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Is it illegal to keep a lost dog?

On Behalf of | Jul 11, 2023 | Criminal Defense |

Losing a dog can be heartbreaking, especially if the owner treats their furry companion as family. If you find a lost dog wandering in the street, you can’t just decide to keep it as a pet. In Florida, failing to report lost or abandoned property is theft.

About Florida’s theft by finding law

Florida law requires citizens to report any lost or abandoned property they come across to a law enforcement officer. The state considers pets as personal property. Failing to return or notify a lost pet may be considered theft by finding.

Furthermore, Florida law specifies that no one may appropriate a lost or abandoned property for personal purposes. In other words, you may not rehome, adopt, or sell a lost pet. Otherwise, you may face petit theft charges or more.

If you encounter an abandoned puppy or a wandering dog, the best thing you can do is call the police. It is their job to locate the dog’s true owner. However, the police may require you to pay for the expenses of storing the dog and advertising it. You may seek reimbursement from the owner once they are reunited with their dog.

What if no one claims the dog?

After 90 days of holding a lost or abandoned property, the police department has discretion over how to dispose of it. If the lost item has appreciable value, the agency may choose to keep it for the department to use, transfer it to another unit, donate it to a charitable organization or sell it at a public sale. Otherwise, they may destroy it.

Unfortunately, the property, in this case, is a live animal. An irresponsible pet owner might have intentionally abandoned the dog and have no plans of reclaiming it. Once 90 days have passed, and the police cannot find or contact the owner, you may be able to file a Finder’s Claim.

While you may resent the owner for losing or abandoning their dog, you must still give them a chance to find it. In case the dog remains unclaimed after three months, there is a chance you may adopt it.


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