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 Idaho.

When you think of Idaho, you probably think of potatoes. Maybe beautiful landscapes and wilderness, possibly Sun Valley if you’re a skier. But you probably don’t think about stray dogs. In fact, Idaho has a pretty serious stray dog problem, particularly with stray huskies. While the state boasts a strong community of animal lovers, the question often arises: what are the legalities surrounding stray dogs in Idaho? And how long before a stray dog is legally yours in Idaho?

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

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

In Idaho, stray dogs that are brought to shelters are required to be held for 5 days. After this, they can be adopted or euthanized. However, city and county laws may extend this period. 

Iowa law dictates this at the state level. However, that doesn’t mean you find in Idaho is legally yours after just five days.

Idaho state laws are specific to animal shelters and animal control, not individuals. 

However, dogs are considered property in Idaho, same as many other states. Therefore, if you find a stray dog in Idaho, you need to adhere to their lost and found property laws.

Dogs As Property In Idaho

All stray dogs in Idaho are considered property, and the laws surrounding them are tied to the state’s unclaimed property regulations. When you find a stray dog in Idaho, you’re essentially finding someone’s property, and there are legal steps to follow.

In Idaho, dogs are indeed considered property, as stated in Idaho Statute 25-2807. This is true of most states in the US. 

Idaho Statute 14-517 mandates that any person holding property presumed abandoned, including stray dogs, must report it. This report should be filed no later than November 1 of each year if the property was presumed abandoned by June 30 of that year.

If you find a stray dog in Idaho and wish to keep it, you must first report it as potentially abandoned property. Since it’s a dog, this means reporting it to your local animal services.

Failing to do so can be seen as withholding someone else’s property. Another good word for this is theft. 

However, once reported, the process of claiming the dog as your own is pretty straightforward. 

Owners have 5 days to reclaim their dogs. If they don’t claim their dog within 5 days, you can legally adopt it. After that, the original owner will likely not be able to make a legal claim to the dog. 

So if you find a stray dog you want to keep in Idaho, you can adopt it in as little as 5 days after you surrender it to animal services.

However, remember that these are state-level laws. Different counties or cities in Idaho likely have additional regulations regarding stray dogs. These additional regulations affect how long before a stray dog is legally yours.

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

Stray Dogs Across Idaho

In Idaho, the responsibility of governing stray dogs is often delegated to the individual counties. Therefore, it’s essential to familiarize yourself with local ordinances if you come across a stray dog in Ada County.

Stray Dogs In Ada County, Idaho

Ada County, being the most populated county in Idaho, has its own regulations regarding stray dogs. According to the Ada County Animal Control Ordinance, there are clear guidelines on how stray animals, including dogs, should be handled.

For example, the ordinance defines a stray animal as any dog that has been “abandoned,” which means leaving an animal unattended for more than 24 hours without arrangements for its care.

If you find a stray dog in Ada County, you are legally required to submit it to animal services. While a timeframe isn’t specifically stated, section 5-7-9 specifically mandates that it is your requirement.

They do state that you are considered to have “harbored” an animal if you’ve allowed it to stay on your property for 24 hours, or for a duration of one hour daily over three successive days. Notably, the definition of an owner is not given by Ada County. 

You are not legally allowed to keep a stray dog that you find in Ada County, Idaho. You must surrender the dog to animal services. But if the owner doesn’t claim the dog in 5 days, you can adopt the dog and claim legal ownership of it.

Stray Dogs In Boise

Boise, the capital and most populous city of Idaho, has its own set of regulations when it comes to the management of stray dogs.

Dog owners have a window of five business days to reclaim their lost dog. After that, the dog becomes available for adoption (source).

Owners of other impounded animals are given a shorter period of three business days to reclaim their pets.

After these holding times, the animals can be legally adopted out or euthanized.

If you find a stray dog you want to keep in Idaho, the laws vary by city and county. The state mandates a minimum 5-day holding period for owners to reclaim their dog. However, in Boise, you are required to surrender any stray to animal services, so it’s technically illegal for you to keep a stray dog that you find.

Boise might have a different holding period or reporting requirement than Coeur d’Alene. Always check with your local animal control or shelter to understand the specific regulations in your area.


Finding a stray dog can tug at your heartstrings, and the desire to provide it with a loving home is commendable. However, it’s crucial to approach the situation with both empathy and a clear understanding of Idaho’s laws.

Always prioritize the well-being of the dog and consider the feelings of a potential owner who might be searching for their lost pet. If you follow the proper channels, you might find yourself with a new furry family member, all while staying within the bounds of the law.


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