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 Connecticut.

So you found a stray dog and you want to keep it. There’s nothing wrong with that impulse at all. Sometimes, it’s best to just accept that dogs may enter your life at unexpected times Maybe it’s just meant to be.

However, before you take your newly found stray dog shopping for personalized collars, it’s important to consider your legal obligations. Connecticut, like many other states, has clearly defined laws about stray dog ownership and the rights of the original owners

These laws are complicated by conflicting or overlapping laws and regulations at the county and city levels

But some of Connecticut’s most populated counties have surprisingly undefined regulations when it comes to how long before a stray dog is legally yours.

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

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

Connecticut state law does not specify how long before a stray dog is legally yours. The law emphasizes the rights of owners and the role of animal control officers when it comes to strays. Animal control is required to keep an impounded stray dog for seven days before it can be adopted out or euthanized.

Connecticut defines these laws in Sec. 22-332. It states that animal control officers should immediately contact the owner, if known, of an impounded stray. 

It continues that, if the owner is not known, animal control is required to hold the dog in the pound for a minimum of 7 days. Exceptions include if the dog is fatally injured or otherwise unhealthy or vicious. 

During that holding period, they must post the stray’s information in a local newspaper and on a dog-finding website.

Interestingly, if the officer believes in good faith that a private rescue would adopt or take in the stray without the newspaper and website posting, they can waive this requirement.

If no one claims a stray dog after 7 days, Connecticut’s animal control can spay or neuter the dog and put it up for adoption. They may also choose to euthanize or keep the dog in the pound for longer if they so choose.

These rules are directed toward animal control officers, not private individuals. The state of Connecticut does not define the obligations of individuals who encounter stray dogs.

That said, while the state of Connecticut may not define these rules, cities, and municipalities throughout the state have the authority to create and enforce their own rules.

Keep in mind that fostering a dog is a big commitment. If you’re unsure if it’s right for you, check out my article: should you foster a dog?

Stray Dogs In New Haven

New Haven County Section 7-1 defines the “owner” of an animal as anyone who keeps, cares for, or knowingly permits an animal to be on their premises. 

Interestingly, they do not specify HOW LONG before you are the “owner” of that animal.

Some counties in other states specify how long you have to care for the animal before it’s yours. For example, Jefferson County in Alabama deems you the owner of a dog after caring for it for 30 days. 

However, you must license all dogs in this county with county animal control. 

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

Curious how old the dog you rescued is? Check out my comprehensive guide!

Dog Licenses

Licensed dogs are required to wear an ID tag any time they are out of the house. It should be quite obvious if the dog is licensed. If you find a stay dog with an ID tag, you should try to reunite the dog with their rightful owner.

Of course, the dog might have sneaked out of the house without wearing a tag. Hopefully, someone has microchipped the dog; any veterinarian or animal rescue can scan the dog for a microchip.

This will have their owner’s contact information even if they are not currently wearing tags.

Since the county requires all dogs to have a license, you must license the stray yourself if you ever want it to be legally yours. You won’t be able to get a license for the dog in your name if it already has one in someone else’s. 

Licensed strays

If you are unable to make contact with the owner of the licensed stray, you should report it to animal control.

They may let you foster the dog for the state-required 7-day holding period. They may also demand that the dog be impounded for that holding period, especially if the dog is unaltered.

You can legally adopt that stray after 7 days if it has not been claimed by the original owner.

Unlicensed strays

In New Haven, Connecticut, if you find a dog without a license, no law specifies how long you must wait before the stray becomes legally yours.

You need to to license that dog with the county on or before June 30. After that, you’ve assumed legal ownership.

Keep in mind that until you legally register the dog, the original owner will have legal claim to their lost pet.

If you find a stray dog in Connecticut and want to keep it, your best bet is to surrender it to the animal shelter. If the owner does not claim the dog within 7 days, you can legally adopt it.


Connecticut’s approach to stray dogs emphasizes the rights of the original owners and the responsibilities of animal control officers. While the state does not explicitly define the duration one must care for a stray before it becomes legally theirs, it mandates a 7-day holding period for impounded strays before adoption or euthanization. 

You must remember that city municipal codes also influence these laws and your obligations.

While the state and county regulations provide some guidance, you should always act in the best interest of the community, dogs and people alike. Prioritize the dog’s well-being and the rights of the original owners over your own desires. There are lots of fabulous dogs for adoption in Connecticut who don’t have loving families.


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