Porky and Buddy Pet Health: Is Rescuing Animals ‘Stealing’?

Dear Porky and Buddy,
I sometimes rescue cats and dogs that I find that appear to be lost or abandoned and if I can’t find the owner, I then try to find them new homes on my own. A friend of mine (not a close friend, sort of a busybody and clearly not an animal lover) told me I could be charged with stealing because they are really not my animals.

Is that true?  Whom am I stealing them from exactly?

Dear  Ken,
We get asked questions like this all the time, and the answer to this issue is not totally clear cut.

But first of all, thanks for your kindness to animals. If more people were like you, our job would be a lot easier.

That said, there are some precautions you should take in your efforts to help lost and abandoned pets to make sure that you comply with the law about ownership of pets.

First, remember that your local dog control officer (DCO) for your town or village or city is the official with the responsibility to deal with stray dogs.

So the first thing you should do after you have taken a dog in is to notify the DCO of who you are, where and when you found the dog, whether it has any identification on it, and a description of the dog.

Most DCOs have appropriate shelters that they can take the dog to wait the five days required by law to keep a dog with no identification.  After that it can be adopted out or, in the worst case scenario, euthanized.

Most DCOs are dog lovers. Why else would they want such a thankless job?

They will often keep a dog much longer than the five days required in hopes of finding it a home.  Most are glad to accept help from you or from other animal organizations to either find the owner or a new home.

If you tell the DCO that you are willing to adopt it after the five days if necessary, then his or her job is that much easier.

But understand the DCO is not authorized to just let a dog stay with you in limbo.

If a new home is found, the dog must be registered to the new owner. That may mean that you adopt the dog and license it in your name if you want to save the dog.

Then you can try to find a new adopter.  Yes, that is a big commitment, but it may be the only solution.

So make friends with your DCO and establish a working relationship, so that he or she knows that you can be trusted to be helpful and to comply with the law.

The situation with cats is not so simple.

There are no statewide laws for the licensing of cats and for the most part local officials have no statutory duty to handle cats.

Some cities do take responsibility for stray and abandoned cats, so once again, your first step should be to call your town or city to find out what services are available.

If there are none, then you should make every reasonable effort to find the true owner of the cat, and you should keep records of the steps you take.

Notify local officials, including in adjoining towns and cities, call local veterinarians and animal shelters or rescue groups.

You might want to put out posters about the cat with its picture.  It is amazing how often that works, and there is nothing better than reuniting a lost pet with a distraught owner.

Remember that while many cats are abandoned or carelessly allowed to stray, it is also true that many just wander off despite their owner’s best intentions and you may well find that owner and witness a happy reunion.

If not, you should probably wait the same five days that humane societies must wait after they take an animal in before they can place it in a new home. In case there are ever any questions, your best protection is your careful record keeping about your good faith effort to find an owner.

And here’s an easier way to find a new pet to have fun with this summer (and for many summers and winters to come).

The  Oswego County Humane Society’s “People and Pets Are Good for Each Other”  adoption day will be held on June 16 from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the Tractor Supply Company, Route 104 East, Oswego.

Or just come and meet us and admire all of our beautiful pets for adoption.

The Oswego County Humane Society provides spay/neuter services and assistance, fostering and adoption of animals in urgent need, humane education programs, and information and referrals to animal lovers throughout Oswego County.

Our office is located at 265 W. First St., Oswego, New York. Phone (315) 207-1070.

Email:[email protected] Website: www.oswegohumane.org