Found A Stray or Loose Animal?

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Thank you for helping!

Take the animal you found to a County Animal Shelter or to other shelters in your area.

By temporarily taking care of this animal, you are keeping it safe from car accidents or other injuries.

By law, you must notify the County Department of Animal Services and give a dog to a shelter. (County Code 62.676)

  • A pet is considered personal property. You cannot keep a stray animal. Pet owners can press criminal charges against someone who keeps their animal.
  • Distraught pet owners count on thoughtful neighbors to return their pet.
  • The only way to legally keep the dog you found is to adopt it from County Animal Services.

Please follow these steps to help the pet go home as soon as possible:

Did you find a lost dog?

  • If the dog has a San Diego County Animal Services license, the tag has six numbers on it. Call us at (619) 767-2675 to get the owner’s phone number.
  • If you found a dog with a license from another agency, please call us. We will try to reunite the dog with its family.

You may be able to find the owner’s phone number by entering the six-digit license number here:

  • If you find a dog without a license tag, please bring it to one of our shelters. It may have a microchip we can scan to get the owner’s name and phone number. We will also place the dog's picture on our website and in our shelters where the owner can find it.
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  • Use the free application Finding Rover. Take a picture of the dog you found and upload it to this app.
  • If you are interested in adopting this dog, please ask us to put a Finders’ Hold on it for you. If the owners do not claim the dog, you will be first in line to adopt it.
  • If you don’t want to immediately adopt the dog, but you are worried about it, you can put a Last Resort Hold on it. If the dog does not go into our adoption program and none of our adoption partners will take it, we will call you.
  • The dog will be altered, microchipped and licensed. If you have questions please contact us.

Did you find a lost cat?

  • There are no leash laws for cats, and we do not have the authority to pick up strays. If you found a pet that appears to be lost, please bring it to one of our shelters.
  • We can check for a microchip and try to return the cat to its owner.
  • We will display the cat on our website and in the shelter where owners can see them.
  • If you are interested in adopting this cat, please ask us to put a Finders’ Hold on it. If the owners do not claim the cat, you will be first in line to adopt it.
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What else can you do?

After you bring a pet to a shelter, you can post “Found” posters in the neighborhood where the pet was found and at any dog parks in the area.

Look at the Lost and Found log at the shelter. See if any of the descriptions match the pet you found.

Look at the “Lost” posters in your neighborhood.

Check the newspapers, news sites and social media that have a Lost and Found section. Ask if they will run a Found message for free.

If you found your lost pet at the County Shelter, here is how to reclaim it »