dog but under this system it will not become your property. If the original owners turn up after this time you may be be obliged to pass the dog back to them and they may take legal action to force you, and seek compensation, if you refuse .
The only persons legally entitled to hold a stray dog are the appointed and licensed 'dog pound' or a person appointed by the Dog Warden to be the legally defined 'finder'. You will not be able to pass a stray on to an animal rescue organisation and they will not legally be able to take it from you without the prior agreement and authorisation of the Dog Warden who are unlikely to be able to give consent as their local authority will be contracted to a particular kennels as their licensed 'pound'. If a rescue organisation is not a licensed dog pound they should not take the dog from you. If they do, they may be breaking the law.
If you do not notify the Dog Warden that you have found a stray within a certain period of time - usually 48 hrs - the Dog Warden may refuse to take the dog into their care. You will not be able to pass the dog onto an animal rescue organisation because you are not the legal owner of the dog and rescue groups are only allowed to take in dogs from their legal owners who sign ownership over to them. You will be legally responsible for the care of the dog and will not be able to abandon the dog, as this is an offence. You, and the dog, may find yourself in a legal limbo situation, where, by law, you cannot part with the dog and are responsible for its care and welfare and, by law, if the dogs original owner makes a claim with proof of ownership, you are obliged to return the dog to them.
If the dog turns out to be unfriendly , unsuitable or inconvenient, you may find that you are stuck with it because you have not followed the legal process. it is therefore best to notify the appropriate authorities as soon as you have found a stray dog and follow the advice of your Local Authority Dog Warden or appointed Animal Welfare Officer..
Local Authority Dog Holding kennels (Dog Pounds)
These facilities exist for the accommodation of stray dogs. They are often private boarding kennels that have a section for council strays. Because each local authority has some flexibility on how they hold strays and set their own budget for the administration and care of stray dogs, and because each authority may have different demands on their service and available budget, these facilities often vary greatly.
If you have any concerns about handing a stray dog you have found over to your local authority, perhaps due to stories or rumours you may have heard about dog pounds, you can check for yourself. If you feel improvements are called for you should contact your local authority about your misgivings and suggest they take action. Perhaps you may like to contribute to improvement of facilities yourself.
Dogs do not see things in the same way that humans do and your values may not reflect those of a dog, so don't judge too harshly
Whatever your personal feelings about your local pound, you need to remember that it is a legal requirement to notify your local Dog Warden if you have found a stray and it is in the best interest of a stray dog if it goes though the system and then gets offered for re-homing. If concerned you may take on the dog yourself at the end of the 7 days and then keep it or seek to re-home it through a rescue.
These days, very few pounds practice an automatic PTS policy after 7 days and most will seek to pass on strays to a rescue group or re-home them directly, once the 7 days is up. Some pounds are rescue groups and some are council owned and run facilities that rehome their stray dogs themselves.
Council Pounds are for strays and not for the re-homing of unwanted pets. If you have an unwanted pet dog then contact a Rescue, if you have found a stray contact the Dog Warden. Each do a different job for different reasons.


Lost or Found Dogs is a National website where you can register lost or found dogs from anywhere in the UK
Petsearch UK - an organisation dedicated to helping owners find lost dogs. Branches all over the UK.
Battersea Dogs Home lost and found - If you have lost or found a dog in London or within the M25 boundary.
BCR Lost and Stolen page - A page on this website to help advertise lost / stolen or found dogs.
Alfie's Lost Dogs - a free resource for people to list lost and found dogs from anywhere in the UK.
If your dog has been stolen
Read this page and use the link on the bottom of it to find out more.
Yellow pages is a good start to find local rescue groups , vets, pets shops and your local council and police numbers.
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