Full Title Name:  Table of State Holding Laws

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Rebecca F. Wisch and Ashley Dillingham Publish Year:  2017 Place of Publication:  Michigan State University College of Law Primary Citation:  Animal Legal & Historical Center

Holding period laws are state requirements that determine how long an impounded animal must be “held” before it is able to be released or euthanized. Typically, these laws give owners anywhere between three and ten days to redeem the animal before the animal can be placed for adoption, sold, or euthanized. The majority of states require a holding period of three to five days. In all of the states with holding laws, the decision of what happens to the animal after the holding period has passed is left solely up to the animal shelter or organization that has impounded the animal.

Over thirty states have what are termed "holding period" laws. These laws provide the minimum required period that an animal (usually a dog or cat) must be kept at a pound or public animal shelter before it is sold, adopted out, or euthanized. Typically, the holding period runs from five to seven days. However, it can be as short as 48 to 72 hours in some cases. The holding period allows owners who have lost their pets adequate time to contact the shelter and reclaim their animals.

The laws on this table reflect holding period laws for animals seized by public authority. Depending on the state, this may not cover animals voluntarily surrendered by owners. The table also does not cover disposition of animals seized as part of a cruelty or neglect investigation, as there are often separate laws for that process. In addition, these laws may not apply to private (non-state actors) parties and organizations that take up stray or abandoned animals. Certain states and local jurisdictions may require those individuals to turn in the dog to a shelter or report the stray animal so that an owner can contact a public shelter to reclaim the lost pet. Finally, this table deals only with companion animals (dogs and cats) and does not cover the issue of "estrays" - laws dealing with livestock on the loose.

The holding period is triggered by impoundment of an animal by local or state authorities. If an animal control officer sees a loose dog (or other domestic animal, depending on the state or locality), he or she often has the authority to seize and impound the animal. While a state may have a law that allows an officer to seize a loose dog, it may not provide a minimum holding period (Wisconsin is one such state). Additionally, a state may delegate the authority to enact a holding period law to local authorities (like Texas). Most states with holding period laws allow such authorities to seize any dog running at large or off an owner's property without a collar or license/registration tag. Other actions may also result in a seizure of a dog under these laws such as violation of nuisance laws or even aggressive actions by the dog.

Once the dog is impounded, some states mandate that the owner be notified if the dog is wearing tags or has other identification (tattoo, microchip, etc.). This notice may be a certified, return-receipt letter mailed to the last known address of the owner or simply a published notice posted at the shelter. In states with such provisions, the holding period clock does not begin to tick until statutory notice has been given to the reported owner.

There are instances where the holding period is circumvented. When a dog or other animal is found to be in severely injured, state law may allow immediate euthanasia of the animal. Similarly, if a dog is diseased or represents a threat to public health or safety, the need to quickly dispose of the animal supersedes the holding period law.

The advent of technology has changed the impoundment procedure in a handful of states. About five states (Georgia, Illinois, Massachusetts, New Jersey, and South Carolina), require that public shelters scan an impounded animal for the presence of a subcutaneous microchip upon arrival or before the animal is sold or euthanized. A few states require that the owner listed on the microchip database be notified. There is typically no penalty to the shelter for failure to do so.

Below is a chart outlining these laws by their main features. You may also see our Map of State Holding Period Laws.











Ala.Code 1975 § 3-7A-7 Dogs, cats, and ferrets  7 days Dogs, cats, and ferrets running at large Animal may be euthanized Not listed Not listed




A.R.S. § 11-1013

Dogs and cats

Minimum of 72 hours or 120 hours if the animal is microchipped or wearing a tag Dogs and cats considered to be stray animals Animal may be placed for sale or may be disposed of in a humane manner Not listed Holding period will be extended to 120 hours for animals with microchips.




West's Ann.Cal.Food & Agric.Code § 31752 (Cats)

West's Ann.Cal.Food & Agric.Code § 31108 (Dogs) 
Dogs and cats 6 business days, not including the day of impoundment except in specific situations  Stray cats and dogs May be given to an animal rescue organization or euthanized if the animal is not microchipped and the owner cannot be identified  Not listed

Dogs and cats will be scanned for microchips and reasonable efforts will be made to notify the owner that the animal is available for redemption.

