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I found a stray dog... now what?

While laws vary from state to state, Ohio law dictates:

> Dog:

Case law holds that an unlicensed dog must be physically held by the county/local dog warden where the dog was found for 3 days before ownership terminates. Calling and reporting it does not count! 

> Horse, mule, cow, bison, sheep, goat, swine, llama, alpaca, or poultry:

A descriptive notice must be published in a general circulation newspaper where the animal was found. After 10 days, ownership terminates. 

> Other animals, including cats:

No specific law governs these strays, so finders should protect themselves by taking all reasonable means to locate the owner prior to keeping or re-homing. 

>> If you don't follow the law, be prepared to face the consequences:

Possible criminal charges and/or a civil lawsuit where the owner can reclaim the animal and seek money for damages. 

Information provided by Holland & Muirden Attorneys At Law
* This is informational only and not legal advice.

If you are unable to catch the dog: 

  • Try to snap a picture or take video of the dog, as visual identification and description can vary from person to person

  • Notify the police and local animal control immediately; it is important to note any distinguishable markings, collar, etc., as well as a detailed description of location seen, which direction they're going, etc. 

  • There are many local pages on Facebook and Nextdoor where you can also post the sighting 

If you are able to catch the dog: 

  • Notify the police (non-emergency) and contact local animal control immediately

  • If you are in a safe area, and happen to have a leash/collar available, try walking around with the dog to see if they lead you to their home, or if someone is out looking for them

  • There are many local pages on Facebook and Nextdoor where you can also post a found dog; Sam the Parrot is a great place to start

  • Any local veterinarian should be able to check the dog for a microchip

DO NOT REMOVE THE DOG FROM THE AREA, AND DO NOT (we repeat: DO NOT) TAKE THE ANIMAL TO A SHELTER OR FACILITY IN ANOTHER COUNTY. How will an owner in Cuyahoga County know to check shelters in Summit County, etc?

DO NOT give the animal to someone else to "foster until the owner is found"; the further away the animal gets from where they were found, the less likely they will be reunited with their owner. 

DO NOT take the animal home with you "to look for their owner"; it is required by law that stray dogs be held by local animal control for three business days in order to legally terminate ownership. 

DO NOT rehome an animal you just found or that you have not allowed to be held for the mandatory time by animal control!! The animal is not your legal property, and you don't know the circumstances around which they may be loose. You are not only preventing their owner from being reunited with them, but setting yourself up for legal ramifications. Animal shelters are not the enemy. If you want to rehome the animal, claim it from animal control once their legal hold is up. 

Local Contact Numbers


Police Non-emergency: (216) 521-6773

Parma Heights
Police Non-emergency: (440) 884-1234

Animal Control: (440) 885-8010
Police Non-emergency: (440) 885-1234

Animal Control: (216) 635-4291
Police Non-emergency: (216) 749-1234

Brooklyn Heights
Police Non-emergency: (216) 741-2700


Animal Control: (216) 664-3069

Seven Hills
Animal Control: (216) 524-3940
Police Non-emergency: (216) 524-3911

Animal Control: (216) 524-3940
Police Non-emergency: (216) 524-1234

Garfield Heights
Animal Control: (216) 475-1108
Police Non-emergency: (216) 475-1234

Maple Heights 
Animal Control VM: (216) 587-9646
Police Dispatch: (216) 662-5884 
Police Non-emergency: (216) 252-7463

Sagamore Hills 
Police Non-emergency: (330) 468-3515

Police Non-emergency: (330) 468-4372

Animal Control: (440) 232-2964
Police Non-emergency: (330) 468-1234

Police Non-emergency: (330) 425-1234

Summit County 
Animal Control: (330) 643-2845
24-hr Emergency Line: (330) 643-2181

Portage County

Animal Control: (330) 297-6924

Cleveland Animal Care and Control

2690 W 7th St, Cleveland, OH 44113

(216) 664-3069

Cleveland Animal Protective League

1729 Willey Ave, Cleveland, OH 44113

(216) 771-4616

Cuyahoga County Animal Shelter

9500 Sweet Valley Dr, Valley View, OH 44125

(216) 525-7877

Brooklyn Animal Shelter, Inc.

8300 Memphis Ave, Brooklyn, OH 44144

(216) 741-1213

Lakewood Animal Shelter
1299 Metropark Dr, Cleveland, OH 44107
(216) 529-5020

Parma Animal Shelter

6260 State Rd, Parma, OH 44134

(440) 885-8014

NE Ohio ASPCA Shelter and Clinic

9555 Brookpark Rd, Parma, OH 44129

(216) 351-7387

Humane Society of Summit County

7996 Darrow Rd, Twinsburg, OH 44087

(330) 487-0333

Summit County Animal Control

250 Opportunity Pkwy, Akron, OH 44307

(330) 643-2845

Portage County Animal Protective League

8122 Infirmary Rd, Ravenna, OH 44266

(330) 296-4022

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