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If I Find A Stray Dog Can I Keep It As My Own?

If you’ve found a stray dog in your yard or near your home, you might think you’re free to keep it and make it the newest member of your family. However, keeping a stray dog isn’t always an option. Depending on where you live and the circumstances, keeping a stray dog you’ve found, even a dog that wandered onto your property, could mean criminal liability.

Penalties for Stealing a Dog

When you find a stray dog, Michigan law requires you to report it to your community’s law enforcement association or animal control officer within 48 hours. Keeping the stray dog without reporting it can be considered theft. That dog may have a licensed owner, and if you steal, confine, or keep that dog without the owner’s consent, you could be guilty of a misdemeanor.

The penalties for stealing a dog can be a fine between $50 and $100 and imprisonment for 60 to 90 days. While you might have good intentions by caring for the dog and bringing it into your home, it can lead to legal consequences.

What Is Considered Dog Abandonment in Michigan?

A good example of dog abandonment is if the owner leaves a dog without making provisions for its care. Losing a dog, however, like if it runs off while on a hike, is not considered abandonment.

If there is no registered owner of the dog, or if you report it to animal control within 48 hours and cannot find the owner, you may be able to keep the dog as your own without fear of criminal charges. However, it’s important to take the necessary steps before deciding to keep the dog.

What to Do If You Find a Stray Dog

If you find a stray dog, there are a few steps you should take to be sure you’re acting according to the law before you bring it home:

  • Contain the dog: One of the first things to do with a stray dog is to confine it in a safe area and try to keep it calm. It’s a good idea to keep it on a leash.
  • Check for a dog tag: Many dogs have tags with phone numbers and addresses on their collars. If you can safely take a look at the tag for any information, you might find something leading to the owners.
  • Call the authorities: If you don’t see any information on the dog tag, you should contact the police department and the local animal shelters. These are the first places that people with lost pets often check, so you might be able to find the dog’s owners. At the very least, they’ll be able to give you an idea of how to proceed. For instance, some shelters might have information for microchipped dogs. You’ll need to take the dog in to have it scanned, but this is another way you might be able to track down the dog’s owners.
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