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.
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.
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.
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: