The seven-day holding period in New Jersey: not enough time to reunite missing pets with their famil

The first thing that crosses people minds when their pet goes missing is “someone is going to find it” but in reality, things are different. Taking immediate action is necessary when your pet goes missing, and no one can do a better job than you!

In this article, we won’t tell you what to do if you need to locate a missing pet, you can find that information on our resources page: We want to advise you that moving fast is crucial because the law is not on your side. YOU ONLY HAVE SEVEN DAYS TO RECLAIM YOUR PET FROM THE SHELTER SYSTEM.

With many years of experience in pet detection and recovery, we have seen a lot. From terrible shelters that do not care about this matter, to great animal control officers that show their love for animals and commitment for their careers. To say that all shelters are horrible will be the wrong statement but sadly, they are mostly here in New Jersey.

Depending where you live, or your county and city, the services for Animal Control vary. You get a little bit of everything: people with old mentality that find euthanasia to be the only alternative or people with progressive ways to save animal lives. The reclaim fees for a found pet might vary depending on your location as well. Some shelters have fair fees, some others are taking advantage of people; some hold pets for more than seven days, some others break the law sending these dogs to rescues before the seven day holding period. But do not believe all we are saying just like that, approach your local shelter, get to know your Animal Control, and most important, do research. You will be surprised by your findings.

What does the seven-day mean to you if you lost your pet? N.J.S.A. 4:19-15.16 SECTION D-E

You only have seven days to reclaim your pet if she or he is at the shelter. If your pet is microchipped, the ACO will contact you as soon as the pet is scanned, but if not, the shelter will hold your pet for seven days. After that, it will be put for adoption through the shelter directly, sent to a rescue group or in extreme cases, euthanized.

CALLING IS NOT ENOUGH. Remember, shelters only have a few staff members and the rest of the members are mostly volunteers. A phone description of your pet is not enough. GO TO THE SHELTER EVERY DAY, bring several pictures of your pet when groomed, when not groomed, when young, when old. CALL THE POLICE EVERY DAY, be persistent!

What does the seven days mean to you if you found a pet

THIS IS A BIG DECISION FOR YOU TO MAKE and is only yours. If you decide to bring this pet to the shelter, it will be held for seven days, hopefully. Keep in mind that most shelters in New Jersey are kill shelters, especially those in crowded city like areas. However, there are shelters that will do a great job promoting a found pet; there are great animal control officers that will do their best to locate the owners of a found pet, do your research, and if you need help, contact the Lost and Found Pets of North Jersey Project.

A found pet sitting at the shelter

Most found pets in high kill shelters will be waiting to be found. Staff and volunteers will be waiting for the owners to come for their missing pet, but won’t do anything to promote it. In most cases, dogs are the lucky ones, they usually get more exposure; cats do not have the same luck. Shelters do not take enough time to relocate the owners of a missing cat; they are always assumed as “another stray” or as part of a TNR colony.

A found pet found by you

There is NOT a legal obligation for you to bring a found pet to the shelter. However, it is your obligation to do everything possible to locate the owners of this found pet. In most cases, there is a devastated family looking for their pet, do not sit and wait, help find this pet’s home!

  • Report the found pet to the police and animal control. Some shelters will push you to bring the pet in, again, this is not a legal requirement, it is a personal decision. As long as you are okay with the pet under your care, and you are doing everything possible to locate the owners, do not fall for the lies. You can do way more to locate the owners of a missing pet that a shelter will, you still need to be in contact with them to locate the owners.

  • Bring the pet to a local veterinarian to be scanned for a microchip.

  • After reporting it, drive around the block and ask your neighbors. Knock on doors, spread the word. In most cases, missing pets live a few houses or blocks from you.

  • Report it through different free websites. Ours is but there are several. Use as many as possible. Post on craigslist. Do not include pictures. ALWAYS ASK FOR PROOF OF OWNERSHIP!

  • Call veterinarians in the area and let them know you found a pet and that you are trying to locate the owners.

  • After a few days, you can use flyers or bright posters. Keep calling the police to remind them you found a pet. Do the same with Animal Control.

  • Use social media channels to advertise the pet. Sharing on social media is key!

  • Depending on the case, reunions will happen after a few hours or days, but if is longer than seven days and you need to know what to do, give us a call and we will guide you through.

WARNING: Avoid keeping the pet as yours! There is a sad family looking for it. Accidents happen, judging people is not the right answer. Do not give the pet to another person either. This is not your property, it belongs to someone else as a part of their family.

You can’t keep the pet? Ask a family member to hold it while actively searching for its family. Contact a rescue for help or our organization. We understand that bringing the pet to a shelter sometimes is the only way, still, you can do a lot to advertise that the found pet is at the shelter.

Why does a person take too long to report a missing pet?

We heard this phrase a lot: “if that happened to me I will be doing everything possible to locate my dog (cat)” and yes, we are sure you would, but not everyone can do the same, here are just a few reasons:

  • Misinformation: “my pet will come back on its own.” A terrible mistake, but it happens often.

  • Landlord issues: people are afraid to report or advertise a missing pet when their lease agreement does not allow pets.

  • Age: elderly people become very depressed and confused in a situation like this. Social media sometimes is not an option for them, they do not know who to call, or who can help.

  • Sickness: the pet went missing while the owner is ill at the home or hospital.

  • Pet sitters, boarding facilities: they take too long to report a missing pet because they do not want to harm their business or reputation.

  • Rescues: they do not want to face the consequences of improper training to the new foster or adopter on how to care for a high flight risk pet.

  • Adopters or fosters: they are afraid to face that they did not know how to care for a new adoption or foster or that they did not follow the instructions provided by the rescue.

The list continues, but in the end, to locate the missing pet and return it to the owners is the right thing to do. Microchipping is crucial here: remember your pet might end up at the shelter, do not wait to get it chipped. There are several organizations, veterinarians and pounds with low cost microchipping including ours that will do it for only $15.00 and free in some areas.

As of 2017, shelters in New Jersey are not a safe place for pets, not for missing/found pets, not for surrenders. We are hoping for a shelter reform. In the meantime, shelters and individuals in need of help can contact our organization, we are to help, to work together.

Get involved, do your homework and fight for a better shelter system. Support local, adopt local.

For more information about our Lost and Found of North Jersey Project please visit or contact us at 973-324-925 ext 1.




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