§ 31108(c)


C.R.S.A. § 35-80-106.3  Any animal Minimum of 5 days

Minimum of 3 days if the animal is deemed to be dangerous and is not microchipped
Impoundment - Any pet animal held by or in the custody of a licensed animal shelter, whether public or private The animal will be available for adoption or otherwise disposed of at the discretion of the animal shelter If the pet animal is abandoned, as defined in section 18-9-201(1), the pet animal becomes the property of the animal shelter upon acquisition and may be disposed of by and at the discretion of the animal shelter. Animal may be checked for a microchip but notice to the owner is not required.


C.G.S.A. § 22-332

Any dog or domestic animal 7 days after the date of publication. Any such officer may take into custody: (1) any dog found roaming in violation of the provisions of section 22-364, (2) any dog not having a tag or plate on a collar about its neck or on a harness on its body as provided by law or which is not confined or controlled or (3) any dog or other domestic animal found injured on any highway, neglected, abandoned or cruelly treated. May have a licensed veterinarian spay or neuter the animal and have the animal sold or euthanized Immediate euthanization is allowed if the dog or other domestic animal is so injured or diseased that it should be destroyed immediately. Not listed


16 Del.C. § 3004F

Dogs, cats, and other animals Minimum of 5 days Any dog, cat or other animal held by or in the custody of an animal shelter May be transferred to another shelter or rescue group or euthanized An animal may be euthanized immediately if necessary to alleviate undue suffering or to protect shelter staff and/or other sheltered animals from an animal's severe aggression or contagious deadly health condition.  Not listed


DC ST § 8-1805  All animals 7 days if the owner is known, 5 days if the owner is not known Any impounded animal

The Mayor shall impound any dogs, cats, rabbits, or ferrets, the combination of which exceeds 4 animals, or any dogs, cats, rabbits, or ferrets beyond the number authorized in an animal hobby permit issued pursuant to § 8-1809.

Animal may be adopted or disposed of in a humane manner The Mayor may dispose of any wild, sick, or badly injured animal upon its impoundment

The Mayor shall make a prompt and reasonable attempt to locate and notify the owner of the impounded animal, including scanning the animal for a microchip.







Ga. Code Ann., § 4-11-9.5 Dogs and cats Within 5 business days of the date of notice given to the owner or 30 days after publication if the owner is unknown Any animal impounded by a shelter The animal may be disposed  Not listed Dog, cat, or other large animal traditionally kept as a household pet brought to an animal shelter or other stray animal intake facility must be scanned for the presence of a microchip within 24 hours or as soon as possible. If a microchip is found, the operator shall make a reasonable effort to contact the owner of the animal. Prior to euthanizing the listed facilities must again scan for the presence of a microchip.

Ga. Code Ann., § 4-11-5.2


HRS § 143-8



 48 hours Any unlicensed dog found running at large or found upon any public highway, street, alley, court, place, square, or grounds, or upon any unfenced lot, or not within a sufficient enclosure Dog may be sold or humanely destroyed

 Not listed  Not listed


I.C. § 25-2804  Dogs 5 days (excluding weekends and holidays) Any dog running at large without a collar with such license tag or disc as prescribed in section 25- 2803, Idaho Code Dog may be killed in a humane manner  Not listed Not listed


510 ILCS 5/10 Dogs and cats If the animal is microchipped, the last known owner must be given notice at least 7 days prior to disposal of animal. Any dog or cat that is apprehended and impounded.

Animal may be adopted, transferred, or euthanized  Not listed

When dogs or cats are apprehended and impounded, they must be scanned for the presence of a microchip and examined for other currently acceptable methods of identification, including, but not limited to, identification tags, tattoos, and rabies license tags. The examination for identification shall be done within 24 hours after the intake of each dog or cat.

