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 Alaska.

How Long Before A Stray Dog Is Legally Yours In Alaska?

Stray dogs aren’t typically what comes to mind when folks think about Alaska, the last frontier. But in fact, there are actually an overwhelming number of strays in Alaska, especially in the more rural areas.

The problem has become so bad that at least one village has offered a $20 bounty for any villager who shoots a stray dog. 

This kind of situation would frustrate any dog lover in Alaska. It can be tempting to take matters into your own hands. Many Alaskans are tempted to adopt strays that they find. 

However, taking in strays yourself does not just put public health at risk and prevent the dog from potentially reuniting with their family. Depending on where you are in Alaska, it may actually be breaking the law

How long before a dog is legally yours in Alaska varies wildly depending on where you are.

How Long Before A Stray Dog Is Legally Yours In Alaska?

Alaska law specifies you must wait 10 days before adopting a stray dog you find, and you must attempt to locate the owner. Anchorage requires dogs without ID to wait 3 business days and dogs with ID to wait just 5 days before someone can adopt or euthanize them.

Alaska state code 03.55.130 stipulates that finders of stray dogs must check for ID tags and microchips and make “reasonable measures” to return that dog to their owner. This gives the original owner a chance to find their dog during the 10-day waiting period

However, Alaska is a vast state with laws that vary from city to village

Local villages govern unincorporated territories and have their own stray dog laws. Larger cities have more specified rules.

Because of the varying wait times depending on the area, it’s essential to check with your local ordinances before you do or do not try to adopt a stray dog.

How Long Before A Stray Dog Is Legally Yours In Alaska?

Stray Dogs In Anchorage

The Anchorage Municipal Code requires that all dogs obtain a Municipality of Anchorage dog license. This applies to any dog in the area visiting for more than 30 days. These licenses ensure the dogs have had their rabies shots as well as their owner’s contact information. Dogs are required to wear them whenever they are out of the house.  (source)

Because of this, many stray dogs in Anchorage are quickly reunited with their registered owners. However, as stated, dogs who end up in shelters with IDs are only given a 5-business-day holding period before they can be adopted out or euthanized. Dogs that end up in shelters without the required ID tags are only given a 3-day holding period. (source)

Anchorage Animal Controlencourage[s] Good Samaritans who find safe-to-handle stray animals to first attempt to locate the owner….” but they do not specify that you are required to contact them. 

They go on to say that you are actually able to foster the dog yourself while you attempt to find the owner. 

Before you do, it’s important to ask yourself “should I foster a dog?” While it’s very helpful for the community, fostering isn’t right for everyone. My guide can help you decide whether it’s really right for you.

So, if you find a stray dog in Anchorage, Alaska, you can keep it while you attempt to find the owner. If the owner does not come forward within a “reasonable” amount of time, you can claim legal ownership of that stray.

Anchorage law requires that you license that dog as your own within 15 days of receiving it, according to

If you’ve recently found a stray, you likely don’t know much about it’s history, least of all their age. It’s actually pretty easy to tell how old a dog is if you know what to look for.


In the vast state of Alaska, rules regarding how long before a dog is legally yours can differ significantly from one region to another. Alaska state law mandates a waiting period and active efforts to reunite strays with their owners. In cities like Anchorage, the framework is more defined. They have specific stipulations about dog licenses ensuring both the safety of the public and the welfare of the animals

For those considering taking in a stray, the balance between a compassionate heart and adherence to legal requirements is essential. 

After all, every lost dog potentially has a family waiting, hoping for its return. Acting within the law respects the rights of the original owners. It also guarantees the safety and well-being of the animal in question.


2 thoughts on “How Long Before A Stray Dog Is Legally Yours In Alaska?

Leave a Reply