On this installment of Ask Regional Anything, this month’s question comes from Jenna.
“Whenever you post on Facebook that an animal has been found and that you’re looking for the owners, if they’ve been mistreated, why do you return them to the owner?
As a New York State licensed animal shelter, FCRSPCA is governed by the laws set in New York State Agriculture and Markets (AGM): Article 26 which outlines the cruelty laws, Article 26-C which outlines animal care standards (which will officially go into effect in December of 2025), and Article 7 which focuses on on the licensing, identification, and control of stray animals. Since our organization does not import animals from out of state, and the majority of our dogs come in as strays, Article 7 is going to be the focus of our discussion!
Article 7 provides instructions for municipalities and animal shelters on licensing, rabies vaccination, and reception periods for stray dogs. In § 117, the time allowed for an individual to come forward and claim ownership on a stray dog without a license or microchip, is five days. The time allowed for an individual to claim a dog WITH a license and/or registered microchip is ten days.
Prior to the expiration of the redemption period, the stray dog is considered property of whichever municipality turned them over to the shelter. This is why all stray dogs entering FCRSPCA must be processed through the police department. If an owner does not come forward within three days, it is our experience that they typically aren’t going to. In this case, the dog may be signed over to the shelter after the redemption period is over so they can be prepared for adoption.
Per New York State law, when ANY dog leaves a shelter, a redemption fee (in our case this fee is set by the City of Gloversville) must be paid, a valid license to the municipality in which the dog resides (which must be issued if any dog over four months of age is without), and a valid rabies shot (required for issuing a license) if the dog did not enter the shelter with a valid license.
If we as an animal welfare organization feel as though a dog is being kept in substandard living conditions which they should not be returned to, we have two options available to us. The first is to convince the legal owner to surrender their dog to us. On occasion, this has worked. Our second option is to bring the situation to the attention of local law enforcement, allow them to investigate to determine if neglect is occurring AND if they have enough evidence to prosecute the neglect charges.
If this is the case, the dog in question becomes “evidence” and remains in our custody until the dog is either surrendered by the owner as a result of the investigation, or we are legally required by the court to return the dog to their owner. If law enforcement feels there is not enough evidence to warrant neglect charges, the dog must be returned. When this happens, we use this as an opportunity to educate the owner on proper care, nutrition, and any other resources to help them grow as a responsible pet parent.
Short answer: We do not have any legal right to keep a dog if an owner comes forward during the state-defined redemption period, so unless there are neglect charges pending or the dog has been labeled as evidence as a part of an investigation, they will have to be returned to the owner as long as the dog has a valid license and a redemption fee is paid. That doesn’t mean we can’t use the opportunity (and we do!) to try and educate the owner and give them resources so that they can better care for their pet!
Thank you, Jenna, for your question, and we hope that we’ve answered it to your satisfaction!
Do you have a question about Regional or animals in general that you’ve always wanted to get answered? Submit a question and you might just hear all about it in the next Biscuit Buzz or on our blog!