510 ILCS 5/10 & 510 ILCS 5/11 & 225 I.L.C.S. 605/3.6(b)




I.C.A. § 351.37  Dogs  7 days Any dog running at large and not wearing a valid rabies vaccination tag or a rabies vaccination certificate is not presented to the local board of health or law enforcement official Humanely destroyed or otherwise disposed of according to the law.  Not listed Not listed


K.S.A. 47-1710   All animals 3 full business days  Not listed After the holding period, the operation of the pound shall have ownership of such animal and determine the method of disposition.  Not listed If the owner is reasonably identifiable, notice must be given.


KRS § 258.215  Dogs Minimum of 5 days Any dog which does not bear a valid rabies tag or other legible identification which is found running at large. Humanely euthanized If, after a reasonable effort, the seizure of an unrestrained dog cannot be made, or the dog presents a hazard to public safety or property or has an injury or physical condition which causes the dog to suffer, the animal control officer or peace officer may immediately destroy the dog by the most reasonable and humane means then available.  Not listed




7 M.R.S.A. § 3913  Dogs 6 day hold and a minimum of 8 days for euthanasia If the dog is considered to be a stray dog (roaming at large)

Does not apply to dogs that are “obviously abandoned”
 Euthanasia Immediate euthanasia may be used for severely sick, severely injured or extremely vicious dogs  Not listed


MD Code, Criminal Law, § 10-617

Dogs and cats

 72 hours A domestic animal that is impounded by animal  control The animal may be sold, placed, or destroyed Not listed A domestic animal that is impounded by an animal control unit may not be sold, placed, or destroyed until the animal has been carefully inspected for a tag, tattoo, microchip, or other identification to ascertain the owner.


M.G.L.A. 140 § 151A  Dog  7 days The mayor or board of selectmen shall annually issue a warrant to the animal control officer directing the officer to seek out, catch and confine all dogs within the city or town which are not licensed, collared or harnessed, or tagged. The dog may be euthanized after 7 days or made available for adoption if dog is free from disease Allows emergency euthanization by gunshot

 "Before euthanizing or giving or turning over to another a dog or cat in the officer's possession, an animal control officer shall first examine the animal for the presence of a microchip or tattoo, check the description of the animal against descriptions within the city or town relative to the species of animal licensed or registered in the municipality in order to verify the identity of the animal and to provide notice to the owner of the animal before the animal is euthanized, given away or turned over to another."

M.G.L.A. 140 § 151



M.C.L.A. 287.388 Dogs and cats 4 days or 7 days if the animal has a collar, license, or other evidence of ownership

*Sell or otherwise dispose

*some interpret statute as ONLY applying to the sale of animals to research facilities

Applies to all unclaimed dogs and cats  Not listed Not listed


M.S.A. § 346.47 All animals seized by public authority  At least 5 regular business days or longer.

Applies to all animals seized by public authority

 Not listed  Not listed  Not listed


Miss. Code Ann. § 41-53-11

 Dogs  5 days Dogs found running at large with no collar or tag Sheriff, conservation officer or peace officer of a municipality may kill dog above the age of three months found running at large with no collar and tag It is duty of any sheriff, conservation officer or peace officer of a county or municipality to kill or otherwise destroy any and all dogs above the age of 3 months which are running at large and have not been vaccinated as required.

Not listed


V.A.M.S. 273.100

 Dogs  One week Dogs running at large without collars

Cities or towns "at the expiration of such period shall put such dogs to death by humane methods" Not listed Not listed







New Hampshire

N.H. Rev. Stat. § 436:107  Dogs  Minimum of 7 days Any dog found off the owner's premises and not wearing a valid vaccination tag shall be impounded May dispose of dog in accordance with applicable laws or rules Not listed

Notice of impoundment of all dogs, including any significant marks of identification, shall be posted at the pound as public notification of impoundment.

Under Pet Sales law:

Dogs, cats, and ferrets:

All animal shelter facilities shall have on premises a microchip scanner and shall maintain a file of recognized pet retrieval agencies including but not limited to national tattoo or microchip registries.

