Disclaimer: I am not an attorney, and the content of this article is for informational purposes only. It should not be construed as legal advice. If you have specific legal questions or concerns, please consult with a licensed attorney in Alabama.
Sometimes, stray dogs just enter our lives. Good Samaritans should always help stray dogs they encounter if they are able. But what happens next when you find a stray dog in Alabama?
It can be tempting sometimes to just call it fate and accept the stray into your home. However, you might deprive the dog and its family of a reunion, and you could also break the law. If you want to legally keep a stray dog that you find in Alabama, there are some specific legal requirements you need to follow.
How long before a stray dog is legally yours in Alabama?
A stray dog is assumed to be yours in Alabama after caring for that stray for more than 30 days. Dogs brought to the shelter will be held for 7 days to give the owner time to claim the dog. After that, the dog can be legally adopted, transferred, or euthanized.
Technically, there is no law specifying how long before a stray dog can be called “legally yours” in the state of Alabama. Section 3-7A-8 of the Alabama Code of Law states that impounded dogs, cats, and even ferrets can be humanely euthanized if not claimed by the owner within 7 days.
The law further states that after 7 days, animal control can legally adopt out the pet to anyone meeting their local pet-owning standards.
The state of Alabama does not legally require you to surrender a stray dog that you find. But that doesn’t mean that any stray dog you find in Alabama may instantly become legally yours.
How long you have to keep the dog before it’s yours in the eyes of the law depends on the city and county you are in, not just the state laws.
You may find my article about how to tell how old a rescue dog is helpful, too.
Stray Dogs In Jefferson County
The most densely populated county in Alabama is Jefferson County. This county’s animal services have been provided by the Greater Birmingham Humane Society (GBHS) since 2015.
GBHS policies specifically state that you have assumed ownership of a pet after caring for it for more than 30 days.
They suggest that you take steps to actively find the dog’s owner yourself during this time. You should scan the pet for a microchip, place flyers, post on local community platforms, and contact veterinary offices.
An owner showing up with a microchip number or veterinary records will likely trump your 30-day squatters-rights to the dog.
Stray Dogs In Birmingham
Birmingham, the largest city in Jefferson County, has their own laws about stray dogs. Their municipal code states that every person taking up a stray must “immediately” contact a rabies control officer. They will ask you for a description of the animal, your name, and address.
At that time, the officer will confiscate the dog and bring it to a designated rabies control center.
Again, how long before a stray dog is legally yours in Alabama depends on your city and county. Before you make a decision about what you do with a stray dog you find in Alabama, it’s imperative that you check your municipal and city ordinances.
If you want to keep a stray dog that you found in Alabama, it’s best to bring them to your local shelter and wait 7 days until you can legally adopt them. This waiting period allows the rightful owner to reunite with their dog and gives animal control an opportunity to vet the dog and investigate any signs of abuse.
Before you decide to keep a dog, even if you’re just fostering, it’s important to think hard about it before you sign up. I’ve assembled a list of questions folks can ask themselves to help themselves decised whether they should foster a dog or not. You may find it helpful.