I found a pet! Can I keep it?

found a pet keep itHello CHS Supporters! We hope you are all enjoying the spring blooms and green grass. Here at CHS, our dog walkers and dogs are busy soaking up all the sun they can!

Today on the blog, we answer the age old question: I found a pet! Can I keep it?

In our admissions department at Calgary Humane Society one very common question that our staff hear is whether or not someone can keep a stray pet that was found outside. Often those calling in are animal lovers who have found an affectionate animal that does not appear to have a collar or other identification, leading them to wonder if this animal has a home, or if they need one.

We love that so many animal lovers are looking to take in homeless pets, but keeping a pet that you found outside can create some complicated situations. But never fear! We’re bringing you the solutions right now!

The Situation:

You are out walking or even enjoying some time in your back yard when suddenly your thoughts are interrupted by a furry visitor! You notice a friendly cat or dog who saunter up no collar. You think you might have room in your home for this new friend and you wonder if this could be a great opportunity to help out a homeless animal.

The Complications:

No collar does not mean no owner. While the animal in the above scenario has no collar, that does not mean they have no owner! Many collars, especially those for cats, are sold with “safety releases”, or a clip that will release if the collar becomes snagged to prevent the animal from getting stuck. While most dog collars do not have safety releases, there are many reasons – like having just finished a bath – that a dog may not be wearing a collar when they escape the house.

Many forms of identification are invisible. Microchips and even some tattoos on exceptionally furry animals are invisible to the average person. While a diligent search might reveal a tattoo, to discover a microchip you will need a special scanner that is normally only available at vet clinics, animal shelters or city animal control facilities. Bringing the pet in to the shelter allows our staff to carefully check the animal for identification and ensure there is no pet owner frantically looking for Fido or Fluffy.

Ownership of pets must be legally transferred. In addition to potentially leaving an original owner heartbroken, finding and keeping a pet without having the pet legally transferred into your name could make you vulnerable to theft charges. Calgary Humane Society is considered a legal holding facility which means that if an animal comes in to our facility we are able to take ownership of that animal and subsequently transfer that ownership to a new family (via adoption) after a specific number of days have passed. The exact length of a holding period in the law is related to whether or not the animal has identification and/or is purebred, but at CHS we occasionally will hold an animal for an extra few days if we are tracing possible leads or trying to get a hold of a registered owner.

The Solution!

So now you understand why you should bring the pet in, but what happens if you would still like to provide a home to that pet if the owner isn’t found? Don’t worry, at Calgary Humane Society we’ve got you covered!

Let our admissions staff know! When you bring in the pet that you found, let the animal admissions staff know that you are interested in the adopting the pet if the owner cannot be found. At Calgary Humane Society we have a special internal process set up for animals found by caring Calgarians that are interested in adopting the animal after the legal hold.

Once the hold is up, you can adopt! If no owner can be found then the animal goes through the normal holding period and the regular assessments and health exams that any other animal in our shelter receives. When the animal is cleared for adoption, our staff will contact you to let you know that the animal is available for adoption and will offer to hold the animal for about 24 hours to give you a chance to come in and adopt. Not only do you get to take home your new friend, you also get the same benefits as all of our other adopters including: a clean bill of health, spay and neuter surgery, updated vaccines, a tattoo and microchip (to make sure they get back to you if they ever get lost again!) and much more.

What if you change your mind? If you change your mind between the time you find the animal and the time they are ready to go home it’s no problem. Just let our staff know. In the case where the original finder is not able to take the animal after it has been deemed adoptable we go ahead and move the animal up to our adoptions floor. This is the other benefit of bringing the animal in instead of keeping it: You have a chance to think about your decision to bring the animal home and consider how well they will fit in your home without the immediate pressure of having the animal on your doorstep.

There you have it! We hope this helped to clear up what to do should you find a lost pet in your travels.

From all of us at Calgary Humane Society: Have a safe and happy sunshine season!