Where an owner is not known, all animal shelter facilities shall inspect for tattoos, ear tags, or other permanent forms of positive identification and shall scan for a microchip upon admission of an unclaimed or abandoned animal as defined in RSA 437:18, IV and prior to transferring ownership of an unclaimed or abandoned animal.


New Jersey

N.J.S.A. 4:19-15.16

N.J.S.A. 4:19-15.32


Dogs and cats  At least 7 days

(1) Any dog off the premises of the owner or of the person charged with the care of the dog, which is reasonably believed to be a stray dog;

(2) Any dog off the premises of the owner or the person charged with the care of the dog without a current registration tag on its collar or elsewhere;

(3) Any female dog in season off the premises of the owner or the person charged with the care of the dog;

(4) Any dog or other animal which is suspected to be rabid; or

(5) Any dog or other animal off the premises of the owner or the person charged with its care that is reported to, or observed by, a certified animal control officer to be ill, injured, or creating a threat to public health, safety, or welfare, or otherwise interfering with the enjoyment of property.

Release the cat or dog for adoption, transfer to another facility or foster home, or euthanize the dog or cat  Not listed

If the identity of the owner is not known, scan the animal for microchip identification, provided the shelter, pound, kennel operating as a shelter or pound, or animal rescue organization facility has such technology available.

If the owner is known, notice must be given.

If microchip identification is found, the animal must be held for at least seven days after the notification to the owner.

N.J.S.A. 4:19-15.32

New Mexico


New York

McKinney's Agriculture and Markets Law § 117

 Dogs 5 days for any unidentified dogs

7 days for identifiable dog or 9 days if notice is given by mail

(a) any dog which is not identified and which is not on the owner's premises;

(b) any dog which is not licensed, whether on or off the owner's premises;

(c) any licensed dog which is not in the control of its owner or custodian or not on the premises of the dog's owner or custodian, if there is probable cause to believe the dog is dangerous; and

(d) any dog which poses an immediate threat to the public safety.

Dog shall be made available for adoption or euthanized  Not listed Not listed

North Carolina

N.C.G.S.A. § 19A-32.1  All animals Minimum of 72 hours All animals received by the animal shelter Euthanized or otherwise disposed

 Not listed For animals not wearing rabies vaccination tags that are impounded. If the animal is not wearing an owner identification tag and the Animal Control Officer does not otherwise know who the owner is, the Animal Control Officer may impound the animal. During the impoundment period, if the Animal Control Officer has access at no cost or at a reasonable cost to a microchip scanning device, the Animal Control Officer shall scan the animal and utilize any information that may be available through a microchip to locate the owner of the animal, if possible.

North Carolina  N.C.G.S.A. § 130A-192

North Dakota



 R.C. § 955.16  Dogs 3 days or an additional 48 hours after if requested by owner

Any dog seized by the county dog warden and impounded The dog shall be donated to any nonprofit agency that requests the dog or be sold.

The dog may only be euthanized 24 hours after it has been offered to a nonprofit agency.

Immediate humane destruction of the dog is necessary because of obvious disease or injury.

If the diseased or injured dog is registered, as determined from the current year's registration list maintained by the warden and the county auditor of the county where the dog is registered, the necessity of destroying the dog shall be certified by a licensed veterinarian or a registered veterinary technician. If the dog is not registered, the decision to destroy it shall be made by the warden.

 Not listed





O.R.S. § 433.090

O.R.S. § 433.385

 All animals

Under O.R.S. § 433.090:

Minimum of 5 days if the owner is known

Minimum of 3 days if the owner is not known

Under O.R.S. § 433.385, minimum of 5 days if owner is known or 3 days if owner is unknown.

Under O.R.S. § 433.090 law enforcement or dog control officer can impound if:

  • dogs found running at large under 609.060
  • dog is a public nuisance under 609.095
  • probable cause that dog is a dangerous dog under 609.098

Under O.R.S. § 433.385 (rabies code), any animal in violation of ORS 433.365 (the rabies vaccination requirement) can be impounded.

