How to Get My Dog Back From a Shelter (EXPLAINED)

If your dog ran off and ended up at a shelter, you may be wondering how to get it back.

In this article, we will provide tips on getting your dog back from a shelter as quickly as possible.

How to Get Your Lost Dog Back From a Shelter

If a shelter has your dog, they will contact you
Just as long as your dog is microchipped, or has an ID tag, the shelter holding it will contact you.

You’ll Get Contacted

First and foremost, if your lost dog has a microchip and has either been picked up by animal control or dropped off at a vet or shelter, they will scan for the microchip.

As long as the information on the microchip or collar tag is good, you will get a call to pick up your lost dog.

Holding Times

If your lost dog has been at a shelter without identification or bad microchip information, it will likely only be held for 72 hours before being eligible for adoption.

Animals with proper identification will be held for 5 days (144 hours) before being eligible for adoption.

Prove Ownership

Once you have determined that your lost dog is at the shelter, you will need to go to the shelter to identify it and pay any impound or boarding fees.

Lost dogs can be returned to their owner through proof of ownership like phone number/street address on the tag and ID, vet information, etc.

Also, if your dog is not current on their rabies vaccines, some shelters will make you pay for those as well at the time of pickup.

Fees vary between shelters.

Read More: Do Animal Shelters Give Free Shots? for more information on shelters and the vet services they offer.

How to Get Your Surrendered Dog Back

If you’ve surrendered your dog, shelters now have all the rights to it and may not return it if you change your mind.

If you believe your dog is being withheld wrongfully, you can sue.

However, if you voluntarily surrender your dog, most rescues and shelters will not return your dog to you due to it being surrendered in the first place.

If they decide to return a surrendered dog, you may be looking at impoundment and adoption fees.

Additionally, the people who adopted your surrendered dog, do not have to, and are not required to, give them back.

Tips for Keeping Your Dog Safe 

You can do several things to keep your dog safe and prevent him from running away. 

  • Make sure your dog is always wearing a collar with up-to-date identification. This is one of the most important things you can do to help ensure your dog’s safety. 
  • Get your dog microchipped and make sure his information is up to date. If your dog gets lost, this will increase the chances he’ll be returned to you. 
  • Keep your dog on a leash when in public. This will help to prevent your dog from getting away from you and becoming lost. 
  • If you’re going to be away from home for an extended period, make arrangements for someone to care for your dog.

Following these tips can help keep your dog safe and prevent him from running away.

Read More: How Much Does it Cost to Adopt a Dog From a Shelter? Discover the various fees you might encounter at the shelter.

Microchipping Your Pet 

Microchips contain your contact information so that your dog can be returned to you if it’s ever lost or stolen.

Once your dog is microchipped, he will need to be registered with a national pet recovery service, such as HomeAgain or 24PetWatch.

That way, if he is ever found by a shelter or animal control officer, they will know how to get him back to you.

Microchipping is an inexpensive and permanent way to ensure that you will always be able to find your furry friend.

If you are interested in seeing how a microchip works, watch this video:


I hope this article provides valuable tips on what to do if your dog is lost or ends up in a shelter.

It’s essential to remain calm and take the necessary steps to ensure you are reunited with your furry friend as soon as possible.

Following the advice in this post will make you one step closer to getting your dog back home safe and sound.

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Jesse Hopping, CCDT

Jesse is a natural-born dog-lover certified dog trainer (CCDT), dog foster, and former volunteer at Richmond SPCA and surrounding dog shelters for over 10 years. Her pack includes a Bernedoodle and 3 Boston Terriers. She’s sipping caramel coffee and watching her pack play in the sun when she’s not writing blogs. Jesse has her Certified Dog Trainer designation from CATCH Canine Trainers Academy since 2018 and and majored in English from the University of Virginia.

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