Animals may be released to any other person or disposed of in a humane manner  Not listed Not listed


3 P.S. § 459-302  Dogs

Licensed dogs:  5 days AFTER notice receives notice by personal service or registered or certified mail with return receipt requested, to the last known address.

Unlicensed impounded dogs: 48 hours

 1. Unlicensed dogs running at large unaccompanied by the owner or keeper may be humanely killed by officers if, after consideration, they are deemed to "constitute a threat to the public health and welfare."

2. Unlicensed dogs may be seized and kept for 48 hours (48-hour period shall not include days the approved kennel is not open to the general public). 

3. Licensed dogs running at large must be seized and "properly kept and fed" and a kennel/shelter.

Unlicensed dogs: may be humanely killed or given to a humane society or association for the prevention of cruelty to animals. No dog shall be sold for the purpose of vivisection or research.

Licensed dogs: shelter may dispense the dog by sale or by giving it to a humane society or association for the prevention of cruelty to animals. No dog shall be sold for the purpose of vivisection or research.

Every police officer, State dog warden, employee of the department or animal control officer may humanely kill any dog which is found running at large and is deemed after due consideration by the police officer, State dog warden, employee of the department or animal control officer to constitute a threat to the public health and welfare.
 Not listed

Rhode Island

Gen.Laws 1956, § 4-22-5

Gen.Laws 1956, § 4-13-15
Cats and dogs 5 days (unless the cat is injured or maimed)

2 days for any at-large or roaming or cereal cat

5 days (dogs)
Cats: roaming at large or a feral cat

Dogs: Any dog found without a collar around its neck or distinctly marked with its owner's or keeper's name and with its registered number
Cat may be placed for adoption or euthanized

Dog may be disposed of or destroyed
 Not listed Not listed

South Carolina

Code 1976 § 47-3-60  All animals  5 days Any animal that has been quarantined pursuant to South Carolina Rabies Control Act

May dispose of the animal by adoption or by euthanasia or the animal may be turned over to any organization established for the purpose of caring for animals. Not listed If an animal shelter accepts or comes into possession of a dog or cat, the shelter immediately and thoroughly must scan the dog or cat for a tattoo, any implanted microchip, or similar device, which provides evidence of ownership and, upon finding it, immediately must make a good faith effort to contact the identified owner as required by Section 47-3-540.

Code 1976 § 47-3-55

South Dakota



T. C. A. § 68-8-107 Dogs and cats

Dog or cat wearing rabies vaccination tag or other identification 5 days

Dog or cat not wearing tag or other identification 3 days

Dogs running at large (does not describe seizure of cats) Adopted out or destroyed

Not listed  Not listed




U.C.A. 1953 § 11-46-103

 All animals  5 days Any unidentified or unclaimed stray animal Animal may be placed for adoption, returned to owner, euthanized An unidentified or unclaimed stray animal may be euthanized prior to the completion of the five working day minimum holding period to prevent unnecessary suffering due to serious injury or disease.  Not listed




Va. Code Ann. § 3.2-6546 All animals except agricultural animals Not less than 5 days  Any animal confined under the law (specifically dogs running at large without tags)

An unclaimed animal becomes property of the shelter. The shelter may:

  • euthanize in accordance with the methods approved by the State Veterinarian
  • release to any humane society, public or private animal shelter, or other releasing agency within the Commonwealth
  • allow adoption by a resident of the county or city where the shelter is operated and who will pay the required license fee
  • allow adoption by a resident of an adjacent political subdivision of the Commonwealth
  • allow adoption by any other person
  • release for the purposes of adoption or euthanasia only, to an animal shelter, or any other releasing agency located in and lawfully operating under the laws of another state

These actions are all subject to limitations described in the law.

 Not listed  Not listed



West Virginia

W. Va. Code, § 19-20-8  Dogs  5 days All dogs seized and impounded The dog may be sold or humanely destroyed (may also be destroyed by shooting in an "emergency") Not listed Not listed




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